• Home
  • Samish work leader

Red Cedar Zen Community

Samish Island Sesshin work leader notes

Work Leader preparation

Make contact with the Samish Camp Manager as soon as possible on arriving at Samish for sesshin. S/he will have a list of projects and tasks for us and you will be in touch with their Camp Manager throughout the week. Be sure to ask how to contact him/her while we're at Samish. The Camp Manager also works with us on the final clean up / check out.

Find out the size of the sesshin and work with our Retreat Manager to estimate the size of the available labor crew for Camp Samish tasks. With the people excused from work, doing trainings, and working sesshin jobs for us it's a bit hard to have an accurate estimate but you need some idea of this. (e.g. we'll have 15-20 people available).

Initial Instructions to the Community – make during Orientation or first day of work.

  • As elsewhere in sesshin, we observe silence in work. Speaking only about what's in front of us and essential to speak about ("Where's the shovel?")
  • Please be present with the work, taking care of the work and it's details. Feeling the experience of working in the body.
  • Work is not separate from the rest of practice, it is a direct expression of practice.
  • Work period makes a huge difference to the Community of Christ as they care for this camp with 100% volunteers - their Camp Managers are not paid and they offer this camp to us and other groups at the lowest possible cost as part of their practice.
  • Work allows us to take care of this beautiful place that supports our practice. Through it we can be intimate with our environment and practice.
  • Some groups like doans and tea servers might use a few work periods for training for the first (or sometimes second work period). This is an expedient means given our situation as a temporary monastery. Once trainings are done the members of those groups should participate in work period. Look to the leader of your crew to determine if you need to be at a training. It's not appropriate to volunteer yourself for training if you aren't needed. One more pair of hands for general work for the camp is more important.
  • Please engage fully in the work.

Some specifics.

  • Everyone has an assignment. Assignments are listed on the sheet posted with the sesshin schedule. If your name isn't listed you are part of "general labor" and assigned a task by the work leader.
  • Everyday we will gather in the circle just outside the dining hall to begin the work period. The han begins 10 minutes before the meeting starts. 
  • Even if you are excused from the formal work period, please show up to the beginning of work period. It is an opportunity for announcements and sharing of other important information. This includes tenkens & chidens.
  • Once we are done with announcements, various crews will bow out to go and do their work.
  • Dish crews please do the dishes immediately after the meal and take the option of the zazen period immediately after your dishes time for a personal care break. Dish crews are now requested to join us for work period.
  • Dining Hall crew is responsible for sweeping and machine mopping the dining hall daily, and also for wiping down the tables after each meal

Monday through Friday during the work period

Sample Agenda for Work Meeting
Meetings should be quite focused and brief as a support for the work practice.

  1. Bow In
  2. Announcements
    1. Work Leader
    2. Registrar (arrivals and departures)
    3. Ino
    4. Jisha
    5. Retreat Manager
    6. Tanto
  3. Excuse and Bow Out
    1. Training crews if needed - (e.g. Work Leader asks Ino: "Are the doans training today?")
      1. Ino with doan-ryo
      2. Soku with tea crew
      3. Doshi Trainer with doshis and jikos
    2. see always dismissed below
  4. Work Done Daily
    1. Vacuum / Mop Dining Hall (by Dining Hall Crew)
  5. Work Every Other Day
    1. Restrooms
  6. Continuing Projects
  7. New Projects


  •  Other sesshin officials (the ino, the jisha, etc.) may ask the Work Leader to modify your assignments. For example, on the first day or two the Ino may wish to have the Doan-ryo (the doan, kokyo, & tenken) go to the zendo to practice doing service. On the first day the Soku (head server) almost always rehearses with the tea serving crew. If you have not heard from the Ino or the Soku it’s a good idea to check on these changes. During the first few days of sesshin, this communication should happen during the Organizer’s Meeting just before Work Meeting.
  • Announcements: Announcements are made by the sesshin organizers only (Work Leader, Registrar, Ino, Jisha, Retreat Manager). If a sesshin participant needs a question asked or an announcement made, they should let you know in advance and you can make that announcement for them.
  • After announcements, begin work by excusing people from the work circle who aren’t working during the work period.

