When is the program offered?
There will be two rounds each year, fall and spring, which line up with the three month training periods traditionally offered at Zen monasteries. There are several existing summer programs we can recommend young people to if that’s the experience they are looking for.
Who will be supervising this?
The beginning and ending retreats will be supervised by Miles Bukiet. These retreats will mostly be geared towards learning new content and interpersonal meditation. During the remainder of the program, students will be supervised by the long-term residents and monks at the monasteries we are working with. They will be following monastery rules and always be able to meet with a monk about questions or concerns. During formal retreats, it is customary in Zen practice for students to have the opportunity to meet with a teacher every day to talk through questions about their practice or life as a whole.
Is there a for-credit option?
We have not considered a for-credit option for now. Serious meditation practice can be emotionally and physically intense and it can put students in an uncomfortable position if they feel obligated to attend for academic reasons. Adding a for-credit option is something we might revisit in the long term.
Who else will be there?
We're aiming for somewhere between 15 and 20 students for our first cohort. The program is Co-ed. Sleeping arrangements will be same-sex.
What Are Accommodations Like?
We will rent out a lodge or retreat center for the weeks at the beginning and end of the program. Accommodations during three month residency are same sex dorm-style, or some participants might get a room to themselves. Monasteries provide basic toiletries and bedding.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Keeping in line with monastery etiquette, there will be a zero tolerance policy for no sexual contact, drugs, or alcohol to keep the environment positive and focused on the mission. Relationships are a very important part of life, but taking time to really investigate our own experience can be enormously powerful as well. This is the purpose of the program. To keep the atmosphere safe for everyone and to create an atmosphere of focus and respect for ourselves and others this policy will be strictly enforced.
Who else will be at the Monasteries?
Generally, monasteries in the US have a population of ordained monks and long-term residents, people like you or I, but who have made a serious, commitment to meditation and Buddhist practice in their life. This people are invaluable sources of insight and can offer us a lot in their outlook and way of being in the world. Monasteries also have lay communities that will come and go, participating in retreats, services, and celebrations on case by case basis. Program participants will meet and have the opportunity to form connections to many of these people during their time.
Are there risks involved?
Students may be asked to perform manual labor, to the extent that they are able. They will not be asked to do anything beyond their abilities. Aside from this risk of physical injury, monasteries and retreat practice can be emotionally intense. Meeting this intensity is part of what makes the experience so rewarding, but this should be noted by anyone who is interested in attending the program. There are many supports available, including regular meetings with some of the most experienced meditation teachers in the country, to help students through their experiences. But for some people, this experience may not be right for them at this point in their life, and they might not find that out until they get there. We will encourage but never require people to stay.
What happens if a student gets sick or injured?
In case of emergency, someone from the monastery will be able to drive a student to the hospital. If the monastery is rural, this might be a more than thirty minutes away. If being close to a hospital is important to you for medical reasons, this program may not be for you.
What is the cancellation policy
If a student leaves partway through the program, we will refund them the portion of their stay at the monastery they did not complete and half of the cost of the ending retreat, because that place was taken from someone else. We do not want anyone to feel bad for not completing the program. Making the decision to live in a monastery is yours and yours alone.
While this program is founded by young people who have limited experience in facilitating retreats and workshops, we will be leaving the majority of facilitation to Miles or another more qualified individual who has five or more years experience of intensive meditation practice, and who has been trained by a qualified teacher to facilitate workshops and retreat environments.
Admission to the program is based on both an application to live at a monastery, a electronic interview with an ordained person at the monastery a person is to spend time at, a short essay about their history with meditation and why they are interested in the program, and an interview with Aaron or Miles so we can get a sense of who you are before you join us for the orientation week.
What is The Accepted Age Range
We’re targeting college-aged people for this experience, and the content of our workshops will be aimed at people encountering the concerns of an academic environment, or around college-aged peers. This program is not the only way into monastic living - if you are interested in spending time at a Zen monastery, reach out to one of them yourself, or send us an email and we would be happy to give you more information about how to do that or where to go.
How to contact students in case of an emergency
If there is an emergency and you need to reach a student in the program, you can call us or call the monastery they are attending, and they will find them and relay the message as soon as possible.
All of the monasteries we are working with are entirely vegetarian. Gluten-free and vegan accommodations can be made easily and common allergens can be avoided. If you have another dietary accommodation, make sure to let us know in your application. The orientation and wrap-up retreats will be entirely vegan, accommodations for gluten-free, soy-free etc. will also be available during these retreats.
You are welcome to bring a phone or laptop. During formal retreats it is standard policy to turn these off and leave them off. However, during regular life at the monastery there will be opportunities to email or speak with friends and loved ones during specific windows during the day. Many monasteries do not have service or have poor reception, which significantly discourages the incentive to spend time on electronics. Additionally, the monastic schedule is busy, and participants will not have very much time to use electronics anyway.