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Thread: Starting a sitting group this morning

  1. #1

    Starting a sitting group this morning

    The ladies who teach my yoga class recently asked if I would be interested in starting a meditation group at the studio. The part of town where I live is lacking a meditation/sangha/Buddhist presence, so I accepted. Jundo had some good advice about basic instruction and reading and listening to MP3 talks. It isn't a Zen sangha per se, because people of all traditions who are interested in meditation are welcome to come and practice their tradition as they like. But I guess it will start with more of a Zenny focus since that's where I'm coming from. This morning is our first sit.

    Does anyone else have any advice for starting a meditation group?

  2. #2

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Well done to you for starting the group

    I've not got any advice for you but to keep it true to what you feel is right.

    In gassho, Kev

  3. #3

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Hi.


    Hope to hear more about how it goes.

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  4. #4

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    To give an update, the sit went well this morning! We had my partner and myself plus 4 additional people show up. Two people brought their own cushions. Everyone seemed to already have their own practice going and no one really needed instruction. We sat for 20 minutes, did 10 minutes of walking meditation, and then did another 20 minutes of sitting.

    Very cool experience. We will be holding the sit weekly every Sunday morning from now on. I think I need to get a bell or a bowl or something though, because I really had no way to signal to people that it was time to switch from sitting to walking, or to let them know we were done.

    Thanks for your support sangha friends.

  5. #5

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Wonderful Shinkai!
    I too want to hear updates!! I have been pondering a similar idea for here as well! I will be after you with questions very soon, of course if you do not mind

    Gassho, Shohei

  6. #6

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    hI Shinkai,

    How wonderful of you to do this!

    A few notes on gear. Perhaps this is stating somethign you know, but two pieces of wood ( 1" x 1" x 8" or 2x2x8) make great (and traditional) clappers to signal the beginning and ending of kinhin. One claps them together by impacting the full length of the long sides against each other (sorry for the clumsy sentence).

    Also I have sent this special type of timer to several zen groups so that the person doing the timing doesn't have to watch the clock. It is a kitchen-type timer but has three settings - buzz, vibrate and flash (light). The vibrate is not as quiet as I would wish, but one could set it flash and hold it in such a way that the light flash is only visible to oneself, then of course, ring a bell or something. I hate to think of one person having to split their concentration but checking the clock.

    http://www.kitchenkapers.com/16489.html

    It is made by Polder and if you google for "Polder vibrating timer" you should get it. FYI, I have ordered from Kitchen Kapers (a small mortar and pestle) and they seem a nice company to deal with.

    I did splash out on a lovely zen timer that has a recorded three bells at the beginning of the period (you set the time) and a recording of several rings at the end.

    http://www.sunandmoonoriginals.com/stor ... ed=froogle

    Of course there are many models. I am particularly intrigued by one that is mechanical and uses a stick of incense to trigger the ringing of a bell.

    http://www.pranna.com/prannatimer/index.php

    anyway, thank you for your time,
    gassho,
    rowan

  7. #7

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Any advice?

    I'd probably say the main factor is that you sit.

    Gassho

  8. #8

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirk
    Wonderful Shinkai!
    I too want to hear updates!! I have been pondering a similar idea for here as well! I will be after you with questions very soon, of course if you do not mind

    Gassho, Shohei
    I welcome your questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho
    A few notes on gear. Perhaps this is stating somethign you know, but two pieces of wood ( 1" x 1" x 8" or 2x2x8) make great (and traditional) clappers to signal the beginning and ending of kinhin. One claps them together by impacting the full length of the long sides against each other (sorry for the clumsy sentence)...
    Rowan, as usual you are a wealth of info. You may be onto something with the simple wood clappers. Thank you for all of the advice and resources.

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Any advice?

    I'd probably say the main factor is that you sit.

    Gassho
    And sit we shall! Thanks for checking in, Will.

  9. #9

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning


    You may be onto something with the simple wood clappers.
    the wooden clappers really are what is used at the zen centers I have been to (at the japanese style ones). At the Korean style Kwan Um school it is a single stick (thinner and a bit wider) that one slaps in one's palm.

    For Clappers, a hardwood works best (of course music stores have claves which will sound nice). And it is good to sand the edges (round them just a bit) so they feel nicer in the hand

    cheers,
    rowan/jinho

    PS- I was thinking of hosting a group and for the "lecture" I thought it would be nice to have people bring in short pieces that they find meaningful (a paragraph max) and then to go round the room and each person could read their chosen saying or short piece.

