Introduction to Zen

Jean bellIf you are new to Zen, please attend our Introduction to Zen workshop (see details below), 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.

Why Zen?  Our minds--almost always engaged in creating concepts, identities, judgments, assessments, and narratives about self, others, and the world--can be the source of a great deal of our (and others') dissatisfaction and suffering. Zen training offers a way to practice not attaching so much--not clinging so much--to these concepts, thoughts, assessments, and narratives, and thereby living with greater freedom, ease, and joy.

But how?  Zen training is direct, physical, and experiential--not a philopsophy or intellectual position. It includes meditation practice, both on one's own and in the context of a larger, supportive community (sangha), as well as one-on-one work with a teacher. Our Introduction to Zen will give you direct experience with some of these fundamental and powerful practices.

You'll learn the heart of Zen practice: zazen, or sitting meditation. This includes right posture, focus on the breath in the body, dealing with thoughts that distract and pull you away from the present moment, and how to return to the breath once pulled away. There will also be teaching on kin-hin (walking meditation) and on the necessary structure and forms on which Zen is built. Short meditation periods will be included. Information will be given on various aspects of Zen practice, and there will be plenty of time for questions.

Introductory class: Our introductory class is offered on a Saturday morning, usually twice a month. The dates for 2019-2020 are as follows:


September 7 and 21
October 5 and 19
November 16
December 14
January 4 and 18
February 1 and 15
March 14 and 28
April 18
May 9 and 23
June 6 and 20
July 11 and 25

Time: 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Arrival: Please arrive between 10:45 and 11:00 am. The class begins promptly at 11:00 am.

Fee: $20 (we regret we cannot take credit cards but we do accept cash or checks)


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 Sensei Jean Gallagher. Read more about them on our teachers page.

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. 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.