NOTICE: Visiting In A Different Way...
We’re posting our revised website in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has forced us to close our physical doors, while inspiring us to open up virtual ones to support each other’s Zen practice in new ways.
Please note: the following protocols do not apply during this period of self-isolating due to the pandemic. Also, the lodge is now open as a Zen Airbnb, which gives people visiting the area a beautiful, meditative place to stay and, if they wish, an introduction to Zen practice. This arrangement, of course, also helps to sustain our dharma community.
If you’re interested in trying out the practice at Windhorse, simply send an email and/or give us a call. We’ll schedule your first sitting at the center in Alexander, NC, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Asheville. We ask everyone, whatever their background in meditation, to go through a basic orientation, which takes about 45 minutes.
The best time for new people to attend an orientation is usually on Sunday morning at 8:45, before the 9:30-11:30 program of zazen meditation, chanting, dharma talk and general discussion. If Sunday doesn’t work for you, we can arrange to meet on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. The evening sittings begin at 7:00 pm, so an orientation would need to start by 6:15.
Most people now use GPS to find their way, but if you need directions, feel free to call us at any point. We need a new Windhorse sign, but in the meantime please note: GPS directions may tell you to turn off of Panther Branch Rd onto Sunberry Drive — but that’s one driveway down the hill from the entrance to Windhorse.
Arriving and Parking
After turning onto the Windhorse driveway at 580 Panther Branch Road, find a place on the right side of the driveway to park your car more or less perpendicular to the driveway. Then come up the main walk to the front (reddish) door of the house. Please remove shoes and place on rack to left of doorway. Then simply enter: no need to knock — someone will meet you in the foyer.
Please wear clothing that is reasonably modest, loose-fitting (jeans not recommended), and subdued in color, free of distracting words or patterns. Also, we have brown sitting robes people may borrow if they wish, but outside of sesshin no one is required to wear a robe.
Cushions and Mats
We have many sitting cushions at the center, as well as benches and chairs. You are also welcome to bring your own cushions — ideally black or brown, if possible, to blend in.
Although there is no specific charge for these orientations, we depend on and are grateful for all donations (dana). No one at Windhorse receives a salary — all contributions go toward dharma activities, maintenance of facilities, and teacher support. To offer tax-deductible support directly to the teachers, please click here.
Periodically we offer a full Saturday workshop at the center, which is really the best way to start one’s practice. These workshops give a far more comprehensive introduction to Zen: its background, teachings and practice, as well as more in-depth help with zazen postures, both sitting and walking. Since these workshops occur only a few times in the year, however, we offer these much briefer orientations during the week, to give people the chance to get started without going through a long waiting period.
A Final Suggestion
Anyone interested in practicing at Windhorse might want to take a look at The Three Pillars of Zen, by Roshi Philip Kapleau, who was Lawson and Sunya’s Zen teacher for decades. Most libraries have at least one copy available.
Sesshin is a period of intensified Zen training, usually lasting from 4-7 days. The roots of this practice trace back to the time of the Buddha in India, when monks gathered during the rainy season for several months of secluded meditation. The primary inspiration for sesshin, in fact, lies in the example of the Buddha himself, sitting beneath the Bo tree for 7 days and nights, in his final great exertion to realize Full Enlightenment for the sake of all beings.
The Japanese word sesshin derives from two characters: setsu, meaning to unify, collect, or touch, and shin, meaning heart-mind. As these terms suggest, sesshin is a time dedicated to collecting and unifying the normally scattered mind in order to focus it inward, like a powerful laser beam, to discover the deepest truth of one’s own Self-nature, the source of all wisdom and compassion.
Traditionally the high point of Zen monasticism, sesshin has become a way for lay practitioners as well as monks to put aside all worldly concerns and dive straight into the depths of the Buddha Way. Japanese masters have stated that one can accomplish in a rigorous 7-day sesshin what would otherwise require many years of regular daily practice to accomplish. What makes such results possible is the heightened discipline of sesshin, along with a unique combination of elements that make up this mode of practice: many hours each day of zazen, or Zen meditation; daily teishos, or Dharma talks by the teacher; and dokusan (also known as sanzen), the private interviews with the teacher, taking place at least once a day.
The prices below include retreat fees as well as room and board for the duration of sesshin. Dana for our teachers and staying extra days before or after are not included. To find out more about staying at Windhorse outside of sesshin, click here.
The cost of sesshin for dues-paying Windhorse members is $55 per day ($385 for a 7-day sesshin).
For non-members, the sesshin price is $60 per day ($420 for a 7-day sesshin).
If you are unable to pay the full cost of sesshin, please contact the center directly and apply for a scholarship.
