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First-Time Visitors FAQ

Is there any meditation instruction offered at Zen Center? Yes, on most Saturday mornings there is an Introduction to Zen Practice where you can get basic meditation instruction.

Can I visit Zen Center on a Saturday without attending the introductory instruction? Yes, if you have a meditation practice and feel comfortable sitting still for 30 minutes at a time, you are welcome to attend any open sitting at Zen Center. For those wishing to attend only the Saturday dharma talk, please arrive at 10:45am and enter the Zendo after the bell rings, which signals the end of the meditation period.

How do I get there? The Zen Center Zendo is in a small suburban house located in Pacific Beach at 2017 Feldspar Street. Walk up the driveway and down the path to the right of the garage to get to the entrance, which is at the back of the house. Please park at least 2 blocks away. (See directions to Zen Center.)

What should I wear? Clean, comfortable, and modest attire is recommended for sitting. Please do not wear shorts, short skirts, or clothes with writing on them, bold prints, or any other attention-getting items. When entering the Zendo, leave your shoes on the shelf outside.

Where can I sit? You are welcome to sit anywhere in the Zendo where there is an empty black mat on the floor.

Do I have to sit on a cushion on the floor or can I sit in a chair? You may sit on a cushion (zafu), meditation bench or a chair—all are available at Zen Center. Chairs are kept in the Back Room (next to the bathroom) when you enter. Cushions are available in the hallway cabinets. It takes some experimentation to learn what type of seating will enable you to sit still and support your body optimally.

When can I talk? Zen meditation is done in silence and we avoid talking and conversations in the Zendo. However, the timekeeper and other practice leaders may make announcements from time to time. After the lecture, there is a question and answer period and you are encouraged to participate. There is also plenty of time to ask practice leaders and other students questions informally on the patio at the end of the Saturday program.

How much does this cost? There is no charge for the Introduction to Zen Practice. Daily sitting and dharma talks are also offered free of charge, but visitors are invited to make a donation to support the teaching offered by Zen Center.

What if my knees hurt or I feel uncomfortable? Everyone who meditates experiences some level of discomfort or pain at times during sitting. This is normal, and an important part of meditation practice is learning to sit still and reside in what is. Of course, if you feel ill or the pain is causing harm (your body knows), please adjust your position as quickly and silently as possible to avoid disturbing others.

When can we use the restroom? The unisex restroom in the Zendo is available during walking meditation periods. After the clappers sound twice, you may leave the meditation hall to use the restroom. If the door is closed, please knock twice to see if it is in use. If there is someone inside, they will respond by knocking twice. If occupied, then wait outside until it is available. Emergency situations, of course, must be attended to when they arise. Please exit the Zendo as quietly as possible.

Can I use my cell phone in the Zendo? No. Please turn all phones completely off. Texting and photography are never permitted in the Zendo. If you have an emergency please exit before using any electronic device.

What's the best time for a new student to visit? The Saturday introduction from 8:45am to Noon is the ideal time for a first visit.

Do I need to tell anyone when I'm coming for the first time? No, it is not necessary to make a reservation. Just show up at 8:45 for the Saturday Introduction. If you have questions contact info@zencentersandiego.org.

Do I get to talk with a teacher? Our teachers are available informally after giving dharma talks on Saturdays and welcome meeting newcomers. They are also available for one-on-one meetings (daisan) during Saturday sittings and retreats. Once you have become acquainted with Zen Center, please inquire.

Is this a religion? Zen Center is unaffiliated with any particular religious denomination. We welcome those from all religious traditions and those new to spiritual practice.

Anything else I need to know? Out of consideration for others, we avoid wearing cologne or other body or hair scents in the Zendo. We also make a habit of washing our hands frequently and covering our mouths when we cough in order to minimize the spread of germs.