Winter Spring Practice Period

Peaceful Dwelling Practice Period With Sweeping Heart Zen

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Date(s) - 03/20/2018
All Day


Sweeping Heart Zen’s 1st annual Winter/Spring Practice Period begins on Saturday, February 24, 2018, and continues through Saturday, April 7, 2018.


What is Practice Period or Ango?

Ango—“peaceful dwelling”—traces its history to the earliest days of the sangha. Each year, as the monsoon began in India, the community would gather for an extended and intensified period of practice.

Practice Period is a longstanding  Zen Buddhist tradition. It is a special time when practitioners make personal and collective commitments to add to their practice activities as they are able.

During the Practice Period one might explore:

  • sitting more regularly or for longer periods
  • practicing mindfulness more consistently
  • giving more in whatever way
  • taking note of the giving and good one does already
  • noticing beauty, goodness, or love more often
  • saying “thank you” more often
  • growing and strengthening patience and compassion
  • reading and studying the Dharma more

The Shuso

A Zen Practice Period often features a senior student who serves as Shuso, or Head Monk.

Soto Zen priest Kotatsu John Bailes has invited Soto Zen priest Mark Nelson to serve as Shuso for this Practice Period. John is a Dharma Successor to Norman Fischer in the Linage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.  John is Mark’s Teacher.

Serving as Shuso is a double milestone in the progress of an ordained priest. First, administratively this is a next step on the path to becoming a fully ordained priest in the Soto Zen School.  Additionally, when a Teacher appoints a priest Shuso it affirms the Teacher’s confidence in the Shuso’s progress, development, and abilities.

Practice Periods include two important ceremonies for the Shuso. First, the Entering Ceremony to formally install the Shuso as Head Monk (February 24) and second, the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, Shuso Hossen, which closes the Practice Period (April 7). During the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, the Shuso responds to questions from Practice Period participants and guests. These ceremonies bookend the Practice Period in a beautiful way.

The Entering Ceremony and the Dharma Inquiry Ceremony will be held at the Lanesville Community Center.  The Shuso Entering Ceremony will be on Saturday, February 24, from 2:00 to 5:30 PM.  The Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony will be held during the same hours on Saturday, April 7.

Is there a fee for joining the Practice Period?

There is no fee to join the Practice Period itself, but the Entering Ceremony, the Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony, and The Book Club do have suggested donation recommendations. We ask that you send an rsvp to for each event, so please remember to rsvp for any event you would like to attend. Rsvp information can be found for each event on the calendar of events with each listing.

Please note, too, that Sweeping Heart Zen is entirely dependent upon the donations of members 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 intentions you’d like to make during the Practice Period, then fill out the Practice Period Intentions Form and email it to Mark Nelson at   Please type “Practice Period” in the subject line.

The deadline for receipt of the Practice Period Intention Form is Friday, February 23.

Guidelines For North Shore Massachusetts Participants: 

For participants who are able to attend SHZ events in Gloucester or in Lanesville, we ask you to make a special effort to come to as many of Sweeping Heart Zen’s scheduled events as possible during the Practice Period. Especially important are:

  • the Shuso Entering Ceremony which opens the Practice Period on Saturday, February 24. The ceremony will take place at the Lanesville Community Center from 2:00 to 5:30 PM
  • the Shuso Dharma Inquiry Ceremony which concludes the Practice Period on Saturday, April 7. This ceremony will also take place at the Lanesville Community Center from 2:00 to 5:30 PM

Personal Commitment

Finally, we ask each member of the Practice Period, whether living on the North Shore or at a distance 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 change in lifestyle. The details will differ from person to person.

Practice Period Intention Form

Please copy this form and paste it into an email, complete and send  to Mark Nelson at Type “Practice Period” in the subject line. The information you provide is confidential.

Completing this form thoughtfully and seriously may help each participant to carefully consider their intentions and  commitments.

Everyone who wants to participate in the Practice Period must complete this intention form and return it by Friday, February 23. The sooner you return the intention form, the better.

Very Important: Please remember to rsvp separately for the events you will be attending. Your Practice Period Intention Form does not enroll you in any Practice Period events. 

Peaceful Dwelling Practice Period Intention Form


What intention brings you to participate in this Practice Period?

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

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

Personal commitments to intensify your practice:

Any other comments you’d like to add:

( I drew inspiration for the descriptions of Ango and Zen Practice Periods from Zen Mountain Monastery’s information on Ango and from Everyday Zen’s material on Zen Practice Periods.  Thanks also to Kotatsu John Bailes.)