What to Expect

All who are interested in Zen meditation are welcome to attend GBZC practice periods and other programming, whether in-person or over zoom. Activities are all free, with suggested donations encouraged.

If you have not previously meditated with a Zen group, please review our Schedule Summary and then arrange an orientation (via email, in advance) for the practice group you would like to attend. 

Sits (of over one hour duration) typically follow this outline:

  • A few minutes before the scheduled starting time, everyone will begin sitting quietly, on either a meditation cushion or in a chair.
  • At exactly the scheduled starting time, an Opening Circle will give people a chance to introduce themselves and share a few words.
  • The practice will begin. Incense will be lit, and then everyone will join in three bows. In the physical zendo, these are standing bows or full bows (where one kneels and touches the forehead to the floor). Individuals uncomfortable with or unable to do full bows may do standing bows, or simply stand. Over zoom, one may do seated bows. (Do you wonder what bowing is about? This podcast may help.)
  • The Sutra Service follows, consisting of about 20 minutes of chanting selections from our liturgy.  Newcomers generally just listen to the chanting until they get the sense of each chant’s rhythm. (Do you wonder where these chants and readings come from? This podcast may answer some of your questions.)
  • The Sutra Service is followed by a five minutes of walking meditation. Individuals needing to go to the restroom or to leave are encouraged to do so during the walking meditation period so as to minimize disturbances during the sutra service or sitting meditation.
  • Next we will have one or more 25-minute periods of sitting meditation, alternating with 5 minutes of walking meditation.
  • One sitting period (often the second) may be replaced by a  by a Dharma Discussion.
  • The sit ends with a short chant and 3 standing or full bows and one more chant.

In your orientation you will be shown how to do seated and walking meditation, and how to follow along with the practice including full or standing bows.

In addition to the introduction of the sitting postures (on a chair, on a bench, cross-legged), newcomers will notice that there seems to be numerous rules for how to do everything—don’t worry about this at all! It is true; there are a lot of rules. The purpose of these rules is so that during services people don’t have to think about what to do—another way to help still the mind. Of course, for newcomers, these many rules don’t have the same effect. Do not worry about them for now. Everything is done slowly. Just imitate the people who seem to know what they are doing.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].