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Virtual Retreat Activities


Newcomer Session

A newcomer is anyone who has never completed a retreat with Shinzen, including one-day workshops, home practice program or the life program, regardless of their meditation background. All newcomers need to attend the 'Newcomer Session' the first day or evening.

Occasionally, current students and facilitators/coaches are permitted to audit the Newcomer session in order to learn how to explain meditation to others by observing.

Newcomer Interview Sessions

As it is important that newcomers have an Support Session (see below) to insure that they get off to a good start, interview times are pre-assigned and offered on the first and/or second day of the retreat. If you have not done a retreat (residential or virtual) with Shinzen for many years, you may also be assigned an interview time.

You will be emailed with your day and time of the interview session. See below for more information regarding interviews. If you are unavailable to see Shinzen at your pre-assigned time, please contact the retreat manager immediately to re-schedule.

Technique Instruction Sessions

Technique Instruction sessions are when Shinzen or the Co-Teacher gives instructions in meditation techniques. During this time, Shinzen and the Co-Teacher explain concepts and techniques, lead guided meditation, and answer questions. These are open to any retreatant who has theoretical or practical questions about meditation. Shinzen facilitates the sessions for current students, while the Co-Teacher facilitates the sessions with newcomers.  Following working with the Co-Teacher, newcomers then join everyone and Shinzen for the daily AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.

It is important, however, to remember that the purpose of coming to any retreat is to develop a momentum of continuous silent practice. Before coming to a technique instruction session, one should carefully consider if one has a strong need for encouragement and clarification and not use the session as a diversion from practice.

Please join the virtual room on time and leave at the appropriate breaks. Do not just wander in and out of the room.

Support Interviews with Shinzen

Support Interviews (formerly referred to as Onlines) will be in Shinzen's Zoom Room and designed to use his time efficiently over a 90 minute period.  Two types of support will be offered every other day - either a guided session with your camera off (audio only to have a more focused guided experience) or a face-to-face interview - camera on to ask questions.  Please check the offering of each day to ensure you are signing up for the kind of support interview you wish.  Individuals will be located in private break out rooms for Shinzen to move between. 


At a virtual retreat, interview sessions are three times a day and are usually scheduled (within the time zone provided:

7-8:30 am

3-4:30 pm

9-10:30 pm


Interview Sign-Ups for Shinzen

You will be directed to a link in the Retreat Dashboard where signup sheets will allow you to choose a day offering either a 'guided' or 'face-to-face' interview.  If you don’t have a computer to access the sign up sheets during the retreat, please call the Retreat Manager who will access the sign up sheets while on the telephone with you to choose a day and time.

Newcomers will be pre-assigned a day/time for their first interview with Shinzen. If you sign up for more than one interview, please add a ‘#2, or #3, etc. after your name to indicate how many sessions you have had. This is to indicate that if someone has not had an online and all spaces are full, they may delete a name with a higher number after it and add their own name.


How does an Interview Work?
At the designated time you’ve been assigned or you signed up; please have the telephone with the call number you provided beside you. Have it ‘ON and UNMUTED’. Begin meditating as you would in the zendo and wait for the phone to ring. Shinzen will telephone each online participant in turn. You will periodically report what is occurring in your meditation and Shinzen will provide you with individualized instruction, as he toggles between 3 participants.


Support Interviews with the Co-Teacher

The Co-Teacher will offer face-to-face interviews 2-3 times per day for all retreatants.  A sign up sheet will be provided in the Retreat Dashboard with a zoom link shown.  Please keep the time in mind so the next appointment can be on time.  Sign up for 2 adjacent spots of you feel you need more than one time slot.


At this time, Chanting is not offered at a virtual retreat due to not being able to sync voices. If this changes, we’ll let you know.

The first two links below give you information on chanting. If chanting is something you like to do to start your retreat day as it’s a good way to get energized in the morning, check out the last two links below on the Expand/Contract YouTube channel for Shinzen’s chanting teaching and a 10 minute chant you can do on your own.

This mantra is dedicated to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chinese – Kwan-Yin; Japanese – Kannon; Tibetan – Chenresi). It is sometimes loosely translated as “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus” and consists of six syllables (Om-Ma-Ni-Pad-Me-Hum) symbolizing the bodhisattva vow to save all beings in the six realms of existence.


