Winter 2009 Practice Period January 22 - March 8

Practice Period is a time in which Zen students practice intensively together. Historically, practice period (ango, in Japanese) originated in the “rains retreats” of the early Buddhist monks and nuns when they could not travel due to heavy rains. During that time they settled down for more intensive practice. Today, in monastaries the practice period schedule of zazen, silent work, and study is more intense than normal, and practitioners are expected to attend all events, never leaving the monastery.  Our practice period is adapted to our lives as lay people in the West.  Although we don’t live in monasteries, each winter in the spirit of those in monastic practice, we try to settle our busy lives in order to intensify our practice. Especially today, in this time of extreme suffering throughout the globe, it feels crucial to come together to practice Buddha’s Way in support of the awakening of all beings.
Shuso: the Head Student
This year our guiding teacher, Zoketzu Norman Fischer, has invited long-time Zen student Lee Nelson from Seattle to be shuso for the 2009 practice period. Lee has been a regular attender of Norman's retreats for the past several years and will in residence in Bellingham Wednesdays through Saturdays during practice period.

Lee Nelson  began her practice in Zen at Shasta Abbey in 1974.She took the Buddhist precepts under the guidance of Roshi Jiyu-Kennett in September of 1974, did a practice period (summer) in residence at Shasta Abbey in 1976 and later joined a program for dedicated practitioners at Shasta Abbey. She moved to Seattle in 1981 and continued her practice with Reverends Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson in Jiyu -Kennett's lineage in Portland.  She subsequently found out about EveryDay Zen and was happy to join the Bellingham and Vancouver sanghas. Early on in her practice she experienced a deep appreciation of Shunryu Suzuki's book Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, and is grateful for the opportunity to enter the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki.

Starting with a special shuso-entering ceremony and concluding with a formal question and answer ceremony, the shuso has special responsibilities as leader and trainee during the Practice Period.  As Norman puts it the shuso “sets the tone” for the practice period. To support the shuso’s training and to deepen our practice, we invite everyone to participate in the Practice Period activities described below. 

2009 suggested practice emphasis: Dialog.  
We recommend you focus on dialog and connection with sangha and teachers this practice period.
1) Have tea with Shuso Lee
2) Have practice discussion with at least one of the three local teachers (Tim, Nancy, and John)
3) Attend the opening retreat in Vancouver or the closing retreat in Bellingham and meet with Norman in dokusan
4) Pick a Dharma Buddy and have a conversation in person or by phone at least twice and do brief check-ins weekly by email, in person, or phone.
5) Attend the Mid-Period Dharma Meeting 2/18.
6) Attend the Shuso's Dharma Inquiry ceremony on 3/8.

Registration is required for  the retreats and classes . Register online at and follow the steps. If online registration is not convenient for you, please contact the Registrar, Diane Mirro, at 360-305-7869 or to request mail-in forms for registration.

PLEASE NOTE: the retreat in Vancouver with Zoketsu Norman Fischer is sponsored by our sister sangha in Vancouver, the Mountain Rain Zen Community, and registration for this retreat is handled by the Mountain Rain Registrar: Ann Svendsen at 604-437-6112 or See for info.

2009 Practice Period – Full Schedule of Events - All Events at Red Cedar Dharma Hall unless otherwise noted

Shuso Entering Ceremony & Stating Our Intentions – Thursday, January 22, 7:00pm, Red Cedar Dharma Hall – with Zoketsu Norman Fischer and Lee Nelson, shuso. Please join us as the practice period begins with the shuso’s formal entrance to the zendo. There will also be an opportunity to state your own practice intentions during the practice period. Please consider filling out the form below to clarify your intentions.

Opening Retreat in Vancouver – January 23-25, Vancouver with Zoketsu Norman Fischer
This weekend retreat runs Friday evening through Sunday afternoon and is hosted by our sister sangha in Vancouver, Mountain Rain Zen Community. It is traditional for the shuso to give a formal talk on her spiritual path at this retreat. Contact the Mountain Rain at Ann Svendsen at 604-437-6112 or You can download the registration form from Advance registration required. $85 registration fee, scholarships available.

Wednesday night zazen – Wednesdays 7pm – 9pm. 1/28, 2/4 and 2/25 will have three 30-minute periods of zazen, closing with the Pali refuge chant. Individual and group practice discussion with Resident Priest Nomon Tim Burnett and Seishu John Wiley available. 2/11 is two periods of zazen and Buddha's Parnirvana ceremony. 2/18 is one period of zazen and the Mid-Period Dharma Meeting. 

