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 Monastery 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 Monastery 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 Monastery 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 8:55, 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 dining hall or common room. 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. Two senior students serve as monitors in the back of the zendo and are there to assist you.
After the chanting service, those who are joining us for the first time proceed into 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 downstairs for an informal lunch. Lunch is a good time to connect with the teachers, monastics, residents and formal training students to ask questions or find out more about the Monastery’s programs from the registrar. The Monastery Store is open 1:45-2:45 in the Sangha House, across from the Monastery’s main building.
If there is any part of your experience you’d like to discuss with a teacher or staff, please feel free to contact the training office, Tuesday afternoon through Saturday afternoon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 845-688-2228.