Coaches are experienced meditators who have been trained by Shinzen or Unified Mindfulness to support fellow meditators in their practice. Interviews with Facilitators/Coaches may be available during the virtual retreat. If so, sign ups will be via Google Docs and you’ll choose a day/time and CALL/CONNECT with the Facilitator/Coach at your chosen day/time from instructions listed on their signup sheets. You are encouraged to sign up for an interview to strengthen your practice, or if you encounter any difficulties or have questions about your meditation practice during the retreat. Value is guaranteed.

It is strongly encouraged that you make an appointment with one of the many Facilitators/Coaches, especially if you’ve been unable to schedule an interview with Shinzen or the Co-Teacher.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation times will be listed on the daily schedule and it’s your choice where you’d like to do walking using a meditation technique (your home, backyard, patio or in your neighborhood). If you leave the zendo ‘room’ to walk instead of sitting, either leave the meeting or turn your video off. Even if you point your camera towards art, etc., we discourage location cams!

Eating Meditation

Try to make the meal a meditation from beginning to end. Meditate as you walk to where you’ll prepare your meal, during preparation, and of course while you eat. After the last bite, you may want to sit for a while and savor the delicate after-energies that infuse the body following a satisfying meal. If a guided eating meditation is offered during a virtual retreat, an announcement will be made.

Yoga, Qi Gong or Mindful Movement

Times designated for movement (not walking time) are also considered meditation periods during which you should maintain a formal technique of body awareness using techniques learned in this retreat or others you may have used for movement meditations. If someone wishes to lead a mindful movement session via zoom, please contact the Retreat Manager to discuss.


All-night sitting, known as yaza, is often scheduled for the Thursday of a weeklong retreat. If this is offered, details will be announced during the retreat. This is an optional activity, but it does offer extraordinary opportunities to deepen your practice that are not available with daytime meditation.

Rest Periods

There is a long rest period following lunch and somewhat shorter ones after breakfast and dinner. Although you may take walks, do exercise, continue formal practice, etc., during these periods, many retreatants find it helpful to take a “siesta” so as to be well rested for the work of meditation.


Talks, Teachings and Guided Recordings

If you’d like to listen to any of Shinzen’s recordings during the retreat, they are reasonably priced and available at the store on Shinzen’s website HERE for purchase and download throughout the retreat.

Recordings can be a great way to reinforce the deep and sometimes subtle ideas presented in the dharma talks and technique instruction sessions, as these need time and repetition to sink in. Some recordings deal with the basic principles of the practice, others describe how to use the practice for specific life issues, and others are guided meditations. Also, when you pass through the inevitable periods of low energy and resistance in your daily practice, you can use guided recordings as a “skillful means” to maintain quality meditation.

That said, please ensure you are not using listening to recordings as a distraction from the work of meditation, just like talking and reading can be. And DO NOT listen to a recording during the sit times in the virtual zendo.

Virtual Energy Work

Energy Work via telephone or zoom sessions are sometimes offered by our own sangha (community) members.  These sessions are also meditation sessions.  Energy work can evoke deep and significant sensations over the whole body that can be a productive object of meditation.

During your session, with visualization try to maintain a formal strategy of body awareness such as noting by location – local or global sweeping, noting expansion and contraction, etc. Because you are lying down and relaxing, there may be a tendency to sink into sleepiness, thus defeating the mindfulness aspect of meditation. Make a “strong determination” to maintain a bright, clear state and fight against even the subtlest manifestations of drowsiness.

Also, be sure to maintain noble silence, talking only as necessary. If energy work is offered, this will be pre-announced and sign-up sheets with prices will also be in the Retreat Folder on CML's Google Drive.  Energy workers will be introduced in the Welcome/Orientation session.

If you are interested in offering virtual energy sessions during a retreat, AND are a current student who has attended at least 3 years of retreats with CML, please indicate on the registration form and someone will contact you to discuss this possibility or contact CML prior to registering to discuss criteria to do so.

Technique Instruction Sessions
Private Interviews
Online Sessions
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