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The Merging of Difference and Unity

A Gaia House online study and meditation retreat with Norman Fischer

Monday – Wednesday, 24 – 26 May 2021


Beginners as well as seasoned practitioners of any Buddhist tradition are welcome. Please join us.


Image of teacherZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER is a poet and Zen Buddhist priest. For many years he has taught at the San Francisco Zen Center, the oldest and largest of the new Buddhist organizations in the West, where he served as Co-abbot from 1995-2000. He is presently a Senior Dharma Teacher there as well as the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture.
Norman has written many books both as a poet and Zen Buddhist Priest: His latest poetry releases are; "Nature" (2021, Tuumba); "There was a clattering as..." (2021, Lavendar Ink) and "When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen" (Shambhala, 2021).


Norman will be holding a Dharma talk and discussion evening presenting his latest release, “When You Greet Me I Bow:  Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen” on Friday, 21 May.  Please click here for further information.

Retreat description

In this three day retreat, led by Zoketsu Norman Fischer, we’ll practice silent sitting and walking meditation, and  study a classic Soto Zen text, The Merging of Difference and Unity (Japanese: Sandokai). Norman will give  two short talks each day followed by small and large group discussion.

The following reading will complement this retreat, but is not a pre-requisite:

  • Shunryu Suzuki, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen talks on the Sandokai
  • Shohaku Okamura, Living by Vow


Full participation is urged to ensure/contain unity of study, but one or two day participation is possible. Talks/instructions will be recorded and uploaded to the website if a session is missed.


All times shown are in British Summer Time (BST)

Daily Schedule

2.00pm-3.00pm — Sit and walk

3.00pm-4.30pm — Dharma study

4.30pm-6.00pm — Meal break; extra practice

7.00pm-8.00pm — Dharma study and concluding practice


Using Zoom

This online retreat will use the Zoom platform. For support with learning how to use Zoom, please click here to read the guidance we’ve put together on our website. Please read the first section, ‘Using Zoom’, before registering.


If you have any questions regarding the retreat, you can send an email to info@gaiahouse.co.uk We will respond as quickly as possible, but we have a reduced team during this time so we apologise if you have to wait longer than usual.


None of your registration fee goes to the teacher. Gaia House teachers rely on the generosity of students for their livelihood. There will be an opportunity to make a dana offering to your teacher at the end of the event.

Click here to read more about the practice of dana.

Dana can be offered to Norman through PayPal by clicking here.

Dana can also be offered to Norman via the Gaia House website by clicking here. Please click on Teacher and then specify that your donation is for ‘Norman– Merging of Difference’ in the notes section on the checkout page.

Dana can also be offered to Gaia House’s residential service team via our website here: https://gaiahouse.co.uk/support-us/.   Whilst our retreat centre remains closed, this team is taking care of Gaia House on the ground, as well as offering tech support for online retreats and responding to email and telephone enquiries.

With deep appreciation for your generosity.


Well-being guidelines - please click here to read before booking

Before you book, please read these guidelines about mental well-being and silent retreats:

Meditation retreats can be very nourishing; however, as they require sustained meditation practice, they also need some stability of psychological health. If you have recently (within the past year or so) experienced significant trauma or psychiatric illness, or if you are currently experiencing acute emotional distress such as serious depression or anxiety, it may not be the best time for you to participate in a retreat. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual psychological care you need at this time. A setting with more opportunities for interpersonal engagement may be more appropriate.

  • If you are currently under the care of a mental health professional, please discuss your attendance with them. You should be in a relatively stable period of mental well-being and have adequate psychological resilience.
  • If you have any questions about this, please contact Susanne using the email address, retreatmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk



Unfortunately this retreat has been cancelled.  If you have registered and request a refund please contact info@gaiahouse.co.uk.