Zen Meditation and Study

Zen practice at UUC is offered several times throughout the week:

  • Tuesdays and Fridays, 10 am – noon (on-site & online) – Zazen, dokusan, study & discussion
  • Early Morning Zen Tuesday through Sunday, 6:30 -7:00 am (online only) – Zazen, robe verse, Four Vows
  • Sunday evenings, 7-8 pm (online only) – Zazen & recorded Dharma Talk

Drop-in attendance is welcome. Come when you can! You do not have to be a Zen practitioner, a Buddhist, an experienced meditator, or a Unitarian Universalist (UU) to attend. There is no charge to participate.

Join our Zen Meditation & Study group in UUC Connect (login required) to find Zoom links, or contact Janine Larsen for connection info.

A note on meeting in-person and health protocols:
UUC has moved to a facemasks-optional protocol for on-site attendees. KN-95 masks are available just inside the entrance to the building if you need one. Masks are still required in the Church Office and in the Chapel for Sunday Services. PLEASE STAY HOME if you have symptoms of respiratory illness including colds, flu, or COVID-19. Follow Public Health Seattle-King County protocols for COVID-19.

Our current Dharma Text:

Taking the Path of Zen, by Robert Aitken

From the book cover:
In Taking the Path of Zen, Robert Aitken presents the practice, lifestyle, rationale, and ideology of Zen Buddhism with remarkable clarity.

The foundation of Zen is the practice of zazen, or mediation, and Aitken Roshi insists that everything flows from the center. He discusses correct breathing, posture, routine, teacher-student relations, and koan study, as well as common problems and milestones encountered in the process. Throughout the book the author returns to zazen, offering further advice and more advanced techniques. The orientation extends to various religious attitudes and includes detailed discussions of the Three Treasures and the Ten Precepts of Zen Buddhism.

The book, published in 1982, is readily available in paperback and e-book formats through libraries and commercial booksellers.

We will use a shared reading practice to engage this book. You do not have to read anything in advance – what we read during our gathering is the teaching of the day, followed by reflection.

Of special interest: Aitken Roshi is a “Dharma Grandfather” of our group, through the Empty Moon Zen lineage. Those who are interested in receiving the Five Precepts for Ethical Living or the 16 Precepts in Jukai should consider our discussions of this book as preparatory to the cermonies to be scheduled at UUC in June, 2023.

General Information about this meditation group:

The purpose of this spiritual practice group is to provide a convenient and supportive environment to meditate and learn about Zen Buddhism with others. You’ll encounter regular participants who have an established practice in Zen or another contemplative tradition, and you’ll also meet first-time or occasional attendees, some of whom are just beginning a meditation practice. Most attendees are UU, some are not. All are welcome.

Evening Zen practice setting at UUC – Rohatsu 2017

Our two-hour meditation & study group on Tuesdays & Fridays are the most widely attended of our various practice periods (briefly outlined above). It includes simple opening and closing chants, two periods of silent sitting, walking meditation, refreshment, and teaching. (View or download our liturgy book so that you can join us – or just listen if you prefer.) Most often, the group explores teaching through a book; sometimes there may be a dharma talk or other discussion.

Dress comfortably. Most participants sit on chairs, which are provided. Floor sitting supplies are also available, or bring your own cushions or meditation bench – remove a chair and replace it with your supplies. A variety of sitting supports and light blankets are also available for your comfort.

Arrive 5-10 minutes early if possible. Choose your seat and settle into your posture. If you arrive after the sitting period has begun, please enter quietly and take any available seat. At the beginning of the first period, the practice leader will ask if anyone needs meditation instruction, and may lead a guided meditation for all or offer a separate room for those who wish assistance. Otherwise, simply follow this general advice for meditation practice:

Seitetsu Osho

Sitting still, just pay attention to what is going on around you and within you. Notice your breathing or other sensations in the body. Allow curiosity to arise in its own time. Be gentle with yourself. Just start again when the mind wanders. 

– Rev. Janine Seitetsu Larsen, Resident Priest
Empty Moon Zen Teacher
Bright Cloud Zen students and teachers after May 2019 retreat
Sesshin, May 2019

This group sits as Bright Cloud Zen, an affiliate of the Empty Moon Zen Sanghas and a member sangha of the UU Buddhist Fellowship. Bright Cloud Zen practice groups are supported by Rev. Janine Seitetsu Larsen, our Resident Priest and a transmitted Teacher with Empty Moon Zen. Janine is also UUC’s Director of Ministries.

The Bright Cloud Zen practice groups regularly offer precept study for those who wish to receive the first five precepts (sewing the Wagessa and vowing to live ethically), or Jukai (sewing the Rakusu and committing to the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts and the Empty Moon lineage). Talk to Janine to learn more about receiving the precepts.

Opportunities to sit with Bright Cloud Zen Sangha (virtually or in-person)

  • See top of page for weekly practice periods
  • Saturday Zazenkai: We join the Empty Moon Zen Sanghas (see below) for monthly Zazenkai via Zoom. Full day participation is encouraged; drop-in attendance is allowed. No charge. An offering bowl or online giving link will be available for contributions to support sangha activities.
  • Multi-day retreats (Sesshin): Two or three times a year, we engage multi-day retreat with the Empty Moon Zen Sanghas. May be online, residential (locations vary), or “commuter” (daytime attendance only; usually at UUC). See the Empty Moon Zen Sesshin page for more details.
  • See the Empty Moon Zen website [UNDER REPAIR; link TBA] or ask Janine for information on online programs offered daily by our affiliated Sanghas. 
Rohatsu Sesshin and Janine’s ordination as a Zen priest, at UUC in December 2019

The links below offer additional information about Bright Cloud and Empty Moon Zen and other recommended practice opportunities.

Click below for:

Other opportunities for Retreats & Events:

  • In addition to events offered by Bright Cloud/ Empty Moon Zen, we recommend teaching and residential retreats (sesshin) at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, OR. See their schedule here. The “Beginner’s Mind” introductory retreat is offered monthly. Practitioners over age 60 may wish to inquire about “Silver Dragons” retreat options.

Practice opportunities with other Seattle area Zen groups we recommend (check their websites to confirm current information):

Still have questions, need Zoom links, or want to join the email list-serve for Bright Cloud Zen group communications? Email Janine or call her at UUC, (206) 454-7724.