Buddha’s Parinirvana Ceremony – Wednesday, February 11th 7pm-9pm. On this Wednesday night practice we will sit two 30-minute periods followed by the Zen ceremony commemorating the Buddha’s passing away—a beautiful ceremony of lights and chanting. 

Mid-Period Dharma Meeting - Wednesday, February 18th. 7pm - 9pm. Following 1 period of zazen and short service we will have a check in meeting. All local practice period students encouraged to attend. Speaking and listening from the heart and with full attention and respect we will explore where we're at in the middle of practice period.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday noon-time zazen – Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Noon – 1pm. Return to sangha practice in the middle of the day. One 30 minute period of zazen, followed by a short service—1/23 – 3/4. Practice discussion with Yuzan Nancy Welch on Mondays and Fridays. With Nomon Tim Burnett on Fridays and most Wednesdays.

Monday - Friday morning sit – Every weekday morning, 6:30-7:15am, join in non-sectarian meditation with our friends in other traditions. Just quiet sitting followed by a short recitation.  Shuso Lee will join on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Saturday morning zazen and oryoki breakfast– Saturdays 6am – 8:30am. 3 periods of zazen, service and oryoki breakfast. Sitting together in the deep quiet of early morning, morning service and engaging in the ritual of oryoki eating - Buddha's bowls which are "just enough"—1/31, 2/7, 2/21, 2/28. Oryoki sets available for rental ($10) or purchase ($40) and oryoki instruction available on request from the shuso or the teachers. (Note 6am-8am practice only, no breakfast, on Sat. 2/14, Dharma Hall in use by BIMS that day.)

Shuso’s Class – “Suzuki Roshi's Way”  Shuso Lee Nelson facilitates an investigation into the way Shunryu Suzuki roshi. Texts are Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Not Always So. Books will be available at the Dharma Hall. Thursday eve. and Saturday morning (pick one session but fine to come to the other for make ups).   Thursdays 7pm-8:30pm 1/29, 2/5, 2/12, (skip 2/19), and 2/26. Saturdays 9am-10:30am 1/31, 2/7, 2/14, (skip 2/21), 2/28. Pre-registration required. Sliding scale $30 - $80, scholarships available. (Note 2/14 class location TBA, Dharma Hall in use by BIMS that day).

Additional Class – “The Practice of Precepts” with Yuzan Nancy Welch and Nomon Tim Burnett. An interactive class on the practice and study of the Zen precepts for ethical living. Text used is Robert Aikten, Mind of Clover, copies will be available.  Feel free to bring a bag lunch as the class starts immediately after Friday noon zazen. Fridays 1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27. Pre-registration required. Sliding scale $30 - $80, scholarships available.

Tea with the Shuso, Ongoing – A traditional part of practice period is a quiet meeting over tea with the shuso to get to know each other and discuss the practice together. To be scheduled with you by the shuso. 

Dharma Buddies, Ongoing - Pick a "Dharma Buddy" for this practice period. Have a conversation at least twice (in person or by phone) and check in once a week (by email, phone or briefly in person). Part of this year's practice emphasis on meeting and dialog. Just speaking from the heart together with honesty and humility we activate the practice and open the heart.

One-Day Retreat – Saturday, February 21, 9am – 3:30pm – Red Cedar Dharma Hall
Join with the shuso and the sangha in sitting quietly for a day together. A Way-Seeking Mind talk by Shuso Lee Nelson, will be given. Oryoki lunch. Preceded by regular Saturday morning program 6am - 8:30am. You may attend one or both. Advance registration required for retreat portion, $20 - $40 sliding scale.

Shuso’s Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (hossenshiki) – Sunday March 8, 11am, Red Cedar Dharma Hall. Regardless of your level of participation in the practice period please consider attending this important ceremony in which Shuso Lee Nelson completes her training as shuso with a formal yet intimate question and answer ceremony with the sangha. Note daylight savings starts today. If you are coming to this ceremony but not attending the sesshin please RSVP to the tenzo, Chris Burkhart at as lunch will be served after the ceremony.

Final Sesshin of Winter Practice Period – March 5-8– Red Cedar Dharma Hall.  
With Zoketsu Norman Fischer.  (Thursday 7pm – 9pm, Friday 6am – 9pm, Saturday 6am – 9pm, and Sunday 6am – 2pm) This more intensive retreat will include oryoki meals, and conclude with the formal Shuso Question and Answer Ceremony (hossenshiki) at 11:00am on Sunday, March 8. Oryoki sets available for rental ($10) or purchase ($40) with oryoki orientation on Thursday night. Advance registration required for retreat, all welcome to the hossenshiki. $60 - $120 sliding scale plus donation to Norman. Scholarships available.

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