For those who are able to contribute more, we ask that you consider paying a “benefactor price” of an additional $100-$200. This portion of your sesshin fee is a tax-deductible donation to the center and it allows Windhorse to offer scholarships to those who cannot afford the full cost of sesshin.
*If applying after the deadline, a $5 per day fee will be added to the cost of sesshin.
*Please note: These prices do not include dana for our teachers, who are not paid a salary for their Dharma work.
Click here for a downloadable PDF detailing what you should bring to sesshin.
Zentensive Workshop and Retreats® are for those who feel drawn to exploring the rich intersection of meditation and Western psychology. They offer advanced levels of training for mental health professionals interested in accessing deeper unconscious patterns, as well as for dharma practitioners who may wish to discover a greater understanding of the more hidden dimensions of the psyche.
These trainings take advantage of the natural deepening and openness that comes about as the mind quiets down – and merges this inner silence with a strong psychodynamic perspective. Intensive periods of meditation effectively mobilize the mind on both conscious and unconscious levels. This mobilization works broadly – bringing forth a complex mixture of our innate caring and compassion, along with what are often hidden layers of grief and guilt, love and anger.
As practice continues to deepen, we may see more clearly into those repression-based patterns of thinking and feeling that so often cycle through our lives, and inevitably exert a powerful impact on all that we do. Insights into these embedded energies can lead to significant change, which in turn fosters more focused and sustained meditation. This type of work can hold significance for all practitioners, and for psychotherapists, these insights and openings can have particular value in terms of their work with clients.
These Five-Day Zentensives have been approved for 30 CE/CEUs, including 2 for ethics, by The Washington School of Psychiatry. Credits are applicable to all mental health professionals including doctors, psychologists, social workers, LPCs, and nurses.
For more detailed information, click here to read the professionally-journaled research article about Zentensives®.
For a fuller exploration of Zentensives and this psychodynamic approach, click here.
For those who are interested in getting a taste of what Zen training is all about we are offering special weekend-long Airbnb experiences giving participants an introduction to our practice.
During the program, we will explore the origin stories and direct insights that brought these teachings into the world. Next, we will breakdown the Buddha’s enlightenment, which came directly out of his meditation practice, and see what this kind of awakening means for our personal journeys. Lastly, you will be guided through the formal practice of zazen and led in a few rounds of sitting and walking meditation.
You will also be invited to attend our formal Sunday program with the regular members of our community. This will involve two rounds of zazen, one round of walking meditation, chanting, a dharma talk, and a community potluck.
When taking part in the Zen meditation experience, you will be exploring the history and practice of this tradition through three basic questions: What is Zen? Why bother to practice? How do we actually do it?
We will also provide a simple, but delicious vegan lunch most likely consisting of soup, salad, and bread/rice crackers.
During the pandemic we have been isolating here at the center, with no in-person group sittings at all, other than with our four residents. We have also simplified our schedule of formal sittings:
Each week we have a Sunday morning program from 9:30 – 11:30, featuring zazen and an online teisho (dharma talk by a teacher) from Sunya or Lawson. We also hold Wednesday and Thursday evening sittings starting at 7:00 PM, often with dokusan (one-on-one interviews) by one or both of the roshis. Some of our morning sittings with chanting are also now being broadcast on Zoom for those who wish to join, generally from 6:30-7:45 AM.
If you are interested in participating in any of these practice periods, we strongly suggest that you subscribe to our e-newsletter, check our Facebook page, and/or check our calendar for any changes or updates.
Due to the COVID pandemic, we have put our residential training program on hold for the foreseeable future.
Together, teachers Lawson and Sunya lead a residential training program at the property in Alexander. Some residents work full-time at the Center, and some part-time. Members of the larger sangha attend sittings here. Non-residents are also welcome to participate in the training program at Panther Branch, and may spend periods of time living, working, and sitting zazen with residents according to the daily schedule.
This schedule includes morning and evening zazen and chanting, dokusan (private meetings with a teacher) several times a week, vegetarian meals, circle practice, and samu, or work practice – a way to deepen one’s practice and integrate it into daily life. Work activities include everything from housekeeping and meal preparation to organic gardening and building.
Windhorse Zen Community has a strong commitment to examining our environmental impact on the planet, and to exploring alternative, more sustainable ways of living together with all beings. Recognizing the law of interdependence, we’ve made this area of research a high priority, and are grappling with concrete ways to reduce consumption and lighten our ecological footprint.
To apply for the residential training program, please read our guidelines first, then fill out the application online or download it and hand deliver or mail it to us at the address in our contact page.