Empty Field is always glad to see newcomers to the zendo. If you’ve never been to a zendo, we encourage you to arrive 15 minutes early so we can meet you and provide some practical information about sitting posture and zendo etiquette. Instruction will also be given for each activity.
Every activity in the zendo is intended to bring awareness to everyday movements that we might ordinarily not think about — the lighting of incense, bowing, sitting, and walking are wonderful opportunities to “wake up” to what is happening Here and Now. In that sense, practice can be performed in any time and place, doing anything from mowing the grass to turning down the bed at night to typing an email to playing games with a child. The zendo offers us a chance to move mindfully from one activity to the next while in a concentrated state of awareness.
A Few Words About Sitting
Stillness. Sitting meditation in the Zen tradition is one of stillness. But the human body can experience stiffness or cramps during zazen. We are encouraged to use the pain as an opportunity to become more present. Sometimes, simply giving the pain our full attention can soften its edges and make continuing easier. However, should the pain become excruciating, or if you have a physical condition that precludes continuing, please move to make yourself comfortable. Sitting meditation is not intended to be an endurance sport.
Emotion. Some participants, especially those new to silent meditation, may find that emotions arise during zazen or kinhin. These might be emotions of happiness, sadness, or anything in between. In some cases, an unrecognized or unacknowledged grief may well to the surface. Oftentimes, our act of silence and following the breath simply stills the mind long enough to allow these formerly unexpressed emotions to come forth. This is perfectly normal and others will not judge it as inappropriate.
Taking the experience home. Most of the activities in the zendo can be done at home at little or no expense. Simply remaining mindful of each moment is quite a challenge in itself — most of us find the act of “waking up” out of our own thoughts into the Here and Now to be an ongoing process. Many of us meditate regularly at home — at the same time in the morning or evening, or both.
Consistency is more important than quantity; it is better to meditate 5 minutes each day than to meditate 35 minutes once a week. Our practice together, as a sangha, helps remind us to awaken, to be mindful, and to cultivate an at-home meditation schedule that contributes to our ability to be present in our lives.