If one puts one’s life on the line, it doesn’t matter: age, length of time training. And in the same way, if we’ve trained for 30 years but haven’t put our life on the line, it won’t work.
—Shodo Harada Roshi
What is a Term Intensive Program?
Yearning to push deeper into your practice? Wanting to give some extra energy to it—a “wind sprint” to bring it to a new level? Is the idea of committing to a more intensive schedule long-term too daunting at the moment, or seemingly impossible given your current outside commitments? Then a Term Intensive could be exactly right for you.
To take part in a Term Intensive is to formally commit to an additional level of practice effort during a specified period of time. This is an opportunity for those Sangha members who work in the lay world—and also for those in residence at Mountain Gate—to engage in more intense practice.
Intensifying practice could include:
- Doing additional zazen at home
- Increased attendance at sittings at Mountain Gate
- Doing prostrations
- Commiting to extra hours of work practice at the temple
- Taking special notice of a specific aspect of your everyday life
How does this work?
In our relationships with family members, for example, we might make special efforts to catch our own unskillful behavior and turn it around, working on anger, judgmental mind states, or impatience. We can focus on deepening our understanding and manifestation of the Precepts. We can chant daily and learn all the chants by heart. Takuhatsu, cleaning up the neighborhood by picking up road trash outdoors, is another form of intensifying practice and offering it to others. We might offer our services to those who need them, as in tutoring a child after school. We can do community service working in a soup kitchen, volunteering in a program that offers respite to caretakers of the disabled or the terminally ill, or volunteering in hospice.
How to participate
Term Intensives have proven to be a heartening and valuable venue for deepening practice, especially for those who live outside the temple. If you are interested in participating, please fill out the downloadable form (use for both regular Term Intensives and Personal Term Intensives) indicating your specific time commitment for intensifying the forms of practice you choose. The form offers the option of entering the data right into it from your computer and emailing it to Roshi, or filling it in by hand and snail-mailing it, or handing it directly to Roshi.
Please note the dates, times and locations of the regular meetings with others in the group and with Roshi, announced with each specific Term Intensive. Attending these meetings is an important part of the program. For those who live out of town, e-mail and phone contact with Roshi on a regular basis is also part of the process.
Personal Term Intensives
If a Term Intensive is not scheduled on the calendar, then try a Personal Term Intensive. Choose a period of time as short as five days or even just an upcoming weekend, or as long as a month or five or six weeks. Download the form, fill it out, and email or mail it to Roshi well enough in advance to discuss your proposed intensive period with her. Make a final commitment by email, telephone or in person, and you’re ready to go!
A Sangha member who completed a week-long Personal Term Intensive found the determination to use it to increase his basic level of practice. Among other things he committed to sitting a whole hour every morning at home rather than the shorter morning period he’d already been sitting:
I have completed my intensive. And it was intensive. I did a lot more zazen than I signed up for since I went to the temple both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It has made a huge difference. I’m planning to continue sitting one hour every morning.
It’s especially important to report in to Roshi every few days while doing a Personal Term Intensive; don’t let a week go by without making contact unless you know that Roshi is in sesshin. Going it alone as compared to taking part in a group Term Intensive can be more difficult, and sometimes you can get a shot in the arm and renewed determination if your practice is flagging or your commitment wobbling. Despite the fact that a Personal Term Intensive can be more difficult—or perhaps because of it!—it contains the potential for truly taking your practice to a new and deeper level.