How to Enter the Zendo

This will ultimately include a video to demystify what seems like a lot of formal ritual.

For now…

As you prepare to enter the zendo;

  • wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees
  • remove your socks and shoes and place them in the cubby or on the floor outside the zendo.  (You can leave your socks on if its more comfortable but be careful as many zendo floors can be slippery!)
  • be sure to turn off all electronic gadgets such as cell phones so as not to disturb the session

As you enter the zendo notice the shift to a more formal and ritualistic environment, which has the purpose of breaking you out of your daily trance and bringing you into the moment.

Upon stepping into the zendo, perform a standing bow towards the alter with your hands in gassho.

Most zendo’s will have a variety of sitting implements such as round cushions (zafu), kneeling meditation benches (seiza) and chairs, all of which sit on top of a square mat or zabuton.  If you’re new to seated meditation consider using a bench or chair until you have more practice with the zafu.

Once you’ve bowed and entered the zendo find an unoccupied mat with the sitting implement of your choice and walk to it.

Face the mat and do a standing half bow with hands in gassho.

Turn around and face the sangha (other meditators) and do a standing half bow with hands in gassho.

Then sit on your cushion and wait for the service to begin.

If others come in and choose to sit immediately to your left, right or directly across from you, perform a seated bow with hands in gassho when they perform their bow towards you.  This is a way to formally greet others in the zendo.

You can also exchange your zafu, seiza or chair near where you entered the zendo.  Just walk over and exchange the implement and repeat the bowing when you get back to your mat.

The bowing is a sign of gratitude…for the moment, for the opportunity to sit, for the opportunity to practice as a community.

standing bow