What to Expect

The Boundless Way Zen Northampton practice group is open to the public. All who are interested in Zen meditation are welcome to visit and participate.  Activities are all free, with suggested donations encouraged.

Our Tuesday evening 7:10 PM orientations offer brief introductions to zazen (sitting meditation), meditation hall (zendo) forms and etiquette, Zen liturgy, and to the Boundless Way Zen school.  If any of that is new to you, we encourage you to consider coming to an orientation.

The Tuesday evening practice period typically consists of the following pattern:

  • A few minutes before the scheduled 7:30 PM starting time, everyone will begin sitting quietly, on either a meditation cushion or in a chair.
  • At exactly the scheduled starting time, the practice period will begin. The practice leader will light incense at the altar followed by three bows.
  • The first activity is a chanting service which consists of 5 or 6 minutes of chanting selections from our liturgy. Newcomers may follow along in the Liturgy Book or just listen to the chanting until they get the sense of its rhythm.
  • Following the chanting service, the first period of sitting meditation (zazen) is introduced by the sounding of three bells.  Next, a five minute period of walking meditation (kinhin) takes place before the second period of sitting meditation.
  • The first and third Tuesdays of each month include a Dharma talk (lecture and discussion) in place of the second period of zazen. On some third Tuesdays dokusan (private interviews with a teacher) will replace the Dharma talk
  • The practice period ends with a short chant and three standing or full bows, followed by brief introductions and announcements.

In your orientation you will be shown how to do seated and walking meditation, and how to follow along with the service including full or standing bows.

In addition to the introduction of the sitting postures (on a chair, on a bench, cross-legged on a cushion), newcomers will notice that there are quite a few zendo rituals and etiquette rules. The purpose of the forms and rituals is to eventually free you from having to think about what to do – another way to help still the mind.  As a newcomer there is no need to worry about them. Everything is done slowly.  Just imitate the people who seem to know what they are doing.

More information about forms and rituals can be found in Guidelines for Forms and Rituals under the "About" tab.  If you have specific questions, please use the contact page to email us.