MEDITATION HALL GUIDELINES • ZEN CENTER OF PORTLAND

 

All of the sitting hall guidelines are helpful in reminding us to pay attention and to experience what we are doing when in motion, while not formally meditating on the cushion. When entering the sitting hall, put your hands at nose level, palms together and enter with left foot first. Make a standing bow. When walking in the sitting hall hold your hands in walking position, left hand in fist around the thumb at stomach level, right hand over the top. To take a seat in the sitting hall, walk to any seat except the teacher's or timekeeper's. Once at your chosen seat, make a standing bow first to the cushion (actually to the folks on either side of cushion) then turn around to the right, and bow to the people on the opposite side of the room. To take a seat, sit down on the cushion still facing toward the center of the room then turn toward the right on the cushion until you are facing the wall unless we are all facing toward the center. In that case just sit down on the cushion and don't turn.

Sitting periods

The sitting periods are usually 30 or 35 minutes long. On Wednesday evenings there are two 35-minute periods with 10 minutes of walking meditation in the middle. Participants are welcome to sit for only one period if they need or want to leave. Try to stay as still as possible during the sitting period. Keep bringing your attention back to the bodily experiences of sitting, to the breath and to the sounds. People are available to help with your posture or sitting suggestions if you would like. It is ok to move or switch positions during the sitting time if you are too uncomfortable. Do it quietly and quickly. At the end of the 35-minute sitting there will be two bells. After the second bell bow and then gradually get up for walking meditation. Make sure your feet are not asleep. If they are asleep please, take your time in standing up. Wait until they are awake to stand up. No one minds if you take your time, we are used to it and we have a lot of folks whose feet fall asleep. You might hurt yourself if you start to stand up and your foot is asleep.

Walking meditation instructions

After the second bell, straighten your cushion and stand with your palms together in front of the cushion facing toward the center of the room. When the clappers sound for the first time bow and turn to the left, still "palms-together," and then when the clappers sound for the second time, put your hands in the walking position at mid abdomen with the left hand in a fist over the thumb and the right hand over the top. Begin walking right away starting with your left foot taking one step per full breath.

You may take a bathroom break during the slow or fast walking period. Please wait to leave the sitting hall until the second clapper has sounded to begin the slow walking period.

Slow Walking Period

The slow walking practice is for 4-6 minutes. Start walking with your left foot first at the sound of the second clapper. Take one step per full cycle of breath paying attention to the sensations of your feet as they touch the ground, and also to the sounds you hear. Say to yourself "lifting, lifting, lifting" to help you focus on the sensations of the various experiences of lifting your foot. Then say "moving, moving, moving" then "placing, placing, placing." Keep these labels in the background of your awareness, the foreground is focused on the actual experience of the sensations in your foot as it is lifted, moved, and placed.

Fast Walking Period

There will be another clapper to signal the faster walking period, which will last about 3-4 minutes. At the sound of the clapper, bring your feet together and make a bow at the waist, then immediately begin walking starting with your left foot. Walk at a fast rate, keeping up with the person in front of you and letting the timekeeper set the pace for the entire group. In the faster walking, try and pay attention to the sensations of your feet on the floor, as well as the sounds. Say to yourself "walking, walking, walking." At the last clappers, put your palms together and return to your cushion, make a bow toward the cushion and then turn around facing into the center. Stay standing with your palms together until there is a final bell. At that time take you seat for the next sitting period

Practice Principles

At the end of the second sitting period there will be a bell to indicate the reading of the Practice Principles. The practice principles are available on a small card to read if you don't know them. We recite them three times.

Three Bows

After the Practice Principles stand up (take your time) and wait for the chime to indicate the time to bow. With each chime, do a full bow (head down to the floor with arms on the mat, palms facing up, then raise just the hands to about ear level). You will do a total of three full bows. After the third bow stand with hands in walking position, at the sound of the next bell bow to the altar with hands in palms-together position. Return to facing toward the center of the room with your hands in walking position, then when the final bell is struck, bow with your hands in the walking position. Straighten your mat and then leave. No need to turn at the entrance and bow to the altar when you leave the sitting hall, just walk out.

Private Interviews With the Teacher

Our teacher at the ZCP is Larry Christensen. You can request a private interview with him which will take place in the small room directly adjacent to the waiting area, just outside the meditation hall. To request an interview with Larry, take one of the numbered cards located on the wall immediately to the right as you enter the meditation hall. Interviews are conducted in order according to the number on the card. Take the card to your cushion. During the second period of meditation (weekday mornings and Wednesday evenings), Larry will leave his cushion and prepare the interview room. When Larry rings his bell the student with card number "1" proceeds to the room. At the next bell person number "2" proceeds to the interview room and number 1 returns to her or his cushion in the meditation hall. Please place your numbered card on the second hook (below the original stack) facing outward as you go to interview. This helps people remember what number we are at in the process. On Saturdays interviews are conducted during the first sitting because Larry gives a talk after walking meditation.

The Interview Process

When exiting the sitting hall for an interview, take your cushion with your. Walk down the hall and enter through the first door on your right and closing the door behind you. Approach to the edge of the sitting mat (the zabuton), place your round cushion (zafu) on the larger mat, and then do a standing bow together with Larry (he will be seated). Sit down, tell Larry your name and the type of practice you are doing, such as "experiencing my breath and sounds." When the interview is completed, you and Larry will perform a seated bow in unison to each other. After which, please stand and, while holding your cushion, make a final standing bow to Larry before leaving the room. Leave the door half way open.

Schedules, Donations, Membership

Copies of the ZCP sitting schedule are available. Tapes and books may also be checked out. ZCP accepts donations to help support the center and membership is available ($30 a month "suggested" donation but any amount is ok). There is usually a donation jar on the coffee table located in the waiting area. If you are making a donation toward your membership dues, make sure your name is attached to your cash donations. Anyone making a regular membership contribution (of any amount) is considered a member of ZCP. You can become a voting member if you make a regular donation for 6 months or longer and attend regularly. Voting members can become Board members and can also help to elect the Board members. Copies of the By-laws for ZCP and Board minutes (as well as financial information) are available to members.