CATHERINE ANRAKU HONDORP
I’ve always hated New Year’s – raucous, phony celebrations, people making resolutions they never keep, and all the rest. But being at Wisdom House for the Year End Sesshin is for me an extraordinary experience.
Here, the silence of retreat in community is a container within which I can set an intention to let go of the old and open to the new. The support of the sangha and the teachers, the quiet of dark mornings and early dusk. all of it allows me to go very deep in my practice. It is a wonderful time that I look forward to each year.
Because winter sesshin is one of only two residential retreats each year, it offers a rare opportunity to live together as a sangha. It’s also an opportunity to develop relationships or reinforce those formed at the summer Ango. In summer, the feeling is expansive, and there is a pull to be outside. But in winter, with the cold weather, it’s as if we are hunkered down together. There’s more of an internal focus, and this makes the silence substantial.
On New Year’s eve, Roshi talks about making a vow as setting in motion an intention for the year. It’s not like the hopeful resolutions often made like, “I’m going to lose ten pounds” – but rather, “what is the energy I want to bring to this new year?”
The long silent evening walk in the dark ... the 108 tolls on the bell penetrating the silence at midnight ... and then, as the sangha chants, each person going up to strike the Kaesu and, through that action, send forth their vow into the new year. And then there's the Party!!