Zen Meditation and Study

Zen groups at UUC are offered every day of the week – see the schedule below. You do not have to be a Zen practitioner, a Buddhist, an experienced meditator, or a Unitarian Universalist (UU) to attend. Drop-in attendance is welcome. Come when you can! There is no charge to participate.

When Safe Gathering protocols allow, our Tuesday and Friday morning practice periods will resume meeting at University Unitarian Church (UUC). At some point, the Tuesday morning group may begin meeting once again at the Woodinville UU Church. The Monday night and the early-morning meditations will remain online only for the foreseeable future.

Our Fall book study is Ordinary Wonder: Zen Life and Practice, by Charlotte Joko Beck.

We use a shared reading model to engage the book’s teachings during our study time. No assignments to read ahead. Bring the book if you have it or just listen if you don’t have a copy. When we are meeting in physical space again, we’ll have a copy on hand to pass around.

About Ordinary Wonder: Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011) began her practice of Zen with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, founder of the Los Angeles Zen Center, from whom she received Dharma transmission. Joko was herself the founder of the Zen Center of San Diego and the Ordinary Mind Zen School. She is considered one of the most influential Western-born Zen teachers. This book is a collection of never before published teachings by Joko, edited by her daughter Brenda Beck Hess ten years after Joko’s death. Like Joko’s previous two books, Everyday Zen: Love and Work and Nothing Special: Living Zen, this book is an accessible guide to practice amidst the struggles of daily life.

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

Each meeting of the two-hour meditation & study group on Tuesdays & Fridays includes brief opening and closing chanting services, two periods of silent sitting, walking meditation, refreshment, and teaching. (View or download our chantbook 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. (See below for information on our other meditation gatherings.)

Dress comfortably. Most participants sit on chairs, which are provided when we meet in physical space. Some floor sitting supplies are available, or bring your own cushions or meditation bench. 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. The practice leader will ask if anyone needs meditation instruction, and may lead a guided meditation for all or open a separate room for those who wish assistance. Otherwise, simply follow this general advice for meditation practice:

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 Senior Dharma Teacher
Bright Cloud Zen students and teachers after May 2019 retreat
Sesshin, May 2019

This group, along with the practice group at the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church, 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 Janine Seitetsu Larsen, a Senior Dharma Teacher with Empty Moon Zen. Janine is also UUC’s Director of Ministries. She has been practicing Zen since 2001 and was ordained a Zen priest in December 2019 by her teacher, James Myoun Ford, Roshi, a Soto Zen Priest and Guiding Teacher of Empty Moon Zen. James is also a UU minister, and is Minister Emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island; he is currently a consulting minister with the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. James is the author of several books on Zen as well as many of the materials used by the UUA to introduce Buddhism to UU audiences. 

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 for now, until public health guidelines allow physical gatherings again)

  • Tuesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to Noon, on Zoom. Janine offers Dokusan (one-on-one practice interviews) during most practice periods or by appointment.
  • Saturday Zazenkai: We join the Empty Moon Zen Sanghas 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, with the Empty Moon Zen Sanghas. May be 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 or ask Janine for information on online programs offered daily by our larger Sangha. 
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:

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.