What to Expect at the Sunday Morning Program

What To Expect & FAQs

While first-time visitors to some houses of worship take part as an observer, we ask visitors to our Sunday program to participate in every aspect of the morning. Part of the power of experiencing practice and training at the Temple is in being open to not knowing, being a beginner, learning through observation, and trusting your own experience. 

We’re often asked why we don’t explain more, or why we don’t have a little booklet or brochure that breaks down all the details of the form. To experience Zen training is to experience your own mind—in all of its particularity and vastness. Leaving room for you to have your own experience—and all of the questions that may arise from it—is a key part of how we train at the Temple and how practitioners have trained in Zen monasteries for centuries.

That said, we realize that a person’s capacity to feel safe and open to new experiences is shaped by their life experiences, their social identities (race, class, gender, gender identity, physical ability and so on), and other influences. To that end, we’d like to give you some sense of what to expect when you come to the Temple for the Sunday Morning program. You are welcome to contact us with any questions.

The morning program begins when the main bell begins to sound outside the meditation hall, at 9:25, to let the sangha, or community, know that service is about to begin. You are welcome to arrive before then to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, or to help us with caretaking (silent work practice) to prepare for the morning program.

If you have a coat or bag, we encourage you to leave it in the coat room on the second floor. Before entering the zendo, or meditation hall, leave your shoes on the shoe rack. If you have mobility issues or difficulty standing for long periods of time, you’re welcome to use a chair. Students serve as monitors in the front and back of the zendo and are there to assist you. 

After the chanting service, those who are joining us for the first time proceed upstairs to the Buddha Hall, a smaller meditation hall, to receive beginning instruction in zazen from a senior student.

After that, newcomers join the rest of the sangha in the zendo for another period of zazen, followed by kinhin, or walking meditation, and then one of the teachers or senior students offers a talk. We ask that everyone sit in a formal zazen posture during the talk—seated on the floor cross-legged or kneeling, or sitting in a chair. 

Following the talk, we head upstairs for conversation and refreshments. This is a good time to connect with the teachers, monastics, residents and formal training students to ask questions or find out more about the Temple’s programs.

If there is any part of your experience you’d like to discuss with a teacher or staff, please feel free to contact the Temple training office, Tuesday afternoon through Saturday afternoon at zcnyc@dharma.net or 718-875-8229.