Saturday only, or the first full day, or as a reminder as needed throughout the week)

A couple of comments: 

  • Bow out wherever it is you finish working;
  • Stop working and start clean up when you hear the dining hall bell. This is a signal that there are 5 minutes left in the work period.
  • You needn’t come back to this circle, bow our with your work group after you’ve cleaned up.

Friday only, (day before leaving): Provide a preview of what will happen tomorrow for final cleanup:

Each of you will be asked to take responsibility for two things. 
  • First, getting your personal belongings and cabin in good order so you are prepared to leave. This means during the break after breakfast collecting your belongings and putting them in your vehicles, and doing the final cleaning on your cabins. Cleaning checklists are in each cabin.
  • Second, together we will all do what is needed to leave the camp. This will mean doing a final, thorough cleaning of the dining hall, bathrooms and zendo. That will happen after the final ceremony. We will all end the sesshin together with a final circle. Ideally no one should leave the camp before that.

STARTING WORK: After announcements, call the various groups.  Each group gasshos with you as they leave the circle.

1) Dismiss people who are excused from work / setting their own work schedule:

always dismissed: (2018 change: Dish Crews do join regular work).

  1. Tenken (who always loses some break time)
  2. Chiden & assistant (altar cleaners: they arrange their work schedule themselves)
  3. People sewing during work period (must have asked permission)

sometimes dismissed:

  1.  Retreat Manager
  2.  Ino (possibly with the Doan-ryo)
  3.  Soku with the tea crew for rehearsal (first day only)
  4.  Jisha

2) Make assignments and dismiss work groups to start working:

  1. Food Prep crew (preassigned)
  2. Dining Hall crew (preassigned)
  3. Bathroom cleaning crews (usually done every second or third day day, monitor need to determine with what frequency to clean bathrooms)
  4. Zendo entrance cleaner (could also trim candles for the chidens)
  5. General labor (one or two groups according to assignments, as you need to explain their jobs they should be dismissed last)

For general labor, the following may be appropriate, and should be checked out beforehand with the Camp Manager:

  • Weed around the dining hall
  • Weed around the zendo
  • Clean the windows in the dining room
  • Weed around the caretakers' houses
  • Weed around the bathrooms
  • Weed-whack the ditch along the road
  • Patrol the perimeter picking up litterClean or cutback trails
  • Deadhead (depending on time of summer), especially rhododendrons
  • Paint

Final Day (Saturday)  clean up

Right after breakfast

During the break, direct that everyone please pack all their belongings in their cabins, and put them in their vehicles.  Also, direct that they do the final cleaning on their cabins, following the instructions in the cabins. Users of E-Cabins need to clean the bathrooms in those cabins. Can be done as first assignment of final work or ahead during break.

At the end of the final ceremony, before people disperse

Direct everyone to take all their things in the zendo to their vehicles.  This includes zafus, benches, zabutons, and any clothing.

Direct everyone to assemble at the circle outside the dining hall in 15 minutes, after they have taken their belongings from the zendo, to begin the final cleanup.

Final cleanup

Dining hall

  • Pack altar and meal chant cards into Dining Hall Box (1)
  • Sweep floors (2)
  • Mop floors (2)
  • Clean bathrooms (2) men’s, (2) women’s

Note in cleaning all bathrooms, in addition to mopping floors and cleaning all the fixtures, also restock with towels and clean the mirrors; there are final cleaning instructions in the bathrooms that should be followed.


  • Clean bathrooms (1) men’s, (1) women’s
  • Vacuum entrance (1)
  • Vacuum body of zendo (2 to 3)

Tea Preparation (Nurse’s Station)

Run tea cups through dishwasher, pack everything into Tea Box, Trays Box, and samovar into own box (1 or 2, see Soku as might be partly done). All materials carried to zendo for loading.

Near bathroom (near to dining hall)

  • Clean men’s (2)
  • Clean women’s (2)
  • E-Cabin bathrooms (8) - usually done by people staying in them

Green bathroom (near to zendo)

  • Clean men’s (2)
  • Clean women’s (2)

Dokusan room, practice discussion rooms, and dokusan waiting room (1 to 2)

pack 4 altars into Dokusan Box and Practice Discussion Boxes, carry zabutons, zafus, and lamps to zendo for loading into vehicles (note: lamps to Lamps Box in zendo)

  • Home
  • Samish work leader
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software