Great Plains Zen Center
Workshops, Classes, and Retreats

Workshops, Classes, and Retreats

Below, you will find general information the typies of workshops, classes, and retreats that Great Plains Zen Center offers.  To see the dates and times when they will be offered, please see our Events Calendar.


Introduction to Zen Practice

Great Plains Zen Center offers Introduction to Zen Practice each month in Monroe and in Palatine. Online attendance is possible for those not able to attend in person. The workshops take place on Saturday mornings from 8:30-11:30 AM. These are designed to give new practitioners basic instruction in sitting meditation (zazen), reasons and goals of practice, and practical tips on establishing and maintaining a practice. First-time workshop participants are asked to make a $25 donation. (There is no charge for repeating the workshop.) Dates for upcoming Introductory Workshops can be found on our Events Calendar.

Other Workshops

GPZC offers workshops on related topics periodically, such as Council Practice, or Zenga Painting. Current workshops offered can be found on our Events Calendar.


Aspects of Zen Practice Classes

This series of four classes helps those who have taken an Introductory Workshop review the basics and continue to learn about the various elements of practice and ways to participate at Great Plains Zen Center. Classes are held once per month and may be taken in any order. It’s a great way to continue learning after the Introductory Workshop. All classes are 1 hour with optional zazen following. Find dates for upcoming Aspects classes on our Events Calendar.

Aspects Class #1: Forms of Practice

Reviews the basics of zazen (body, breath and mind), zendo procedures, and the teacher-student relationship.

Aspects Class #2: Liturgy and Lineage

The role of ceremony and ritual in Zen, our teaching lineage, an overview of services (including prayer list, memorials, baby blessings and weddings) and the Gate of Sweet Nectar.

Aspects Class #3: Everyday Life Practice

Practicing the precepts at home, at work, in the community and throughout our lives. Sharing practice with our children and families.

Aspects Class #4: Being a Part of the GPZC Community

Shared stewardship circles and opportunities for volunteering and leadership, Council Practice and GPZC Vision, Mission, Guiding Principles.

Other Classes

GPZC offers classes periodically on various topics such as Where Compassion Begins, Waking Up for Racial Justice, or The Eightfold Path. Classes can be found on our Events Calendar.


Great Plains Zen Center offers monthly retreats called sesshin or zazenkai in Monroe, WI ranging in length from a weekend to 7 days. These offer a wonderful opportunity to deepen practice with many periods of sitting throughout the day. Sesshin is a contraction of the words setsu ad shin and means to join the mind.

The sesshin schedule begins early in the day with 30-minute periods of sitting alternating with 10 minutes of kinhin (walking meditation) and runs throughout the day, including work practice, self-care, meals, and chanting services. All activities are done in silence, inviting the sesshin participant to be fully present and focussed during each activity. Meals are vegetarian and special dietary restrictions can be accommodated with prior notice. When social distancing is no longer necessary, we will resume using special eating bowls, called oryoki, for meals. Many retreats end with the Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony on Sunday morning. This is the main liturgy of the Zen Peacemaker Order and is about nourishing those who are marginalized, forgotten, or starved for the Dharma. Participants bring non-perishable food items that are taken to the local food pantry afterward.

Kinhin (walking meditation)

It is recommended that participants have some regular sitting experience and have attended an Introduction to Zen Practice Workshop or equivalent prior to attending a retreat as the many sitting periods throughout the day can be challenging. Full or part-time participation is acceptable (in person) and online (full or part-time) is also available. All meals and overnight stays are included in the registration fee. Dates and information about upcoming retreats can be found on our Events Calendar.

Nirvana Day Sesshin

This retreat takes place each year in February. This retreat commemorates the parinirvana of the Buddha.

Beginner’s Mind Sesshin

These retreats are typically held in March and September and take place from Friday evening through Sunday morning. They are especially geared for those who have limited or no prior retreat experience. The schedule is lighter than a typical sesshin and instruction in the various elements of sesshin are given throughout the day. These are ideal sesshin for those attending their first retreat and are popular with experienced practitioners as well.

Honoring the Way of Zazen Sesshin

Typically held in April and October, these sesshin run from Thursday night through Sunday morning. During Honoring the Way of Zazen sesshin, there are no services, talks or dokusan – just sitting, meals, work and rest. Originally honoring Bodhidharma’s resolute sitting facing the wall, these sesshin are a wonderful opportunity to dig deep into practice without distraction.

Maezumi Roshi Memorial Zazenkai

This annual event takes place in May and commemorates the passing of our Founding Ancestor Teacher, Taizan Maezumi Roshi.

June and July Sesshin

GPZC offers three-day sesshin during the first two months of our Summer Ango, the 90-day period of intensive practice each year.

Peaceful Way/All My Relations Sesshin

This event is a seven-day sesshin taking place in August each year. During this sesshin, we are especially diligent about trying to eat only locally grown or processed and seasonal food to increase our awareness of our interdependence with all things. We also raise our intention to be nonviolent and honor those who perished in massive tragedies, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. During this sesshin, we hang the memorial lanterns with messages to loved ones who have left this life and we also do the Annual Gate of Sweet Nectar service, in which we go around to the various outdoor altars to chant and read the names of all who have passed and are recorded in the Book of the Past.

November Zazenkai

This retreat typically takes place over a weekend and follows the typical retreat schedule, Friday night through Sunday morning.

Rohatsu Sesshin

This five-day sesshin starts on Tuesday evening and ends on Sunday morning. The Rohatsu sesshin commemorates the Enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha.





Dates and registration information for all retreats can be found on our Events Calendar.

Half-Day Sitting

Half-Day Sitting takes place in Monroe one Saturday per month. The sitting begins at 9 AM and continues until about noon. Optional lunch and work period follow. This is a wonderful chance to eat and work with other sangha members in a more informal way. Registration is not required for half-day sittings.  Find the date for each month’s half-day sitting on our Events Calendar.