Not retreating

02010-12-15 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

I prefer the term practice period over retreat. Because to me it does not feel like a retreat at all, in the sense of moving away from an engagement or disappearing into a hole. Instead of retreating from life, it feels like I am fully engaging life.

This was my schedule for four days last week:
06:00 rise, feed cat, drink tea, wash up, start rice cooker
07:00 zazen
07:30 kinhin
07:40 zazen
08:10 kinhin
08:20 zazen
08:50 kinhin
09:00 108 full bows
09:30 breakfast (rice with pickles – ochazuke style)
10:00 reading
11:00 zazen
11:30 kinhin
11:40 zazen
12:10 kinhin
12:20 zazen
12:50 kinhin
13:00 pilates/exercising
13:30 lunch (rice cooked with lentils plus spinach or kale and green tea)
14:30 reading
15:30 play guitar
16:30 walk up and down stairs
17:00 zazen
17:30 kinhin
17:40 zazen
18:10 kinhin
18:20 zazen
18:50 kinhin
19:00 108 full bows
19:30 dinner (rice cooked with lentils plus spinach or kale)
20:30 reading or hand-writing notes or letters
22:00 lights out

On Friday I added an extra hour of zazen by substituting the bowing at 09:00 and the exercising at 13:00 for additional meditation time.

My phones were turned off and computers were shut down. I did use the calendar function of my iPhone to program the above schedule, so that I could have soft audible alerts guiding me through the day. In a temple or zen center time only exists in terms of announcing the beginning and end of periods. Instead of looking at one’s watch, one sits until the head monk strikes the signal. The reason I used calendar alerts instead of alarms is that a calendar alert only chimes once, but an alarm repeats until it is acknowledged and shut off. The iPhone became my head monk and guided me through the days. I think it worked out very well.

At the conclusion of this practice period I decided to do one or two days of practice every month and a four or five day practice period four times a year.


  1. Steve(Brokerbiker)

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I firmly believe in rhythm and balance in life. When I was a consultant, I taught balance in the five contact points in life and used the bicycle to illustrate the importance of balance in Personal, Psychological, Physical, Professional and Spiritual elements, as we have 5 points of contact when riding. I also use the calendar alert chimes throughout my day, and each day has structure.

  2. Steve(Brokerbiker)

    I went to A Jesuit high school in the 70’s and we practiced Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and Eastern influenced Meditation daily. Because the Jesuits were so integral in connecting China to the Western world in the 1500s, our studies focused on the mutual influences, and have stayed with me for my life. The Jesuits ‘coined’ a motto for the Society in 1973 the year I graduated from high school- Men for Others, that I have tried to live since then.

  3. lindaw

    Thank you for posting this Ottmar. I will try this type schedule next weekend for my Christmas break from work.

    I had attempted to do this for Rohatsu but life and phone interfered when my dear friend Kevin died on the 2nd. I got made “caretaker” of his estate.


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