  10. #10

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    I have been doing the meditation group for about 2 months now and wanted to give an update. We have a regular group of about 5-6 people (in addition to myself, my yoga teachers and my partner) who come to sit every Sunday morning. Most people seem pretty happy with the 20 minute sit, 10 minute walk, 20 minute sit format. My dad sent me a singing bowl to ring to mark the beginning and end of the periods.

    We haven't listened to any dharma talks or anything yet. It's mostly just sit sit sit. But everyone is warm and friendly to each other and we have tea afterward.

    Thanks to everyone for their support and if you're thinking about starting a sitting group I highly recommend it. It's been a great experience. It's also helped hold me accountable for doing a longer sit once a week.

  11. #11

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Excellent!! Very nice news
    What kind of space are you using to do this?

    Gassho Mr. Nosey (aka Shohei)

  12. #12

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    How wonderful, Shinkai!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirk
    Excellent!! Very nice news
    What kind of space are you using to do this?

    Gassho Mr. Nosey (aka Shohei)
    We have found finding a practice space to be the most challenging aspect of getting our group off the ground. We were limited to only being allowed to use the local libraries twice a month, and the space was getting to be too small. Also no kinhin, as the library does not allow the rooms to be used for exercise classes and they considered that exercise. We are in the process of renting an office suite to use now that we found an inexpensive one.

    Gassho,
    Joshin

  13. #13

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    I can definitely see how space would be an issue. We're using the large room in my local yoga studio. The instructors volunteered the space free of charge. I worked with them to pick a time when they wouldn't be using the space for anything else. They were happy to provide the space just to get the energy of meditation going at the studio and to start building a community. Several of the meditators also take classes at the studio.

    I would really recommend reaching out to any locally owned yoga or pilates studios and see if they or their students would be interested in having a meditation group.

    Here's a picture:


  14. #14

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    hi shinkai,

    Having a bit of experience in this, i would say only a couple of things: keep it going even if you end up alone and keep it simple, let it grow naturally, organicaly, without adding flavour and style, or using gimmicks, wood something or whatever.Wooden clappers are very noisy, too sharp, they go very well in a big space and with a Japanese style of practice. Sorry, if I somehow disagree with our beloved Rowan ( I am sure we always agree in the most essential way). Be simple. Things unfold as they always do, make just sitting the teacher. Maybe even not a statue. Or, as Jundo did in the past, not just a statue(anything, really). And if possible don't forget bowing. That's all. Bring your rakusu and allow things to happen from that simplicity.

    Much ...

    Gassho


    Taigu

  15. #15

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Hi.

    I would agree with Taigu, keep it simple.
    It seems that people coming to these things expect certain things, such as bells and stuff, maybe an buddha statue.
    But keep it simple.
    Let it take it's stride.

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  16. #16

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen
    How wonderful, Shinkai!
    We have found finding a practice space to be the most challenging aspect of getting our group off the ground. We were limited to only being allowed to use the local libraries twice a month, and the space was getting to be too small.
    Just a suggestion and maybe you have already mentioned this. My local group meets at the UUA Fellowship of Hidalgo County (Texas). I know a good number of zen groups that meet at Unitarian Universalist Association buildings*. From your profile, you live in Spokane, WA. There happens to be a UUA group in your area:
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane. You may want to check and see if they have space.

    * Heck..we even have a UU Buddhist Fellowship. :mrgreen:

  17. #17

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Just a suggestion and maybe you have already mentioned this. My local group meets at the UUA Fellowship of Hidalgo County (Texas). I know a good number of zen groups that meet at Unitarian Universalist Association buildings*. From your profile, you live in Spokane, WA. There happens to be a UUA group in your area:
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane. You may want to check and see if they have space.

    * Heck..we even have a UU Buddhist Fellowship. :mrgreen:
    Unfortunately, our local UU is not as open to having non-members meet there regularly. They charge for use, which is understandable, and they made it clear that they prefer members only to use the facilities unless they are invited by the church. The space we found is in a building near the Spokane falls, a decent sized 2 room office suite, and rent+utilities is only $140 a month.

