Getting Started

First Step

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 Wednesday or Thursday evening. The evening sittings begin at 7:00 pm, so an orientation would need to start by 6:15. Please reach out to Lani at to schedule an orientation.


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.

Clothing Protocols

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.

Introductory Workshops

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.

Sesshin Cost and Dates:

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 $50 per day ($350 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.

2022 Sesshins are scheduled for the following: 

Martin Luther King Jr. 2-Day Virtual Retreat: January 14-16 — Register Here 

Parinirvana 3-Day Virtual Retreat: February 10-13 — Register Here 

Spring Equinox 7-Day In-person Retreat: March 19-26 — Register Here 

Strawberry Moon 7-Day In-person Retreat: June 11-18  — Register Here 

Fall Equinox 7-Day In-person Retreat: September 17-24 — Register Here 


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 a fuller exploration of Zentensives and this psychodynamic approach, click here.

2022 Zentensives are scheduled for:

Spring Zentensive: May 1-6 — Register Here 
Tentative Fall Zentensive: November 6-11 — Register Here 

Other Programs

Weekly Services

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 or Instagram Account, and/or check our calendar for any changes or updates.

New Years Information

Sangha Circle for Reflection and Renewal

Each year around the time of the New Year, we at Windhorse have held a Sangha Circle for Reflection & Renewal,also called Taking Stock & Inviting in the New. Although traditionally this practice has been a part of our New Year’s Eve ceremonies, this yearwith sharpened concern for not spreading the covid-19 viruswe will be holding this Circle on Zoom on January 2nd during our first Sunday morning program of 2022.

Those who participate in this Sangha circle have the chance to openly give voice to those patterns of body, speech and mind that they would like to let go of, and be free of, in the coming year or years. The other side of this is also important: to say out loud what we wish to open towhat we would like to invite into our lives for greater depth, fulfillment,connection and joy.

A Sangha circle is an extension of our Zen practice; it can provide a powerful time and space for a collective experience of clarity, honesty and trust. The public aspect of this kind of self-reflection can strengthen and ‘fix” our intentions; it also gives us a chance to get to know one another in a deeper way. The spirit of Circle, so fundamental to our practice at Windhorse, depends on the agreement of all participants to uphold four guidelines, or “intentions:”

  • Confidentiality: Anything of a personal nature stays within the Circle – we do not talk about it with others, even those within the Circle. Confidentiality is basic and vital: it holds together the framework of the circle and helps to forge trust among all who take part.
  • Listening with our whole being: In any Circle we will likely be listening much more than speaking. This listening with the heart is our Zen practice in action. It means not composing our own words while someone is speaking, not indulging in judgments or interpretations. Aside from the rare use of the word, “Hoh!” (takenfrom the Native American tradition to indicate hearty agreement), it also means no cross-talk or commentary — simply listening.
  • Speaking from the heart: When speaking in Circle we don’t have tobe eloquent or elegant in our presentation – we need only speak directly from the heart-hara about whatever seems important and is alive in us in that moment. For this New Year’s Circle of Reflection & Renewal, it can be helpful to sort of steep ourselves in these reflections in advance, and then to trust in ourselves and the moment, to bring up what seems most meaningful to us.
  • Being of lean speech: Obviously, the larger the group, the more vital is this last guideline! But even in a small group, it is important not to talk on and on in a Circle. We need to practice awareness of the group dynamics as a whole and not to take over. Almost always there will be more chances to speak, if one feels the need.


Home Purification 

The first most basic step to end, and begin, a New Year is to simply (?) clear and clean your space. Just that effort can make all the difference in starting afresh! After cleaning you can light some candles and incense or essential oils to beautify the atmosphere.

You may also wish to do what we traditionally do here at Windhorse: sweep out the old energies with a Noise-making Ceremony. This entails circumambulating through your room/apartment/house while chanting the Heart Sutra mantra: Gaté, gate, paragaté, paraSAMgaté, bodhi svaha! (approx.. translation: “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond – Awake, rejoice!) Using whatever musical instrument or noisemaker you choose, you punctuate the end of each line with a brief spurt of noise, while continuing to chant the mantra over and over. We typically make two to three passes through the center, ending this part with a wholehearted crescendo.

We then move into the Bell-ringing Ceremony:

Having cleared the space, we now invite in the New: again, a kind of kinhin, this time while ringing a sweet-sounding bell, delicately and at random (not continuously but allowing silence too) – making especially sure to do so in corners and any places you feel may need special attention. Again, we end with intensified bell-ringing, then a sudden stop – absorbing the crystalline silence that follows.

And of course, the best way to “purify” any space is to do ZAZEN there!