Both our seven-day Long Retreats and long weekend Open Mind retreats offer silent meditation, koan work, dharma talks, good food, and time for walking, resting, and creative practice. But they differ in important ways, and we encourage you to try both, or a little of everything.
For information about specific upcoming retreats, visit our Events page, or use our Retreat Planner to plan ahead:
PZI Long Retreats last seven days, and are based on the traditional Zen sesshin, but with more looseness, lightness, and humor than you might expect or have experienced in Zen practice. Each retreat is organized around a central koan or group of koans, which provide the frame and the richness for the week. There is sitting meditation beginning before dawn each day and in regular periods throughout the day, into the evening (25-minutes periods of sitting are punctuated by 5-minutes of walking meditation, or kinhin). There is a dharma talk each morning from one of the several Pacific Zen teachers in attendance, and one each night from John Tarrant. Talks are always followed by conversation about the koan and the practice. You also have the opportunity every day to meet with a teacher one-on-one. There is also work practice time, rest time, and lots of time for walking in the northern California hills.
At PZI long retreats there is Zen ritual (silence, some bowing, some bells and blocks, some art, an altar), but you are allowed to be nervous or confused or indifferent about all of that. You are allowed to sleep in, take breaks, journal, have a quiet conversation with a friend. You are just asked to bring some gentle attention and inquiry to whatever it is you choose to do with your time, or with your koan.
The silence and the companionship of a long retreat deepen your experience of koan work, and of your life.
Open Mind Retreats
PZI’s Open Mind retreats come out of John Tarrant’s impulse to make a Zen meditation retreat that is native to American culture, and that rests in creative process. When we take away the barriers to understanding, things just naturally shine. There’s not much apparatus or ritual required. Silence is held during meditation periods and in the mornings until after breakfast, and even then loosely. We try to be gentle with ourselves, the way the coastal fog is gentle on our skin. We sit together, share koans, poetry, myth, conversation, and have time to write and walk on the beach and to find out what our lives might be like without our usual stories. We do exercises that help our attention to deepen. We make discoveries and our lives open. No particular background in spiritual practice is required.
John Tarrant leads these retreats, with a group of 25 or fewer. There is usually a mix of experienced meditators and complete beginners. Nobody has a rank, nobody has a job to do. We sit in a circle and meditate until it’s time to talk, talk until it’s time to take a walk and gaze at the ocean, put our faces to the wind, our toes in the sand, maybe write a poem or feel our hearts shift in new and unexpected ways.
We offer two Open Mind retreats per year at the Commonweal Institute in Bolinas, CA, a beautiful place on the ocean with whales and gulls and weasels and wildflowers. It has a simple feel, and wonderful (local, organic, vegetarian) food. They run from Thursday evening to Sunday at noon.
Urban Retreats are designed with an eye toward the integration of our ordinary lives and meditation practice. They are commuter retreats held at either the Rockridge Meditation Community or the Santa Rosa Creek Zen Center, and offer a low-cost, non-residential opportunity to discover ordinary, amazing things inside your everyday self. As you move back and forth between the retreat space and your ordinary life, the transitions themselves provide occasions to become more intimate with what we assume to be the dividing line between “retreat” and “life.” During lunch and dinner breaks, participants are free to explore local neighborhood restaurants or to have a brown bag picnic in the meditation room or out on the deck, weather permitting. There are opportunities for both group and private conversation about meditation practice. Over the course of the Urban Retreat, you get to explore the way the ordinary can be as vast and boundless as outer space.
Scholarship support is available for most retreats and events. We are committed to making koan work and retreat experience available to everyone, regardless of means. Contact Andy Kerlow-Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.