Sunday, 11 June 2017


119. Sesshin is the word that refers to the period of intensive meditative practice undertaken by Zen practitioners at certain times during the year. This word can be translated as 'touching the mind' or 'collecting the mind'. Sesshin, then, provides us with the opportunity to engage in a range of exercises that facilitate the practice of collecting or unifying the self in such a way that we can touch, in the sense of awaken to, our Buddha Mind, our True Self. But while this might be a helpful way initially to approach sesshin, we need to take care about what it is that we are attempting to collect, unify, awaken to. We need to ask ourselves about what it is that we are referring to with this word 'mind'. Like numberless Zen practitioners throughout the centuries we must face, at some point, the question 'What is mind?' And there's the rub. For in the context of Western thought the word 'mind' usually connotes something cerebral, something to do with the brain, something that has to do with our mental activities. But the 'shin' in 'sesshin', usually translated into English as 'mind', should rather be rendered as 'heart-mind' in that it is the seat not only of mental and intellectual activities but also of intuitive, emotional and spiritual acts.Touching, awakening to, the heart-mind, this is what we are about in sesshin.

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