Information for First-Timers

cushionsIf you are making your first visit to the Center, it’s a good idea to arrive about fifteen minutes early. A regular member will welcome you, orient you to the space and to the schedule of the service, and assist you in finding a seated posture that you can maintain for the thirty-minute duration of our meditation periods.

When we sit together we aim for silence and stillness, but not to the point of imposing suffering on each other. If you find that your posture is too uncomfortable please feel free to discretely adjust yourself.

In order to avoid distracting your neighbor, it’s best to forego pranayama and other breathing exercises. Otherwise if you are an experienced meditator from another tradition then please feel free to pursue your own internal practice.

For newcomers to meditation (and for old-timers as well) the following advice from our Guiding Teacher may be of interest.

When you’re sitting, it is important to be grounded. It is good to have three points of contact supporting your body. If you are sitting in a chair, have your feet flat on the floor. If you sit cross-legged, sit so that your knees touch the mat beneath you. Most important, keep your spine straight. Tip your pelvis forward so that your spine arches slightly at the small of your back. Lift your head from the crown. Relax your shoulders and slightly tuck your chin, lifting at the sternum. Place your hands in your lap, palms up, with the left hand over the right palm. Touch thumbs so that they make a bridge, never a mountain, never a valley. Slightly flare the arms, as if there were an egg in each armpit. Place the tongue at the roof of your mouth, with the tip of the tongue at the back of the top front teeth.

If you are new to sitting, this posture may be awkward at first. In time it will become natural and relaxed. The state of the mind is revealed in the posture of the body. Old body habits return while we sit, so the practice of sitting can help us return to our best posture. Listen to your body. By your listening, the body will ease into a position or a harmony of its own. Returning to a bright, open pose, we return to the moment.

… In the stillness of pure listening, original mind manifests and is not separate from Universal Mind. Distinctions typically given to sensations and phenomena are no longer dominant. Sensation is no longer fragmented and senses are fully integrated. Mind is alert, awake, and able to perceive things as they are. In this clear perception, compassion flows.

— Zen Master Dae Gak, Going Beyond Buddha: the Awakening Practice of Listening