Introduction to Zen

Our introductory teaching is required if you are new to Zen (or if you’ve only done other forms of meditation). It is also open to anyone who has practiced Zen in the past and would like a refresher. Knowing how daunting Zen often seems to beginners, we offer simple, accessible beginning instruction, as well as continuing support and a solid structure once your practice begins.

Introduction to Zen:

Days: On the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month (except August).

Time: 6 pm to 6:35 pm, followed by a short break and then the formal sitting with the sangha (community), which ends around 9 pm. Please arrive no later than 6pm. Doors open at 5:45 pm. Due to the short and concentrated nature of the teaching period, we regret that we cannot accept late arrivals. If you find that you are not going to be able to arrive by 6 pm, we ask that you just come next time.

No registration required. Just come ahead.

Donation: $10.

What to Wear: Please wear loose, comfortable clothing. We do not use robes at Still Mind, so we ask that attire be suitably respectful. Please do not wear shorts of any length or skimpy tops in the zendo, and please refrain from wearing clothing that contains texts, logos, designs or cartoons that may be distracting to others. There is a changing room at the zendo for your convenience if you are coming from work or if you will be wearing shorts to the zendo.

What to expect on your arrival: You’ll be greeted at the door by the practice leader who is assigned to teach that evening. After taking off your shoes and coat and using the facilities as needed (which are wheelchair accessible), you’ll be provided with either a zafu (sitting cushion) or a seiza bench (floor-sitting bench) or a chair/stool to use. At 6 pm you will move into the zendo for the teaching.

Introductory teaching: The teaching will focus on 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 each time you are pulled away again by your mind. A short teaching on kin-hin (walking meditation), which is an important part of Zen practice, will also be given, as well as an overview of what to expect during the sitting that follows at 7 pm.

Following this, there will be a short break during which you can meet some of the sangha members, use the rest room, and so forth.

At 6:55 pm, everyone gathers in the zendo for the formal sitting. Your participation in the sangha’s practice of zazen is essential for you to have a sense of what Zen is all about.  You will sit for one 25-minute zazen period and join in the walking meditation that follows. During the second sitting, while the rest of the sangha continues with zazen, one of our teachers, Dharmaholder Marisa Cespedes, will go with you to the front room to answer any questions you may have and to give further teaching. You’ll rejoin the sangha for the dharma talk during the third period.

At the end of the evening, if not before, you will also get to meet our other teachers.

Follow up sessions with a teacher: Follow-up group sessions for newcomers (called Zen for Beginners Part II) are available twice monthly (except in August and during our ango months) for all those who have done the Introductory course. You will receive information about these follow-ups after attending a Tuesday evening Introduction.

A brief background on Zen
(Please read before coming to our Introduction; for more detailed information on Zen, click here.)

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 (“Ch’an” 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.

There are many forms of meditation available in the world today. Zen is one of them.

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.