FAQs - General Information

What is Zen? 
Zen is known as the meditation school of Buddhism.  It generally refers to the cultivation, chiefly through meditation, of one-pointedness, stillness, and stability of the body-mind. Additionally, entering into every activity with mindfulness is Zen. 

Can I practice Zen even though I'm not a Buddhist?
Yes. Zen teachings emphasize the personal experience of awakening and its integration into one's daily life regardless of religious and/or philosophical affiliation. In other words, you don't have to be a Buddhist to practice Zen nor will we attempt to convert you.  ​Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede, Abbot of the Rochester Zen Center, answers this and other questions about Zen and how it relates to Buddhism in this 5-minute video.

What is "awakening"? 
Awakening, or enlightenment, is a spiritual unfolding to the truth lying beyond dualism and discrimination.  With awakening the world of Onenesss, of harmony and peace, is experienced directly.

How do I do that?   
Through zazen, or Zen meditation. Zen meditation recovers the mind's original openness by dissolving life-learned conditioning. Since Zen meditation isn’t limited to a seated position but continues through practicing mindfulness in every activity, one is freed to respond whole-heartedly to situations at hand rather than being enslaved by reacting through habitual, deluded notions about oneself, others, and the world.  In this 12-minute video, Roshi Bodhin talks about the practical benefits of Zen meditation and the process of awakening.

How can I get started? 
Those new to Zen meditation, wanting a refresher, or new to practicing with Louisville Zen Center can attend the Introduction to Zen Meditation.  This workshop is held about once or twice a month at our location in Unity of Louisville at 757 South Brook Street.  We ask that you stay for the entire session.  Afterwards you may participate in many of the Center's sittingsother activities, and events at Unity and Heart of Perfect Wisdom Zendo (HPWZ). 

How much is the workshop?

Louisville Zen Center operates as much as possible on the Buddhist virtue of dana (or giving).  There is no fee for the workshop, but you may give a donation, small or large.  Giving from your heart whatever your circumstances allow will grant to future attendees what past contributors made possible for you.  And because the organization is run entirely by volunteers, donations go directly toward activities that support Zen practice allowing us to continue offering these services to others in the future.   

The next workshop is a month away.  Can I still sit with you?

Yes.  You don't have to attend the introductory session before practicing with us at Unity of Louisville.  You can be given basic meditation instructions that will keep you moving forward until you're able to go to a workshop.  Just contact us to let us know when you're coming so arrangements can be made.

What if I already know how to meditate?
Everyone is still asked to follow Louisville Zen Center's forms and customs while in attendance so be sure to arrive about 15 minutes early for a brief orientation before your first group meditation.

I attended the Introduction to Zen Meditation workshop but still have questions.  What do I do?
Zen has always been a mentor-based path.  It can be very helpful to consult with a spiritual friend along the way.  For that reason, Louisville Zen Center offers continuing meditation instruction - group instruction and individual advising - to address practice-related questions and other matters as they arise.  

How long are periods of meditation?
During Group Practice, periods of sitting meditation (zazen) usually last 25 to 35 minutes each and walking meditation (kinhin) is 5 to 10 minutes each.

Do I need to bring my own meditation cushions to sittings? 
Feel free to bring your own cushions.  Meditation equipment is provided at Heart of Perfect Wisdom Zendo, but little is available at Unity.  However, there are plenty of chairs at Unity.  

What should I wear?
Wear loose-fitting clothes.  Pants should be loose; it can be difficult to comfortably sit cross-legged in jeans, for example. Skirts should be ample enough to sit with the legs crossed.

How can I get more involved?
Through membership in the Louisville Zen Center.  The more you participate in Zen Center sittings, meditation retreats, and other activities and events, the more support you draw from our welcoming community and, just as important, the more support you provide to the community.  Volunteering and work practice are other ways to feel more connected to the Center, the sangha, and your practice of meditation.