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What is Zen practice? - First-Time Visitors' FAQ

Does ZCSD offer introductory instruction in Zen meditation? Yes, on the first Saturday morning of each month, there is a Newcomer Orientation.

Can I visit the Zen Center on a Saturday without attending Newcomer Orientation? 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 the Zen Center. For those wishing to attend only the Saturday dharma talk, please arrive by 10:50am and enter the Zendo just before the talk begins at 11:00am.

How do I get there? The Zendo is in a small suburban house located in Pacific Beach at 2047 Felspar 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, modest attire is recommended for sitting. Please do not wear shorts, short skirts, see-through fabrics, or attention-getting items (e.g., clothes with writing or bold prints). Looser-fitting clothing is best. We prefer no leggings, but they can be worn if paired with a longer, tunic-length top that covers the hips. Before entering the Zendo, leave your shoes on the shelf outside.

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 chair—all are available at the Center. Chairs are kept in the "back room (beyond the bathroom, when you enter). Cushions are available in the back room and in hallway cabinets. It takes some experimentation to learn what type of seating will enable you to sit still and optimally support your body.

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

How much does this cost? There is no charge for Newcomer Orientation. Daily sitting and dharma talks are also offered free of charge, but visitors are invited to make a donation to support the teaching offered at the 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 present-moment experience. 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 I 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 the restroom is occupied, wait outside until it is available. Emergency situations, of course, must be attended to when they arise. In such cases, 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 the hall before using any electronic device.

What's the best time for a new student to visit? We encourage first-time visitors to attend our online Newcomer Orientation (for more information, click here). However, everyone is welcome to attend the zendo in person. Please aim to arrive by 8:45 am on Saturdays or by 6:20 on Wednesdays.

Do I need to tell anyone when I'm coming for the first time? No, it is not necessary to make a reservation. If you have questions, contact info@zencentersandiego.org.

Do I need to practice a particular religion to attend ZCSD? We welcome people from all religious traditions, as well as 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.