July Retreat led by Andre Elsen


Saturday, July 20, 6 pm – 8 pm; Sunday, July 21, 7 am – 5:15 pm

The second retreat of our practice period, The Path of Liberation, will be led by our shuso, Andre Elsen, and will begin on Saturday evening at 6 pm and end on Sunday evening at 5:15 pm. We will sit three periods of zazen on Saturday evening and ten periods of zazen on Sunday, encouraging us to deepen and settle in our practice. The periods of zazen will be separated by ten minutes of kinhin, and there will be a dharma talk on Sunday morning and a yoga session during the afternoon. We will end with a sharing circle.

Please wear loose, comfortable clothing and bring vegetarian food for breakfast and lunch on Sunday.

It is possible to join the Sunday event at any time – please take care to ring the doorbell only during kinhin!

  • The suggested donation to be part of this event is a sliding scale from £10 to £25.



August Sesshin at Benburb


Tuesday, August 27 – Sunday, September 1, 2019

Ryushin Paul Haller, the guiding teacher of Black Mountain Zen Centre, will spend the last two weeks of August with us this year, culminating in a five-day sesshin at Benburb Priory.

This silent meditation retreat will start on Tuesday evening, August 27, and end on Sunday afternoon, September 1, with the final event of our practice period, the shuso ceremony of Andre Elsen. Participants can either attend for the whole five days or for the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday. The suggested donation to cover our costs has slightly increased to £​310 for the full five days, and ​​£165 for the weekend, Friday to Sunday – this covers your single room and three vegetarian meals per day, plus unlimited tea and coffee during breaks. Please offer what you can afford, and if you can make a larger donation, that is also gratefully received.

Please follow the details on the application form in order to apply. An updated application form is available here: Sesshin application

Our First Practice Period

shundo sky (2)

The Path of Liberation, June 23 – September 1, 2019

The essence of Zen practice is being present and experiencing what’s happening. This straightforward practice reveals to us how to heal our suffering and how to open to the vitality of life. Our life blossoms as we learn to meet what’s being experienced in each moment. In our first practice period at Black Mountain Centre, The Path of Liberation, we will discuss and engage traditional Buddhist and Zen practices that promote presence, attention, integrity and the openness of Beginner’s Mind. The practice period will begin with the one-day sitting at Black Mountain Zen Centre on Sunday, June 23, followed by a second one-day sitting on Sunday, July 21, and end with the sesshin at Benburb Priory from Tuesday, August 27 to Sunday, September 1. During the practice period, we will be offering a “small group” meeting at 7:30 pm on Friday evenings (after one period of zazen at 7 pm), when we will have an opportunity to connect and share our week with Paul Haller, shuso Andre Elsen and resident teacher Djinn Gallagher. Paul and Andre will be joining us by Skype for some of the meetings, and it will be possible to participate remotely if you can’t make it to Belfast. The opportunity to practice in this way is a new step for our growing sangha at Black Mountain, and we hope it will deepen and strengthen our connections. We invite everyone to be part of this practice period; please email here to register.

  • The suggested donation to join the practice period is a sliding scale from £10 to £25.

Some Helpful Words from Our Shuso

Dear friends in the dharma, dear sangha,
I would like to say a few more words about the practice of mindfulness. There is an early Buddhist text, the title of which is translated as “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”, in which the Buddha speaks in terms of mindfulness of body, mindfulness of feeling, mindfulness of mental states, and mindfulness of dharmas.
Mindfulness of body is the very basic practice of being attentive to your posture and your breathing, whether you’re lying, sitting, walking or standing. This – especially the breath – is also a very good way to calm your mind, not just during sitting but also in your everyday life. To return to body and breath when you feel distressed – or just to remember body and breath – can have a relaxing effect. So, if you like, you can try to turn your attention towards your breathing when you feel anxious or stressed.
Mindfulness of feeling does not mean emotions so much as how you experience sensations. Do you experience a sensation as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? As we have a tendency to avoid the unpleasant and strive after the pleasant – and rarely notice the neutral – this question is a very helpful way to deal with all our judgements and helpless attempts to get what we want and avoid the things we don’t want.
Mindfulness of mental states you can say basically is about thinking and feeling(s). Usually our thoughts and mental concepts are accompanied by certain emotions.
Mindfulness of dharmas can be seen as being aware of it all, of each and every mental state you are in. It also can mean mindfulness of the teachings.
So please, enjoy your practice.
Andre Elsen