Introduction to Zen

Jean bellIf you are new to Zen, our introductory teaching is required, even if you have done other forms of meditation. Our introduction is also open to anyone who has practiced Zen in the past but would like a refresher. We offer a simple, accessible introductory class, as well as continuing support and a solid structure once your practice begins.


Introductory class: Our main introductory class is offered on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month, from 11 am to 12:30 pm. We also offer an abbreviated class every Tuesday from 6 to 6:30 pm before our regular Tuesday evening sitting and dharma talk.

Saturday class

When: The 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month (except in August). Please confirm with our calendar, as sometimes the dates change.

Time: 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Arrival: Please arrive between 10:45 and 11:00 am. Our regular Saturday morning sitting does not end until 10:30, and the class begins promptly at 11:00 am.

Fee: $10 (we regret we cannot take credit cards but we do accept cash or checks)

Please scroll down for more information.

Tuesday class

When: Every Tuesday evening (except in August), before our regular Tuesday evening sitting and dharma talk. Please confirm with our calendar, as sometimes the dates change.

Time: 6:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Arrival: Doors open at 5:45 pm. Please arrive no later than 6pm. Arrival after that time disrupts the class for others. We thank you for your cooperation.

After the class is over, you are welcome to join us for our regular Tuesday evening sitting, which begins at 7:00 pm and consists of two 25-minute periods of zazen with walking meditation in between, followed by a Dharma Talk.  This is entirely optional and not required for the class.

Fee: $10 (we regret we cannot take credit cards but we do accept cash or checks)

Information for both classes:

No registration required: Just come along.

Location: Our building at 37 W. 17th St. in Manhattan has a buzzer system for entrance. Please scroll down on the keypad next to the double doors. When 'Still Mind Zendo' appears on the screen, it will instruct you to press 600 on the keypad. After you do, you will hear the telephone ring and a member of SMZ will answer. Please let them know who you are and they will buzz you right up.

What to wear: Please wear loose, comfortable clothing. We do not use robes at Still Mind so we ask that attire be suitably respectful no shorts or skimpy tops, etc. There is a changing room on the premises for your convenience.

The teachers: The Saturday class is led by either Sensei Marisa Cespedes or Dharma holder Jean Gallagher. Read more about them on our teachers page. (A Dharma holder is an apprentice teacher in the last stages of training before becoming a Zen Sensei, or teacher.) The Tuesday class is led by a senior student.

The teaching: The teaching will primarily address the heart of Zen practice: zazen, or sitting meditation. You will learn about right posture; about focus on the breath; about dealing with thoughts that distract and pull you away from the present moment; about how to return to the breath once pulled away. There will also be teaching on kin-hin (walking mediation) and on the necessary structure and forms on which Zen is built, all of which allow inner freedom to develop. Information will be given on various aspects of the zendo and Zen practice and, of course, any questions you may have will be answered.

Follow-up session with a teacher: As part of your fee for this class, you are invited to return on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, or a Saturday morning, to sit with the community (sangha) and meet privately with one of our teachers or Dharma holder. Such a meeting is called daisan and is an essential component of Zen practice. More information on this will be shared during the class.


A brief background on Zen

(Please read before coming to our Introduction)

ZEN is the word for MEDITATION in Japanese.

Meditation is a practice that dates back to ancient India. About 2,500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as the Buddha, or the Awakened One, based his primary teaching -- called the Four Noble Truths, with its possibility of transcending the dissatisfactions of our life -- on the practice of meditation.

In the 5th century, this practice moved from India to China, where it developed over the next few hundred years into what we know today as ZEN ("Chan" in Chinese). In the 13th century, Zen moved into Korea and Japan, and came to the United States and Europe in the last century.

Meditation, in any tradition and in any form, implies "no words, thoughts or concepts." It is, therefore, not a rational process but an experiential one. This means that, in order to realize what meditation is, one has to practice it, just as one has to actually eat an orange to know what an orange tastes like. So for us to know what meditation really is, we just have to "do" it. Only when we actually practice it can we know what the experience of "no words, concepts, or thoughts" is like because it is not what we think it is.

At Still Mind Zendo, you can receive the instruction, the training, the encouragement, the ongoing support, the challenge, and the strong structure necessary to fully undertake this meaningful practice.

We hope you can join us to try it.