For Newcomers

If you’re planning to come to practice for the first time, want to try meditation for the first time, or are just curious about Zen practice, we hope the following may be of use. Particularly, if you have never meditated before, having some sense of the basics can make for a much better first experience.

Sitting Meditation (zazen)

Our weekly zazen (group sittings) consists primarily of silent, seated meditation. Excellent basic instructions for sitting (and walking) meditation, using awareness of the breath as a method, can be found here, from Dharma Drum Retreat Center.

Walking Meditation (kinhin)

We sit in 25-minute periods, interspersed with 5-minute walking meditation periods. In walking meditation, rather than using our breath as the focal point of our awareness, we place our attention at our feet as they touch the ground as we walk. We place our left palm around our right fist in front of, but not touching, our abdomen as we walk.

The initial purpose of meditation is to train the mind to rest in one place, in the present moment. With this in mind, it is important to keep our awareness, as we rise from seated meditation and begin to walk, firmly anchored in the present moment. Walking meditation is not a break from sitting meditation. Rather, sitting meditation and walking meditation should be approached as two aspects of a single, sustained meditation.

Keeping a sustained awareness is not easy for anyone, and this is why we approach Zen as a practice. We all need to practice, and practice, and practice. Benefits come with consistent practice. Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you arrive.

More Information About Zen

You should not feel that you need to “become a Buddhist” to practice with the group. At the same time, you may have questions about Buddhism in general, and Zen practice specifically.

Our teacher, Jack Duffy, gave two Dharma talks (teisho) in the fall of 2011, aimed at beginners. They can also be found on the Mountain Lamp Community’s audio page.

  • Beginner’s Talk: Pt.1
  • Beginner’s Talk: Pt. 2

Robert Aitken Roshi’s Taking the Path of Zen (New York, NY: North Point Press, 1982) is an excellent, concise starting point for someone interested in Zen as we practice it.