Please note that any of your questions can be discussed during one-on-one interviews two times a month (see schedule)
A sangha is a community of meditators.
I’m Curious About Zen
At the Zen Center
You’ll want to wear something modest and either baggy or stretchy that allows you to move comfortably. Long pants are preferred. Socks are also preferred.
No, but if you would like some meditation instruction, arrive to practice about 15 minutes early. You might want to e-mail so that someone will be watching for you. Email [email protected]
Not at all. See the answer to the previous question. Meditation is really all you’ll need instruction in right away. There will be time for you to ask questions after practice or at our Introduction to Zen classes on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm at First Congregational Church of Topeka. Practice Schedule
You’ll get the most out of the experience if you participate to the extent that you’re able.
Our practices are held at First Congregational Church of Topeka. The areas we use are all on one floor. The restroom is wheelchair accessible. Also, all of our practices are available on Zoom. Monthly Calendar
There is no cost to attend the Zen center, although donations are accepted.
Zen is a distinct way of understanding yourself and the way you interact with people and the world in general. You hear the words, "She's so Zen" - which means that people are calm and serene, but Zen is more than just making yourself calm, although that can be a wonderful side effect of the practice. Zen is seeing into our conditioned minds and discovering the possibilities behind that conditioning. In our school, we call this "don't know mind." Some Zen practitioners call it "beginner's mind". Whatever you call it , the Zen mind is large, open, simple, and deeply compassionate. When we sit in meditation, we can access this wonderful way of being.
I've heard of Zen koans - those Zen questions like, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Koans (or Kong-ans) are questions responded to form a place before thinking. Kong-ans are worked on in conjunction with a teacher and are meant to get you out of your discursive thinking. Along with sitting meditation, walking meditation and bowing practice, it is another way of connecting with our "don't know" mind.
Zen meditation practices can be used with any other religious practice - a teacher can help guide your Zen meditation to tailor it to suit you as well as enhance your own spiritual growth and beliefs.
I’ve Had Some Zen Experience
About Zen and Family
You can tell your family what brought you to explore practicing Zen and why it is important for you to take the time. Listen to the questions they have. Don’t make your answers too complicated. Just what you understand at the moment. Keep it simple. Your friends may be curious, but may or may not interested in following you to practice. Everyone is welcome!
Your partner may not be interested in joining you in practice, this doesn’t mean you cannot practice. Sometimes practice is a personal practice with a Sangha or alone, not a family practice. That is okay. Maybe they will see a difference in you as you practice. Or they may never want to join you. Eventually you will find peace with that. Find out what is bothering them. It is important to keep communications open.
We don’t practice Zen to become better meditators, but to become better people. As a former elementary school teacher, helping my students was one of my main motivations for beginning my Zen practice. Being focused and present with children, listening and answering their questions honestly is practicing Zen. You might also look for Buddhist children's book. If a child expresses interest in sharing in your meditation, encourage it. My young granddaughter has sat with me. I just have her watch the incense smoke rise from the altar.
About Starting a Zen Practice
The most important factor in starting a Zen meditation practice is a clear, strong resolve to JUST DO IT. We invite beginners to come to one of our Introduction to Zen classes. Personal instruction allows time for questions and answers. (‘Is it normal when this happens?’ or ‘Why does my mind keep...’) When you’re ready to try meditating at home it is helpful to choose a place where you can be private and a time when you are unlikely to be disturbed. A folded blanket, towel, or sofa pillow/cushion can usually provide sufficient padding to make sitting comfortable. If there is nothing handy, a chair is also suitable. Don’t worry about making a mistake and don’t worry if you’ve forgotten a few details. The important thing is to try. Here is simple instruction on beginning on your own.: How to Practice Sitting Meditation — Kwan Um School of Zen (kwanumzen.org)
Whether in a group or alone, we always encourage people to meditate. However, every Zen student benefits from regular teaching, an on-going relationship with a teacher, regular group practice, and retreats. Prairyerth Zen Center offers Zoom for most practices and retreats. Our Zoom links are listed here. A teacher and group practice provide an invaluable source of support, steadiness, and inspiration.
Some people make practice a priority and carve out a regular time to bow, chant or sit, even if it is only ten minutes a day. Other people make time for group practice once a week or a retreat several times a year. But regardless of obligations, everyone can practice “daily life” Zen, fully engaging in the moment of cooking a meal, workplace assignments, work at home or brushing our teeth. Zen practice may begin on the cushion and mat, but it does not and should not stop there. Every situation and relationship in our life—whether at work or at home—is an opportunity to respond with a clear mind and open heart. What am I we doing right now?
About Practicing Zen
There’s nothing wrong. Our minds have one job: to think. And they are very good at it. During meditation we attempt to teach our minds a new job: being present rather than being pulled into the past or the future. Like all new skills, this one requires practice and patience.
At the Zen center we are encouraged to put down our like/dislike mind and engage in “together action” with the group. But at home you should do what you have the time and energy for. It is best to have a commitment to practice each day if you can.
Many of us are achievement-oriented and come to Zen with expectations. But Zen isn’t about achievement in the future or overcoming experiences complicating our past. It’s about putting that all down and learning how to be here and now in the present. Teaching your mind this new skill requires perseverance and patience. We can also take advantage of the support of a community of meditators (sangha) and our teachers. We offer private, confidential interviews with our guiding teacher and with a senior student at different times. A variety of questions might benefit from these one-on-one teaching and learning situations. Practice Schedule