Zendo Forms

We engage these forms as a way to support each other in our practice. We cultivate quiet, within and without, in our practice to help us most deeply encounter and embrace our lives in each moment. Please do not worry about getting them “right.” We have a gentle, accommodating approach.

Leave shoes and jackets in the front or back entryway unless you need shoes for physical stability.
Please do not bring cellphones into the zendo. Leave them in your car or in the entry-way set on silent.
Please be on time for zazen. If you are a few minutes late, you may enter the zendo quietly by the kitchen door. If you are more than five minutes late, please sit in the entryway until the bell rings to end the period.
You are welcome to come into or leave the zendo at the beginning or end of any period of zazen or kinhin.
Upon entering the zendo, gassho and bow to the altar.


Zazen is sitting meditation, wholeheartedly engaging this moment, dropping off thoughts and views and returning to life here and now, over and over.
When you reach a seat, turn to face your place and gassho and bow to your companions — who gassho-bow in return. Sit down facing the wall for zazen, or facing into the room for talks, service, and the zazen immediately before talks.
The beginning of zazen is signaled by three bells. During zazen, you may shift your position quietly as needed.
Sit upright on cushions or a chair, facing the wall, eyes open, hands folded in the zazen mudra.

The end of zazen is signaled by two bells if kinhin follows, or by one bell otherwise. When the bell rings, gassho-bow before moving, and then turn, stretch your legs, and rise.
Fluff your zafu, straighten cushions or chair, gassho-bow to your place, and turn around.
When you leave the zendo, first gassho-bow to the altar and group from your seat (not in the doorway).

Kinhin is slow walking meditation which is done between periods of zazen. Turn and form a clockwise circle with the others in the zendo and maintain even spacing with them.
Holding your hands in shashu, take a half step forward as you breathe out, shift your weight as you inhale, and step forward half a step with the other foot on the next outbreath.
When the end of kinhin is signaled by one bell ring, stop and bow, keeping your hands in shashu. Return to your place in the zendo at a normal walking pace. When you reach your seat, wait for everyone to return to their seats and shashu-bow with the group. Then turn, gassho-bow to your seat, and sit down for zazen, or you may leave the zendo after the group bow.
You are welcome to use the kinhin period for a bathroom break.

Please “chant with your ears,” listening for the pitch and pace set by the chant leader, and then continuing to adjust your tone to harmonize with the assembly.
Chanting is a body practice. Please chant with your whole being. Chanting is a manifestation of our collective energy and harmony. Please chant with vigor, presence and intention.


GASSHO is a gesture of respect, with hands together palm to palm, fingers pointing up.

Joko, Jo-E, Jisho Roshi, and Toan
SHASHU is a gesture of mindfulness, with your hands held in front of your chest, the right hand wrapped around your left fist.

BOWING is done standing, with your hands in gassho or shashu; and it is done as a full bow, kneeling and touching your forehead to the floor or mat, hands palms up raised above your head.

FULL PROSTRATION is done from a standing position, bringing the forehead down to the floor, and lifting the palms, facing upward. This is an expression of reverence for, and aspiration to, awakening.

Soto Zen in Sonoma County