New to Zen?

Sincerity is the key.

Beginning your practice

Zen practice deepens over a lifetime, with gradual observation and meeting questions as they arise. One naturally enters that process when beginning any of the following. 

Choose what appeals to you, and go at your own pace. 

Zazen 

You are welcome to attend our weekly sessions at any time. An orientation for those new to our virtual gatherings has its own page here.

Zazen, or seated meditation, is the core practice of Zen. Our Sunday morning and Tuesday evening gatherings are times when we support one another by meditating together. Most of us also gradually develop a daily meditation practice at home as well.

Dharma study

Many practitioners first find their way to Zen teachings via the bookstore. Be it contemporary classics such as Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and Aitken Roshi’s Taking the Path of Zen, or texts whose study spans centuries, such as The Dhammapada and writings by the founder of our particular school of Zen, Dogen, there is a vast treasury of Dharma to be discovered via the written word.

One may find that studying our tradition’s teachings with others brings them alive. We offer a number of classes over the course of the year. These include ample time for discussion.

Working with a Teacher

As one begins to form questions about Zen, it can be helpful to bring them to a teacher, such as ours, Kanshin Allison Tait.

The first and easiest way to access Kanshin’s teachings are by listening to Sunday morning talks, either in person, or through recordings available on this website. On Sunday, one also has the opportunity to ask questions (and hear those of others) after the talk. There is a wide range of topics but the focus is typically on classic Buddhist teachings and investigations of the unique realities of spiritual life in the present day.

Kanshin is also available to anyone for one-on-one meetings which can be arranged via email. These meetings, called practice discussion, are typically between 5 and 20 minutes and traditionally take place—when in person—in a quiet, intimate setting, Buddha to Buddha. For now, Zoom or Facetime will suffice. Practice discussion can touch on any aspect of one’s practice. Allison is an accessible teacher and there is no prerequisite study or experience necessary to meet with her. Developing a teacher-student relationship is central to Zen.

Asking for guidance in one’s zazen is a good place to begin. You may have questions about morality and Buddhist ethics, spiritual materials you’re reading, or the meaning of the liturgy we chant. Just as with zazen, students begin to gradually understand how to work together with a teacher, naturally, over time.

Retreat or Sesshin 

An essential Zen practice is gathering for intense silent retreats, called sesshin, where we follow a schedule of zazen from early in the morning until well after sunset. These retreats put one at the heart of Zen practice.

There is a range of sesshin each year, including some gentle short retreats geared for beginners, to those lasting three or more days. Most retreats have flexibility to accommodate the demands of careers and families. As soon as you feel ready, we encourage you to attend sesshin.