You are welcome to attend one of our weekly sessions at any time. If you can arrive 15 - 20 minutes early, someone will show you around and help get you settled. Please be in your seat five mintues before start time.
If you would like some personal instruction and more information about Zen practice at Seattle Soto Zen, we invite you to attend our introductory session on the first Sunday of every month at 8:30 AM (calendar). A senior student will explain the basics of seated meditation, the posture and focus; walking meditation; a little basic Zen etiquette; and answer your questions and concerns. We'll also show you the physical layout of the meditation hall, the rest rooms, and where to put your things.The goal is to situate you so that you're comfortable. You'll be done in time to join our regular Sunday Morning Practice.
Zen is a practice that deepens over a lifetime. The time honored way of studying Zen, is one of gradual observation, meeting questions as they arise. You will naturally enter that process when you walk in the door.
Choose the ones that appeal to you, and go at your own pace.
Zazen, or seated meditation, is the core practice of Zen. Our Tuesday evening and Sunday morning gatherings are times when we support one another by meditating together. Most of us also gradually develop a daily mediation practice at home as well.
There are many written teachings in our tradition, and reading can be useful. Dharma study in community, though, brings the teachings alive. We offer a number of classes over the course of the year. These always include ample time for discussion.
As you begin to form questions about Zen, it can be helpful to bring them to a teacher.
Developing a teacher/student relationship, is central to traditional Zen. Our spiritual director is Allison Kanshin Tait. The first and easiest way to access his teaching is by listening to Sunday morning talks, either in person, or through the recordings available on this website. (link) On Sunday, you also have the opportunity to ask questions (and hear those of others) after the talk. There is a wide range of topics but talks often focus on classic Buddhist teachings combined with investigations of the unique realities of spiritual life in the present day.
Allison is also available to anyone for one-on-one meetings on most Tuesdays or Sundays. These meetings take place in a private room next to the meditation hall during meditation periods, are typically between 5 and 20 minutes long. Student and teacher meet to discuss any aspect of spiritual life. Allison is an accessible teacher and there is no prerequisite study or experience requirement to meet with him.
All you need is a question. Asking for guidance in your zazen is a good place to begin. You may have questions about morality and Buddhist ethics, spiritual materials you are 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. If you think you'd like to meet with him, speak with someone in the community with experience, and they'll explain how to sign up and how the meeting works. He's also usually available to say hello right after Sunday service.
An essential Zen practice is to gather together for intense silent retreats, called sesshins, where we follow a schedule of zazen from early in the morning until well after sunset. These retreats put you at the heart of spiritual practice.
There is a range of sesshins each year, including some more gentle short retreats geared for beginners, to one of seven days. Most retreats have flexibility to accommodate the demands of careers and families. As soon as you feel ready, we encourage you to attend a sesshin.