Bay Area Practice Period


Announcing the Fall 2017 Everyday Zen 

Bay Area Practice Period


A note from Norman:

Dear Everyday Zen friends,

Below is the announcement and details for our annual Fall 2017 Practice Period. This year, for the first time, the Practice Period will be led by our dear teacher and friend Chris Fortin. I will attend the sesshin in October, co-leading with Chris.  I will miss seeing all of you, as I do this time every year, but I am excited for Chris, who I know will bring a fresh spirit and bright energy to the Practice Period (along with Mary Ann, our shuso). I hope you are too!

Yours, Norman


...and from Chris:

Great gratitude that we are able to take refuge every year in this ancient Way of practice. I look forward to this precious time together as a sangha and with our wonderful dharma sister Mary Ann as shuso !

With love, Chris 


Everyday Zen's 13th annual Bay Area Practice Period begins on Sunday, September 17, 2017, and continues through Sunday, November 19, 2017. 

Both the opening and closing days are regularly scheduled All Day Sittings at NatureBridge in the Marin Headlands. 

Our annual Practice Period sesshin will be Monday, October 23 – Sunday October 29 at the Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael. Applications for sesshin will be available mid-August.

The Practice Period includes these events as well as our weekly seminars and additional events (see SCHEDULE, below).

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 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.  

The Shuso

A Zen Practice Period often features a senior student who serves as Shuso, or Head Monk, assisting the Practice Period Teacher in leading the practice period. The Shuso gives special talks and seminars, and the Practice Period usually concludes with a Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (Shuso Hosenshiki), during which participants ask questions and receive answers from the Shuso. Long-distance participants will be able to submit a question for the ceremony, and also will be able to hear the Shuso’s seminars and talks online.

This year our Shuso will be Zen priest Mary Ann Sacksteder — Shinso Hofu  (Sincere Monk, Dharma Wind) — who has been a spiritual seeker her entire life. She began studying Buddhism in the mid 1980’s with Stephen and Ondrea Levine while also trying to find her place in her Christian roots. Her seeking led her to Chris and Norman and EDZ 14 years ago and she has been practicing in this tradition ever since. She took Zen priest ordination vows in 2014 from Norman and Chris. She retired 2 years ago from a 26-year career as a school counselor.  She continues working as a private therapist; plays the bassoon; and grows food for people, butterflies, and bees.  “Not one not two” is a guiding koan for her life.

Zen Practice Periods include two important ceremonies for the Shuso, first, the Entering Ceremony, to install the Shuso into her position (September17), and second, the Dharma Inquiry (Shuso Hossen) ceremony, which closes the Practice Period (November 19). During the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, the Shuso responds to questions from Practice Period participants and invited guests. These ceremonies bookend the Practice Period in a beautiful way.


During this practice period we will study the dharma and teachings as encountered, embodied, and renewed by the first generation of female Zen teachers in the West; how their grounded practice of compassionate and wise living can guide us when the rubber meets the roads of our lives.

A note from Mary Ann:

The women teachers that we will be studying during this practice period originally encountered the dharma and teachings through male teachers and through Asian lineages of practice.  And yet, being in female bodies and with lives and practices primarily in the West, they had to negotiate and teach through very different body and cultural experiences than that of their teachers.  They were on the edge, the transition point, fertile ground for innovation.  Each one of these teachers embodied a deep understanding of Buddha’s Way, and yet, the practice of these teachers took myriad forms and with an aliveness that can inspire each one of us as we engage with the issues and questions of our individual and collective lives at this point in time, including issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, temperament, aging, power, and just about any other issue one could imagine.

We hope the experience, practice, and teachings of these women will guide each of us, male and female alike, as we encounter two fundamental questions:

    • How do we live/love/act, guided by the wisdom and compassion of the teachings, in the midst of the deep polarization of our time?
    • How do we uniquely and actively embody the teachings as we meet each moment?

Sangha Partners

A sangha partner is a person in the Practice Period with whom you speak, in person or on the phone via Skype, at least three times during the Practice Period. Your partner will be assigned at the beginning of the Practice Period. If you like, you can request a particular person to partner with, and, if possible, we will assign that person to you. We will send suggestions about how to keep your communication focused and practice-oriented.

Is there a fee for joining the Practice Period?

There is no  fee to join the Practice Period itself, but the All Day Sits, Dharma Seminars, and Sesshin, do have fees. Registration for these events is separate, so please remember to register for any event you would like to attend. Registration information can be found under the individual event listings on the Schedule page of this website.

Please note, too, that Everyday Zen is entirely dependent upon the donations of students and practitioners, so if you are participating in the Practice Period and are able to make a donation, your generosity and support will be deeply appreciated. 

How do I join?

Please read the guidelines below and consider the commitments you'd like to make during the Practice Period, then fill out the application form and email it to Kathleen Martin at

The deadline for receipt of the Practice Period application is Monday, September 11. This is a firm deadline, and we appreciate your cooperation.

For Long-Distance Participants:

Please read the following Guidelines for Bay Area Participants, and in addition, see the Long-Distance Practice Period Guidelines, below. 

