Bay Area Practice Period

Our ninth annual Bay Area Practice Period is set to begin on Sunday, September 22, 2013, and will run until Sunday, November 17, 2013. Please read on if you want to consider joining the Practice Period either as a Bay Area or a long-distance, web-based member.


What is a Practice Period?

Practice Period is an ancient Zen Buddhist tradition. It is a special time set aside each year when practitioners make personal and collective commitments to intensify their practice. Traditionally, Zen practice periods take place in monasteries.  In nonresidential Western Zen sanghas, events at the temple define the Practice Period.

The practice of our Everyday Zen group is focused not on what happens at a temple, but on everyday action in our relationships, our work, and our regular sitting, which often happens at home. And so, Everyday Zen practice periods depend on the integrity of the personal commitment each person who joins will make, as well as the strength of our shared intention and mutual support.

For those of you living some distance away from the San Francisco Bay Area (where Practice Period involves our coming together person to person for practice) we offer a web-based option for participation.  This option enables you to practice more intensively wherever you are in solidarity with the Bay Area group, using website-based recorded talks of Practice Period seminars and other events, as well as email or phone contact with Practice Period leaders and participants.  

A Zen Practice Period often features a senior student who serves as Shuso, or Head Monastic, who assists the Practice Period Teacher. The Shuso gives special talks and seminars, and the Practice Period usually concludes with a Question and Answer Ceremony, in which the participants can ask the shuso a question. Long Distance Practice Period participants will be able to hear the Shuso’s talks online and submit a question for the Ceremony.

This year our Shuso will be Zen priest ARobin Orden — Eirin Anzan (Constant Companion, Peaceful Mountain) — who has been practicing since the late 1980s with SF Zen Center and Everyday Zen. 


How do I join?

Simply fill out the commitment form  below and email it to Barbara Byrum at <>.

The deadline for joining the Practice Period and submitting a commitment form is Wednesday, September 11. This is a firm deadline.

The form asks you to make a special practice commitment during this time frame. 


Is there a fee for joining the Practice Period?

No, but it would be appropriate for anyone who joins to send in a donation, according to what you can afford. 

If you are a long-distance participant, please see the long-distance practice period guidelines, below. 


For Bay Area participants who can attend EDZ events during the practice period:

Below you will find a brief schedule of events for the Practice Period.  We ask you to make a special effort to commit to coming to as many of these events as possible. Especially important are the Shuso Entering Ceremony (that will begin the All Day Sit on Sunday, September 22) and the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (that will conclude the All Day Sit on Sunday, November 17).


Bay Area Practice Period Events

Sept. 22       1Day Sitting and Shuso Entering Ceremony (Marin Headlands) Ceremony at beginning of the day, about 9:30.  Day begins at 9 am
Sept.25       7 pm Seminar led by Norman (Community Congregational Church, Tiburon)
Sept. 28       Company Time (see below) – led by Shuso ARobin Orden & Steve Gross (Green Gulch Farm)
Sept. 29       Everyday Zen Dialogue – Finding Meaning in Life, led by Chris Fortin & Alan Block (Empty Gate, 2200 Parker Street, Berkeley)
Oct. 2     7 pm Seminar led by Shuso
Oct. 9      7 9m Seminar led by Norman
Oct. 16     7 pm Seminar led by Norman

   (no Seminar October 30 during Sesshin)

Oct. 23


7 pm Seminar led by Shuso
Oct. 28 though Nov. 3



SESSHIN (Angela Center, Santa Rosa) A.Robin will be giving some talks during sesshin

Nov. 6


7 pm Seminar led by Norman

Nov. 13


7 pm Seminar led by Shuso
To be scheduled



Practice Period Discussions/Teas with the Shuso (dates and locations around the Bay Area to be announced)
Nov. 17   1Day Sitting and Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (Marin Headlands) Ceremony at 4 pm, followed by a reception. You can come for the ceremony only, if you’re unable to attend the sitting


Our theme for this Practice Period is “Just This, Living Our Lives & Practicing in the World.” ARobin has been a part of the team for Company Time – a Buddhist retreat and workshop for people in the business world – since it began in 1996. She was a resident at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery, and has incorporated practice into her life and work with non-profit organizations, city government, and community service.


Sangha Partners

A sangha partner is a person in the Practice Period with whom you speak on the phone or in person at least three times during the Practice Period.  Your partner could be someone you request or someone assigned to you.  Your partner is assigned at the beginning of the Practice Period, and we will send suggestions about how to keep your communication focused and practice oriented.


Personal Commitment

Finally, we ask each member of the Practice Period to make a personal commitment to intensify his or her practice in whatever way possible.  This might include more sitting at home, more study or reading, work on a particular practice theme in daily life, or some appropriate personal alteration in lifestyle.


So these are the elements of the Practice Period for local Bay Area people:

1)    a commitment to attend as many practice events as you can from September 22 to November 17

2)    a commitment to meet with the Shuso for a practice period tea

3)    a commitment to speak to your sangha partner at least three times.

4)    a commitment to intensify your personal practice


For Long-Distance Practice Period members:

We would suggest some version of or combination of the following:

  1. Daily sitting practice.
  2. Listening each week to the dharma seminar talk posted on the website, and to other dharma talks given during this period.
  3. Going to a local meditation group once a week if possible. 
  4. Keeping contact with an Everyday Zen Practice Leader through phone appointment and/or email at least twice a month (about four times) during this period.  Contact information for this will be emailed to you.
  5. If possible, coming to the Bay Area once during the time for any of the events listed below.
  6. Emailing a formal dharma question during the last week of the practice period (November 10-17) that Shuso Robin, will respond to via email.
  7. Working with your Everyday Zen Practice Leader to pick a dharma theme that you will be paying attention to in your daily life during the Practice Period.
  8. Saying in touch with a sangha partner who will be assigned to you.  Your sangha partner will be another long-distance Practice Period member (if there’s someone you would like to be assigned to, you can let us know in the commitment form). We suggest four phone calls or emails during the course of the Period.  We will send suggestions about how to keep your communication focused and practice oriented.

Long distance participants are urged to attend any of the Bay Area Practice Period Events that are possible for them. Registration details can be found on the individual event listings on the Schedule page of the website.

Once the practice period begins, you will receive the name and contact information for your practice period partner, and you will also receive an email from your Practice Leader to arrange for further communication.


Who are the Everyday Zen Practice Leaders for this Practice Period and what are their qualifications?

The Practice Leaders are senior members of the Everyday Zen community who have been studying for a number of years (usually more than ten) with our teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer.  They are ordained Buddhist priests or lay teachers. All of them work in the world and live lay lives, though they practice regularly and help to lead the Everyday Zen community in the Bay Area. 

For this Practice Period the Leaders are: Jay Simoneaux, Martha de Barros, ARobin Orden,  Meg Alexander  Alan Block, Chris Fortin, Florence Caplow, James Flaherty, Peter van der Sterre, and Jeff Bickner.


Practice Period Commitment Form

(please copy this form and paste into a new email; send that email to <>




Date and place of birth:


Address phone, email, as well as best times to contact:


Your work and family situation:


What intention brings you to make a commitment to join this Practice Period?


What experience have you had with spiritual practice?


What has been the main focus of your current practice?  Do you imagine it will change during this Practice Period?


Is there someone in the Practice Period who you’d like to work with as your sangha partner?  Who?


Events (if any) you will attend during the Practice Period:


Personal commitments to intensify your practice: