Welcome to the North Carolina Zen Center.
If this is your first introduction to formal Zen practice, we hope you will enjoy it and come back many more times.
Practice at the Center follows a simple order. A formal practice session, as happens on Thursday evening or Sunday morning, consists of several elements. These include sitting meditation, walking meditation, chanting of sutras, and listening to a Dharma Talk by our teacher, Sandy Stewart. Opportunity is also provided for private, one-on-one interviews with Sandy.
While formal practice is a fairly structured event, please understand that no one is expecting you to do everything perfectly. In fact, no one is expecting anything of you at all. There is no score keeper, and no one will “correct” you. All that matters is that you are here, participating. If you have questions, there will be someone who can answer them for you, either before or after the session. So don’t worry, come on in!
When you get to the zendo, place your shoes on the shelves outside the door, and take a seat on a cushion or chair inside, however you are most comfortable. At a signal everyone rises and makes three deep bows to the center of the zendo. Just follow the lead of the person beside you and you’ll be fine.
What follows are periods of chanting, sitting meditation and walking meditation. For the chanting, you’ll find a chant book called Daily Chants under your cushion, under your right knee. We start at the beginning. Follow along as you can. During the sitting meditation, try to be as still as possible, and during walking meditation, try to stay in step with the person in front of you. Again, if you do what the person beside you is doing you can’t go far wrong.
Sandy gives personal interviews on Tuesday mornings, Thursday nights and Sunday mornings. During the second period of sitting meditation he will ring a bell and you may go to the interview room. During interview you may ask Sandy any question or discuss anything about your practice. Sandy will also give talks called Dharma Talks at the end of Thursday evening and Sunday morning sessions.
At the end of the session we chant one more chant, and make three more bows, then we all leave the zendo.
So you can see it’s really not very complicated. Sure, there are a lot of nuances you can work on as you get more familiar with things. But for starters, just jump right in and don’t worry about it. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.