Where and when?
5463 College Avenue Oakland, Ca 94618. Wednesday evenings, Sunday mornings and some Saturday mornings. See the Schedule for more details. You are welcome to arrive late or leave early if that means you will be able to attend. Check the location page for better directions. The Rockridge BART station is close by.
What does it cost?
We observe the tradition of charity (“dana” the practice of generosity), and thus we have a collection box if you decide to give to our community to help us cover the cost of rent and upkeep. No payment is required to practice with us.
How About Membership? Retreats?
Long Retreats, Open Mind Retreats & RMC Urban Retreats and seminars are organized through Pacific Zen Institute, We encourage you attend these no matter what your financial situation if they appeal to you. Just send a request to the Scholarship Committee about possible scholarship opportunities for any event. Contact Corey Hitchcock about PZI Memberships and donations. Or visit the Membership page to read Member’s stories.
What can I expect in terms of results?
In a word- freedom. The basic observation that is core to our practice is that we suffer because our mind tends to add stories to our experiences that cause suffering (i.e. My boss doesn’t recognize the work I am doing, my mind is too scattered to do the work I want to do, I am never going to find a partner who appreciates me etc). There seem to be two basic strategies we use about this – to avoid the painful issue, or come fix it.
Zen does neither. The idea is to sit with our minds, notice what they do, accept that, or fight with that, either way pay attention to that and then have the possibility to see reality without those stories, giving us freedom to step out of old painful stories and patterns. At first, that freedom is brief and accidental feeling, but with practice, the ability to leave behind the pain and fetters of what our mind is telling us grows and grows, allowing us to meet new experiences freshly and be kinder to ourselves and others.
We use koan meditation to facilitate and nurture the ability to have a conversation with the difficulties in our lives. We are actively engaged in discovering what an authentic expression of this practice looks like in our time and culture and personally what it looks like in our lives. In so doing we avail ourselves of each other’s wisdom as we share our experiences meditating with koans with each other in service of the exploration into who we are and how this all works.
What if I need to come late?
There is no late.
Our group is made up of working professionals, students, moms and dads whose lives often involve late nights, moving deadlines and unexpected circumstances arising. Come whenever you can. We have an open door policy, allowing the world into our meditation, finding our practice in the midst of our busy lives. Whenever you arrive you are welcome.
What is Zen?
You likely can find a hundred other answers, each correct, but in our experience, Zen is, at its heart, the moment to moment practice of giving attention to what is arising without rejection or attachment. In this way, we experience life more sharply, more vividly, more honestly, more compassionately and sometimes more painfully. Usually though we discover that life is more unpredictably beautiful than we had ever imagined possible and that perfection is underfoot, even when our mind wanders or we fall asleep.
Meditation commonly thought to involve trying to calm your mind, but really it is paying attention and becoming intimate with our mind. The best thing we can do is just notice we are not noticing. We cultivate not-knowing and in that way we can be constantly surprised by the possibilities inherent in each moment and develop an increasing awareness that you can get to any point from here.
What is a koan?
Koans are fragments of poems, images, statements, questions and conversations that we take up as companions in our meditation practice. The relationship with a koan can act as a mirror reflecting the ways we get in the way of being present to what is arising in the moment and in that way interrupt negative thought patterns that we are under the influence of. They are not riddles to be solved, but more like dreams that we have had and each of us discover our own unique understanding of that dream and in the process discover that our dream is everybody’s dream.
You can read more about koans on our koan page.
Do I need experience in meditation to attend?
No. Absolutely not. In fact, in many ways, the less formal experience you have, the fewer pre-formed ideas you bring, the more you will be open to whatever arises. To have a ‘beginner’s mind’ is something that helps in untangling the ways we get in the way of our being free.
What if I am disabled or just plain stiff – can I sit?
We encourage people to discover the physical posture that best works for them as they meditate. Many people sit in chairs and some lay down as they meditate. More important than sitting in some prescribed posture is discovering the one that works for you.
If it’s my first time, what do I do?
We have monthly introduction to meditation and koan practice classes, which you may sign up for using this sign up form. But frankly, Zen is not rocket science, and if you cannot come to a class, just come, follow as best you can what everyone else is doing and ask questions.
What can I expect from a Zen practice?
Zen will not fix you because there is, in fact, nothing wrong with you. We often do however, in our practice, get to realize our perfection in a very personal way and observe the stories we endlessly tell ourselves about how there is a problem with this moment.
The aim of Zen practice is not to calm your mind, though that is often a by-product. Initially meditation may not be calming at all, as our ability to pay attention increases, the chatter in our heads becomes more noticeable. That is not a ‘bug’, it is a ‘feature’ of getting to know our minds. Meditation will not prevent you from being sad or hurt or disappointed, but it can help with not lingering in any particular state of mind. Meditation does not look any particular way, it is a handcrafted practice.