Guidelines For Bay Area Participants: 

For participants who are able to attend EDZ events in the Bay Area, below is a brief schedule 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, which opens the Practice Period on the morning of the All Day Sit, on Sunday, September 17
  • the Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, which concludes the All Day Sit and the Practice Period, on Sunday, November 19) 



Sept. 11   Practice Period Applications Due
Sept. 17   All Day Sit and Shuso Entering Ceremony that opens the Practice Period. The Ceremony will be at the beginning of the day, about 9:30. (NatureBridge at Marin Headlands). 
Sept. 20    

Dharma Seminar, led by Chris. Zen beginnings in the West and Ruth Fuller Sasaki "Zen Pioneer" (All Dharma Seminars will be held at the Community Congregational Church, Tiburon.)

Sept. 27


Dharma Seminar, led by Shuso Mary Ann. Jiyu Kennett, "Roar of the Tigress"

Oct. 4  

Dharma Seminar, led by Chris. Joko Beck, "Everday Zen, Love and Work"

Oct. 11    

Dharma Seminar, led by Mary Ann. Toni Packer, "The Wonder of Presence, and the way of Meditative Inquiry"

Oct. 18     

Dharma Seminar, led by Chris. Maureen Stuart, "Subtle Sound"

Oct. 23 to

Oct. 29


Annual Practice Period Sesshin (from Monday late afternoon - Sunday morning, at the Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael). The Shuso will be giving two talks during sesshin.

   (no Dharma Seminar on October 25 because of Sesshin)

Nov. 1


Dharma Seminar led by Chris. Yvonne Rand "Birth and Death" and Blanche Hartman "Boundless Life"

Nov. 8


Dharma Seminar led by Mary Ann. Sister Chan Khong, "Learning True Love"

Nov. 15


Final Dharma Seminar led by Chris. Joanna Macy "World as Lover, World as Self" and Maylie Scott "My peace and the world's peace are not separate" and closing

Nov. 19  

All Day Sit and Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony (NatureBridge in Marin Headlands). Ceremony at 4 pm, followed by a reception. You can come for the ceremony only, if you're unable to attend the all day sitting.

The Shuso will also be offering Practice Period Teas & Discussion to Bay Area participants. The dates and locations will be announced.

Please remember to register separately for the sittings and any other events you will be attending, including sesshin and Dharma Seminars.


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 additional sitting at home, more study or reading, work on a particular practice theme in your daily life, or some appropriate personal alteration in lifestyle. The details will differ from person to person.

The shared elements of the Practice Period for local Bay Area people include these commitments:

  1.  to attend as many practice events as you can
  2.  to attend at least one Practice Period Discussion and Tea with the Shuso and others
  3. to speak to your sangha partner at least three times
  4. to intensify your personal practice
  5. to present a Dharma question, either in person or in writing, to the Shuso.

Long-Distance Practice Period Guidelines:

Since long-distance participants will not be able to attend the Bay Area practice period events, we ask that you follow the guidelines for the Bay Area participants and make a personal commitment to intensify your practice in whatever way possible. This might include additional sitting at home, more study or reading, work on a particular practice theme in your daily life, or some appropriate personal alteration in lifestyle. The details will differ from person to person.

In addition, we  suggest committing to some combination of the following:

  1. A 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 in contact with an Everyday Zen Practice Leader (see below) through phone appointments and/or email at least twice a month (about four times) during this period.
  5. If possible, coming to the Bay Area once during the Practice Period for any of the Bay Area events listed above.
  6. Emailing a formal dharma question during the last week of the practice period (November 11-18) that Shuso Mary Ann will respond to via email.
  7. Working with your Everyday Zen Practice Leader to pick a dharma theme that you will working with in your daily life during the Practice Period.
  8. Staying 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 three phone calls, Skype appointments, or emails during the Practice Period.  We will send suggestions about how to keep your communication focused and practice oriented.

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

Practice Period Application Form

Please copy this form and paste into a new email, complete and  send  to Kathleen Martin at . The information you provide is confidential.

Kathleen will forward your application to Mary Ann and Chris. The feedback we get each year is that completing this form thoughtfully and seriously helps members to carefully consider the commitment they are making. The form will also help us get to know you better. (Each year at the Practice Period opening dharma talk we read quotations anonymously from these applications.)

Everyone who wants to participate in the Practice Period, either as a Bay Area or a Long-Distance Participant must complete this application and commitment form and return it in by Monday, September 11. This is a firm deadline, and the sooner you can get the application in, the better. Late applications make it difficult for us to prepare.

Very Important: Please remember to register separately for the events you will be attending. Your Practice Period application does not enroll you in any other events. 




Date (year) and place of birth:


Address, Phone, Email, as well as best times to contact:


Your work and family situation:


What intention brings you to participation in this Practice Period?


What experience have you had with spiritual practice?


What theme or issue do you intend to focus on during this Practice Period?


Is there someone in the Practice Period who you’d like as your sangha partner?  If so, who?


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


Personal commitments to intensify your practice: 


Any other comments you'd like to add: