Winter Sesshin Year End Retreat

Garrison Institute - Garrison, NY
December 26 - January 1

The Village Zendo’s year-end retreat is the perfect time for quiet meditation and deep silence. Our schedule is serious (with plenty of zazen) but also spacious (with unstructured time in the afternoon for rest, outdoor walks or body practice). There are dharma talks every day, and ample opportunity to meet with our teachers. Delicious vegetarian meals are offered buffet-style. If you have put off doing a residential retreat, or felt intimidated to try one, this is a wonderful retreat to attend. Come and join the Village Zendo sangha as we greet the new year with clear minds and open hearts.

The study text for this Ango period is The Sayings of Layman P’ang by James Green.

Full Retreat: December 26 to January 1st
Half Retreat: December 26 to December 29

Fees and registration:

To attend Winter Sesshin, registration and payment must be completed separately on both Village Zendo’s website and Garrison Institute’s website.

Registration on Garrison Institute’s website will cover room and board, and those fees are kept entirely by Garrison.

Registration on Village Zendo’s website will cover costs, overhead, and program fees for the Village Zendo, and those fees are kept entirely by Village Zendo.

Register with the Village Zendo using the form below. Upon registering, you will be emailed a link to complete registration and payment on Garrison Institute’s website.

Questions? Please contact

Village Zendo Fees Garrison Institute Fees

Full Retreat (12/26 – 01/01)

Members: $360

Non-Members: $390

Full Retreat (12/26 – 01/01)

Shared Room: $900

Single Room: $1,020

Half Retreat (12/26 – 12/29)

Members: $180

Non-Members: $195

Half Retreat (12/26 – 12/29)

Shared Room: $480

Single Room: $540

Pandemic guidelines:

Dear Retreat Participants,

The Village Zendo is continuing to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic. As with the summer sesshin, we are modifying many of our practices to minimize the risk of an outbreak and help us remain healthy. These practices take into consideration the unique conditions of Garrison Institute as well as the fact that the retreat takes place in the winter.

Soshin Sensei will once again serve as a “pandemic coordinator” for the retreat. If you have questions or concerns after reading this letter, you are invited to contact her directly at You may also connect with her during sesshin.

Thank you in advance for reading through this entire policy. It is critical that we all understand and agree to these practices so that we can keep ourselves and each other healthy. We will be asking you to sign an affirmation of this when you arrive.

— The Village Zendo Executive Committee

Village Zendo Pandemic Guidelines

What are the environmental and behavioral practices in response to the pandemic?

Vaccinations. Participants must have completed the required doses of two initial vaccinations and a minimum of one booster at least two weeks before arrival. It is recommended, but not required, that participants receive the bivalent vaccine (the most recent Covid booster) and a flu shot at least two weeks before their arrival at the retreat.

Masking. Masks must be N95, KN95 or KN94. Masks will be worn for all communal activities except for outdoor kinhin, eating, brushing teeth, and showering during the first three days. Once you have your second negative test on Day 4, you may choose to forgo the mask during seated zazen. Masks must continue to be worn at all other times for the duration of the retreat. Remember to bring additional masks.

Physical Distancing.

  • In the Zendo. Zabutons (sitting cushions) will be placed so as to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet between people while sitting so that no one will be in “close contact.”
  • In the Dining Room. We will sit so there is a maximum of 3 people per table—one at each end and one in the middle. If we need more space, there is another room that can accommodate some overflow.
  • In the Bathrooms. When entering the bathroom, notice if it looks crowded. If it does, it may be best for you to come back later. If possible, avoid having two people brushing their teeth at the same time at adjacent sinks. We recommend you avoid storing personal items in the communal bathroom.

Ventilation. Ventilation is a critical tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. At Garrison, all of the guest bedrooms, bathrooms, meeting spaces, and dining rooms have many windows that can be opened and fresh air will be circulating. If weather permits, we will bring kinhin (walking meditation) outside.

Testing. Retreat participants must administer a home Covid test the morning of their arrival at Garrison. Please bring at least two tests to the sesshin. You will take a second test on the fourth day, and, with a negative test, you may remove the mask while sitting zazen, as described above. You must also be prepared to take a test if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms.

Hygiene. We must all continue the good hygiene practices we have been doing for the past 3 years such as frequent hand washing, use of sanitizer, covering our mouth with the inside of our arm while coughing or sneezing (even while masked), etc. Garrison ensures frequent disinfecting of common areas.

What happens if I/someone else gets sick/tests positive/has symptoms?

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, or any flu-like or cold symptoms, you must isolate yourself and administer a self-test. Please let the monitors or pandemic coordinator know the results.

A Positive Test. If you develop symptoms, or if you remain asymptomatic and have a positive antigen test, we will help you make arrangements to return home. False positives are extremely rare. If you are attending from a distance, please consider beforehand your alternatives should you need to leave.

Symptoms and a Negative Test. If you develop flu-like symptoms and your test is negative, it is most likely you will need to go home. However, if you have known allergies or you think it is a cold, we can discuss your situation. Depending upon what we conclude, it may be possible for you to isolate and get a PCR test to confirm the negative antigen test results.

Will kind of communication can I expect?

If there is a case of COVID-19 and/or a positive test, we will attempt to determine close contacts and let those people know. If appropriate, we will make a general announcement maintaining the sick person’s privacy to the extent possible.

Please communicate with the monitors, shuso, and/or the pandemic coordinator about your health and testing status. This is a critical piece of the strategy to keep us all healthy so we can have a deep and rewarding retreat. Thank you!

Garrison Institute Pandemic Guidelines

See this link for Garrison Institute’s safety protocols for COVID-19.

To attend this retreat, all registrants must be fully vaccinated with a minimum of one booster at least two weeks before arrival. Garrison Institute will ask you to submit proof of vaccination after you have completed registration.

Cancellation and Refund Policy

Village Zendo Fees:

Cancelling more than 1 week ahead of the retreat: 100% refund.
Cancelling within 1 week prior to the start of the retreat: non-refundable.

For Garrison Institute’s cancellation and refund policy, please visit this link.

Retreat Guidelines


Ango means “peaceful dwelling,” and we are grateful for the opportunity to create a peaceful container together.

Sesshin means “gathering or uniting the heart-mind.” We will observe the basic intentions of maintaining silence and inward focus for the duration of the retreat.

Please read through this set of guidelines. Our aim is to make your retreat experience smoother. A silent Zen retreat may seem daunting at first, depending on your previous experience.

We’ll be getting up very early. We will have some breaks and downtime – but not a lot. This is about using the schedule as a practice, and to work together to create a space for meditation and introspection. However, please take care of yourself and adapt your schedule if you need to but please always let us know when you do. Ask for support when you need it.

Everyone will be observing what we call “noble silence.” This truly means we will not be speaking unless absolutely necessary, and this applies to time spent in your rooms and in common areas.

For newcomers the rules and rituals we follow may seem strange, but the schedule is time tested, and made to make the experience powerful and real.

Our practice leaders and teachers may look stern in their black robes, (a few shaved heads too) but they are truly kind and focused on making the retreat profound for everyone. They will answer any questions and help you to get comfortable with the whole retreat experience.

Here are some more specifics on what to do, what to expect, and what to pack.

Basic Guidelines

  • No unnecessary talking.
  • No social courtesies.
  • No unnecessary looking around (keep eyes down at a 45° angle).
  • No unassigned reading.
  • Walk mindfully with hands in shashu (folded with your right hand enveloping your left fist, held at waist level).
  • No cellphones, tablets, email, music devices, headphones, or other distractions.
  • If you have specific needs or concerns, or if this is your first sesshin, please let the registrar or sesshin coordinators know before the beginning of the sesshin.
  • If you have not practiced with the Village Zendo before, or are new to Zen, beginning instruction will be available. Please let the registrar or sesshin coordinators know if you would like to have beginning instruction.

Be On Time for All Activities

  • Be very aware of time. There will be posted schedules, and they’re important to follow. You’ll need a watch—you won’t have your cellphone to tell you the time!
  • Speaking of time, you’ll be getting up very early, usually around 5 a.m. The good news is you’ll be going to bed early after a long day of practice. Bring your own alarm clock. Earplugs are also good to have, to help you get a night’s sleep despite snoring roommates and such.
  • Be at your seat 10 minutes before dawn zazen, and 5 minutes before other sitting periods begin. Because zazen is a silent and orderly practice, you will be much happier if you’re settled in your seat early. It can get awkward if you’re late!
  • Be seated in the zendo by the end of the second round of the han (the click-clacking device used to signal the time for zazen).
  • When work leader begins hitting the moktok (another clacking device) it means you have 15 minutes before work period begins each morning; come to the work meeting at least 5 minutes before it starts.


