New to Zen?


I’m completely new, can anybody come?

Yes, guests and newcomers are always welcome to join us. There is no need to make prior arrangements. We invite you to attend any of our regularly scheduled meditation times, talks, or classes. We suggest you arrive ten minutes early so that you can find your seat and get comfortable.

A good place to start is by attending an Introduction to Zen session. These are usually held on the fourth Saturday of the month at 10:00 a.m. in our meditation hall at 113 School St. This session is not required, but recommended, as it includes a basic introduction to sitting and walking meditation, and to our customs. We can help you find a comfortable meditation posture. If you are unable to attend an introduction, please contact us to arrange a time that is convenient.

Is there anything I should do to prepare?

Cushions, chairs, and benches are provided for meditation. Please wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing in dark and muted colors, with knees and shoulders covered. Avoid wearing perfumes or scented products, as some are allergic to them. Please turn off phones and watches.

Typically after zazen (sitting meditation) we offer a short service that includes bowing and chanting. You may participate or respectfully observe, but staying for service is not required. If you don’t wish to stay, just wait until everybody rises after zazen. Then we bow once together and you’re welcome to either stay for service or leave.

What do I need to know about Zen meditation?

Be as quiet as possible upon entering and during meditation, and try to come on time. We sit facing the wall with a straight back, ears over the shoulders, and eyes slightly open. Please sit silently and practice normal breathing. If you have physical limitations, please inquire about alternative postures and feel free to do standing bows during service.

What if I arrive late?

If zazen has already begun, please enter quietly, bow and go directly to an open seat. If there is someone at the altar, or walking around with palms together, please stand at the door and wait to take your seat after three bells are rung.

Is there any cost to practice at Santa Cruz Zen Center?

No, there is no charge to practice. We do suggest donations at classes, lectures, sesshins (longer retreats) and other events. We also offer several options for membership. Donations are accepted gratefully as they provide support for us to continue our offerings.

Do I have to be a Buddhist?

No, you do not have to be a Buddhist to practice zazen. Our Soto Zen practice is compatible with other religions or faith traditions. Some of us identify ourselves as Buddhists, while others do not.

I don’t know if I can sit still that long. What if I become uncomfortable while meditating?

Discomfort often arises while sitting zazen; we practice not tightening up or moving away from discomfort. If you are in considerable pain, please use your own judgment in deciding whether to move. Before quietly adjusting your posture or cushions, please bow in your seat to let those around you know that you will be moving.

I came on Wednesday evening and noticed people walking slowly outside. What is that about?

This slow walking is called kinhin, or walking meditation, which we practice between zazen and the talk. If you’d like to join, just bow upon entering the circle and follow the person in front of you. We take very small half steps in rhythm with the breath. After three bells, the line move quietly into the zendo.

My question remains unanswered, what do I do?

No problem, just contact us! You can reach us by phone , by email or in person during a visit. We are happy to help answer any questions you may have.

Santa Cruz Zen Center

113 School Street
Santa Cruz, CA, 95060
United States



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