  18. #18

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen

    Unfortunately, our local UU is not as open to having non-members meet there regularly. They charge for use, which is understandable, and they made it clear that they prefer members only to use the facilities unless they are invited by the church. The space we found is in a building near the Spokane falls, a decent sized 2 room office suite, and rent+utilities is only $140 a month.
    That is nice! Not bad pricing. Which reminds me that we should also look for something similar around here. :wink:

  19. #19

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    hi shinkai,

    Having a bit of experience in this, i would say only a couple of things: keep it going even if you end up alone and keep it simple, let it grow naturally, organicaly, without adding flavour and style, or using gimmicks, wood something or whatever.Wooden clappers are very noisy, too sharp, they go very well in a big space and with a Japanese style of practice. Sorry, if I somehow disagree with our beloved Rowan ( I am sure we always agree in the most essential way). Be simple. Things unfold as they always do, make just sitting the teacher. Maybe even not a statue. Or, as Jundo did in the past, not just a statue(anything, really). And if possible don't forget bowing. That's all. Bring your rakusu and allow things to happen from that simplicity.

    Much ...

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Gassho Taigu Sensei!

    Thank you for your post. I hadn't thought about the harshness of the clapper sound! But you are so correct. I was just thinking of "how everybody does it". But a little gentle sound or cue is better.

    gassho,
    rowan
    who still wants a big bowl bell.............nice low tone....... maybe try cutting a tank......

  20. #20

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Gassho, Rowan!

    I love the big bell too...

    In fact that would be the only thing I would keep if I had to ditch everything else.

    Take care


    Taigu

  21. #21

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Just curious -

    It's been awhile since your original post. How is the sitting group going?

    -Jim

  22. #22
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Good luck with your group. A great thing to do.
    Gassho,
    Soen

  23. #23

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Hey- I've started two groups serving as a facilitator, using Jundo's "Sit-A-Longs" for teaching and instruction... one at a Unitarian Church, one in the Army. I have some direct experience with exactly what it sounds like you're doing. Taigu's advice is above all the most important... KEEP GOING, no matter what... they will come. To that the only thing I'd add, don't deviate from what you're setting out to do. Let the teaching be the teaching, the sitting be the sitting. Keep in contact with sitters, make sure upcoming stuff is known to all, and remember, in the course of being the person putting it together, that YOU need to sit too. (That part gets real easy to forget when you find yourself "in charge."
    Please let me know if I can offer anything useful, and congratulations!

  24. #24
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    This is very interesting. I am trying to keep a small sangha alive here. We used to have 3 sittings per month for about 1.5 years, but suddenly the senior student who was running it could not continue in this format for personal reasons. He cancelled the rented venue and that was it.... We will take it up again in Feb 2011 with monthly sittings at his home. In the meantime, I invited the group to sit at my house for Rohatsu (one person came) and end of December (will see how that one is received). Space in my house is limited and not ideal, so I am calling it an experiment...

    Several yoga studios in town have meditation sessions on the weekend. I can see how that would be an ideal solution for space and finding interested folks.

    I offered an intro to meditation at the UU congregration last year. I think some people fromt the congregation would be interested to learn more, but maybe more in a discussion group than a meditation group...

    Many years ago, when I migrated for the first time, one of my first Buddhist teachers said - if you can't find a group where you are going, you just start one, no problem! I think I am growing towards taking that kind of responsibility. I wish I had a garage that I could turn into a zendo though

  25. #25
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinkai
    It isn't a Zen sangha per se, because people of all traditions who are interested in meditation are welcome to come and practice their tradition as they like. But I guess it will start with more of a Zenny focus since that's where I'm coming from.

    Does anyone else have any advice for starting a meditation group?
    Start out by getting in a fight over whether you should meditate with eyes open or closed, lol.

    I'm very kidding... It seems like you have a great opportunity to see and discuss many different types of meditation. There probably shouldn't be a focus on any one of them, but that is just my opinion.

    Edit: I just realized that I am responding to a very old post!

  26. #26

    Re: Starting a sitting group this morning

    Many years ago, when I migrated for the first time, one of my first Buddhist teachers said - if you can't find a group where you are going, you just start one, no problem! I think I am growing towards taking that kind of responsibility. I wish I had a garage that I could turn into a zendo though

    Years back when I was starting the one here, I had NO idea what I was doing, and Jundo helped me come up with the format and how to do it... it couldn't be easier. Bring your laptop, play a "Sit-A-Long," and then sit. You don't even need a bell- it's ON the video! Too easy! And if the power goes out of the computer decides not to cooperate, JUST SIT. Can't be easier! Keep track of sitters, network a little, it runs itself.

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