  • Clothes should be in good condition; in dark, subdued tones; with minimal patterns, logos, etc.
  • Clothes should also be modest and non-distracting.
  • There will be a period of work practice each morning. You may be asked to do tasks in the clothes you wear to the meeting.
  • Sitting robes are encouraged but not required. 
  • If you have one, bring your Rakusu.
  • Clothing should be weather-appropriate.
  • Bring slip-on shoes for inside use.
  • Bring clothes for body practice.


  • Maintain personal hygiene. Avoid perfumes or strong scents.

 Reminder – Bring

  • Your own toiletries. medications, chargers, earplugs
  • Own alarm clock and watch.
  • Masks, COVID-19 home tests

Be comfortable

  • Use a chair, stool, cushions whatever you need for sitting zazen. You may always have some discomfort but it is not an endurance test.
  • If you have a question always ask for support or clarification.
  • The Organizers are: JoAn Tibbetts Sensei and KoJin Heath
  • Roshi Enkyo O’Hara and all of the teachers are also available to discuss any concerns.
  • Registrar: MyoGetsu
Directions & Shuttle Services

See this link for detailed directions on how to get to Garrison Institute via train, bus, car and air.

If you are taking the Metro North train to and from NYC, Garrison Institute offers complimentary shuttle services on arriving day (Dec 26) and departing day (Jan 1) for the following trains:

December 26
Leaves GCT (Grand Central Terminal) 12:49pm/Arrives Garrison Station 2:09pm
Leaves GCT 1:45/Arrives 3:03
Leaves GCT 2:48/Arrives 4:06
Leaves GCT 3:14/Arrives 4:33
Leaves GCT 3:44/Arrives 5:02
Leaves GCT 4:42/Arrives 6:00

January 1
Leaves Garrison Station 8:30am Arrives GCT (Grand Central Terminal) 9:54
Leaves 9:28/Arrives GCT 10:52
Leaves 10:31/Arrives GCT 11:55
Leaves 10:54/Arrives GCT 12:12
Leaves 11:28/Arrives GCT 12:52

Arriving Day and Orientation Schedule

3:00–5:30 Registration

4:30–5:30 Orientation Session (in the Seminar Room)
Required if you are new to a Village Zendo retreat and available for those wanting a refresher on meditation and Zen forms.

4:00–5:30 Training for Village Zendo service positions

5:30–6:30 Dinner

If you are new to a Village Zendo retreat, please arrive before 4:30 to attend the orientation session.

If you are assigned a service position, please arrive before 4:00 to participate in service position training.

Departing Day Schedule

Half-Retreat — Friday, December 29

5:30 Wake up!
6:00 Zazen (be in zendo by 5:55 am)
6:30 Kinhin
6:40 Zazen
7:20 Verse of the Kesa, Service
7:50 Breakfast

9:00 Samu Service
9:20 Samu (Work Practice)
10:25 Clean up

10:40 Dharma Talk (be in zendo by 10:35 am)
11:20 Kinhin
11:30 Open Sozan and Closing

Optional Sitting

3:15 Zazen
3:45 Kinhin
3:55 Zazen
4:25 Outside Kinhin
4:45 Zazen
5:15 Service

Full Retreat — Sunday, January 1

6:30 Wake up!
7:00 Optional Zazen
7:30 Verse of the Kesa, Informal Service (without robes), Nenju
8:00 Breakfast

9:00 Samu, Packing, & Leave-taking

Sample Daily Schedule

5:30 Wake up!
6:00 Zazen (be in zendo by 5:55 am)
6:30 Kinhin
6:40 Zazen
7:20 Verse of the Kesa, Service
7:50 Breakfast

9:00 Samu Service
9:20 Samu (Work Practice)
10:25 Clean up

10:40 Dharma Talk (be in zendo by 10:35 am)
11:20 Kinhin
11:30 Zazen
11:55 Service
12:15 Mid-day Meal
1:00 Rest Practice
2:00 Awareness through Movement with Howard or your own
body practice

3:15 Zazen
3:45 Kinhin
3:55 Zazen
4:25 Outside Kinhin
4:45 Zazen
5:15 Service
5:30 Evening Meal

7:00 Zazen
7:30 Kinhin
7:40 Zazen
8:10 Kinhin
8:20 Zazen
8:50 Four Vows

9:30 Lights Out

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