Practicalities of the Dojo

Master Deshimaru in zazen.
If you have never practiced in a Zen dojo, you may have a few questions. We may be able to answer them here.

What to Wear

You will notice continuing practitioners wearing black practice robes. A practice robe is practical and helps one to harmonize with the dojo. If you ultimately decide to continue with consistent practice in the dojo, you should consider purchasing one. At the early stage of practice, however, one is not necessary.

If you are new, wear loose, comfortable clothing such as yoga pants or sweats. Avoid constricting clothing like jeans or noisy items like nylon jackets.

You can also harmonize with the dojo by choosing black or dark gray tones without logos.

Barefoot is best, so leave your socks with your shoes at the door. But if you must wear socks, follow the color choices mentioned above.

What to Do

  • Let us know in advance if you are new and would like to attend.
  • If you are new, plan on arriving thirty minutes prior to start time for an introduction.
  • Offer a donation in the fuse box as you are able. A $20 ($10 student) gift for an introduction is encouraged, more or less as you are able. For experienced visitors, a smaller donation is also appreciated.
  • Inform us if for any reason you require a chair for sitting instead of a sitting cushion.
  • Use the facilities before we begin.
  • Turn off your mobile device and leave it in the gaitan (the outer room).
  • Follow the experienced practitioners.
  • Sit still, and avoid fidgeting. Find and then trust the posture of zazen. Trust that you don't have to itch that scratch. Trust that a sleeping foot or leg won't kill you.
  • Concentrate on the breath, lengthening the exhalation. If you find your mind wandering, simply come back to the breath, your connection to the simple here and now. 
  • Ask questions about practice after the ceremony during mondo (question and answer).
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Enjoy being bewildered. In the dojo there is a lot of bowing, prostrating, turning certain directions; there are the sounds of instruments and chanting. All of this is simply the traditional Zen dojo's way of creating a vessel for zazen, or sitting meditation. If you are new to all of this, there is really no way to prepare for it all, and much of it will make no sense. Simply follow your neighbor as best as you can. You will mess up, you will turn the wrong way, you will walk in the wrong direction. Relax and soak in the experience. If you continue to practice, you will learn all of these sounds and movements, and you will begin to see their ultimate purpose - to create harmony and flow in the dojo without the need of the spoken word. 
  • Dedicate your practice to the Cosmos, to those around you, to all sentient beings. Trust that everyone else is practicing for you!

What Not to Do

  • Do not fidget or continuously adjust yourself.
  • Do not try to transcend.
  • Do not try to chase away or suppress your thoughts.
  • Do not judge yourself, saying to yourself that you can't do it.
  • Do not try to grasp spirituality (we're just sitting).
  • Do not get up too quickly (make sure your feet are under you and that your legs aren't asleep).
Simple, right?

You get only one first time, so above all, relax and enjoy the experience.