Great Wave Zen Sangha
Starting Zen Practice

Starting Zen Practice

First Steps

There are several ways to engage in practice at Great Wave.  If you are new to Zen, you will want to begin with an orientation to Zen meditation (zazen) and an Introduction to Zen Workshop.

Orientation to Zen Meditation

If you are new to Zen, we recommend that you attend a 1-hour orientation to meditation (zazen, or just “sitting”) as meditation is the core of our practice. Orientations focus on meditation postures and techniques, as well as an introduction to zendo procedures or etiquette. Orientations are usually held on an “as needed” basis, about one hour before any of our weekly group meditation sessions. To arrange an orientation, please use our Contact form or call us at 231-907-2910. There is no charge for an orientation.

Weekly Zazen

Once you have been oriented, you are free to join our weekly meetings.  (Please see our Events Calendar for dates and times.)  Once a month, you will have an opportunity during the weekly meeting to participate in Fusatsu, the Renewal of Vows ceremony.  Anyone may participate, regardless of membership status or background.

You may attend our weekly meetings in person and virtually (via Zoom).  To participate, please register using our Event Registration Form.

Introduction to Zen Workshops

A more in-depth look at Zen Buddhism can be had by registering for an Introduction to Zen Workshop. These half-day events include a brief history of the Buddha’s life, an introduction to various schools of Buddhism that arose in Asia, a history of the origins of Zen Buddhism in China, the fundamentals of Buddhist faith (the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path), the Three Aims of Zen Practice, information about the various schools of Zen, fundamental Zen scriptures, and time for personal reflections, group discussion, and dokusan (private interview) with the teacher. A list of scheduled workshops and registration forms will be found on our Events Calendar.

Next Steps

As your experience in meditation grows and as you begin to become familiar with the basic cultural and scriptural contexts of Buddhism and Zen, you will be in good position to mature in your practice by participating in some of the other workshops, classes, community service opportunities, and retreats (sesshin and zazenkai) that Great Wave offers.

Beginner’s Mind Sesshin

Beginner’s Mind Sesshin are shorter retreats that are focused on the needs of those who are new to practice. However, practitioners of all levels of experience participate in and benefit from these retreats because they provide a special opportunity to deepen and clarify our “beginner’s mind”—that is, the mind of a person who is open, joyous, grateful, and engaged. As with other events and activities, Beginner’s Mind Sesshin will be found on our Events Calendar

Retreats (Sesshin and Zazenkai)

Retreats are times reserved for intensive practice of zazen, and people often find that their practice grows exponentially whenever they participate in one. Great Wave also holds a variety of other sesshin (multi-day retreats of varying lengths) and zazenkai (1-day retreats). As part of its recent effort to cultivate eco-Dharma practices, Great Wave will generally hold an outdoor wilderness sesshin. These special retreat combine traditional sesshin practices with hiking, camping, and learning about native plants and trees, as well as a variety of outdoor skills.

Classes, Discussions, and Other Practice Enrichment Activities

A variety of other activities help us to expand our intellectual, artistic, and physical well-being. Some classes offered by Great Wave include instruction in ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arrangement, the Japanese tea ceremony, ink and brush calligraphy. Great Wave also offers opportunities for book discussions, art appreciation, and other topics relevant to Zen practice. Community service opportunities include growing food for donation to the local food pantry, local beach sweeps, and volunteering with state or federal agencies to curb the spread of invasive species.

Training Paths, Eight Gates of Practice, and Becoming a Member

To take full advantage of the practice opportunities described above, it is important to read about Great Wave’s Training Paths, and the Eight Gates of Training, and Becoming a Member.

Practice Resources

As an aid to practice, we have also prepared a page with several practice resources that you will likely find helpful.