Our Practice

Though our practice follows the Soto Zen tradition, we welcome all who are drawn to a simple meditation practice regardless of previous experience or affiliation. Our emphasis is on sitting meditation, though we're also happy to share our own experiences of Zen Buddhism with anyone wishing to explore the tradition more deeply.

Zazen, the meditation form taught by all Zen schools, is best learned in the doing, with a teacher to help you adjust and clarify your practice. We offer a number of ways, described below, to practice and deepen your understanding. Our resources page also offers books, chants, and links to useful sites. We also recommend this website for introductory instructions for zazen.

Sunday Zazen

We meet every  Sunday morning in a second-floor meditation space at 2402 Mt. Vernon Avenue, in Del Ray (on the 2nd floor of the Dance Academy of Virginia). We welcome you to join us.

We begin sitting at 8:00 am. If you are coming for the first time, please arrive by 7:30 so one of us can provide you with brief instructions for zazen, as well as the specifics of our Del Ray zazen  sessions. Others will be setting up the room with meditation cushions, etc.

Zazen begins with the ringing of a bell, and lasts 30 minutes, ending with a brief service and chanting. We then reset the room before setting up a circle of chairs to talk about our experiences and learn more about each other. We finish by 9:15 a.m.

There is no charge for the zazen gathering, though donations are welcome. Please  bring your own beverage for  the discussion period.

Weekday Virtual Zazen

We meet virtually every day from Monday to Friday at 6:45 a.m. for zazen. We welcome you to join us virtually via this link.

The morning ritual is as follows:

  • The bonsho (large gong) begins at 6:40 with a sequence calling us to settle prior to zazen at 6:45. 
  • The final strike of the bonsho is echoed by three slow strikes of the large kesu bell and then three strikes on a smaller bell indicate the formal start of zazen. 
  • We then sit for 30 minutes in silence.
  • The zazen concludes with a single strike on the small bell, followed by chanting the O-kesa Gatha, the Robing Chant. 
  • Each of three measured strikes of the large kesu  signals the start of a seated bow, which is ended by a damped strike on the same bell. Those bows (which would be prostrations in the zendo) are followed by a strike on the smaller kesu, indicating the start of a seated bow; that bow ends with the second strike of the small kesu. 
  • A final seated bow with hands clasped at the chest concludes the session. 

Monthly Zazenkai

On the first Friday of each month, we gather upstairs at 2402 Mt. Vernon Avenue, in Del Ray (on the 2nd floor of the Dance Academy of Virginia) from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for a three-hour intensive zazenkai

Monthly Study Group

On the third Sunday of each month, we gather to further our understanding by discussing a pre-selected Buddhist text. These gatherings are from 3 p.m. to 4:30. Location varies but is always in/near Del Ray in Alexandria.

Women's Monthly Study Group

On the first Sunday of each month, the women of Del Ray Zen gather to discuss a book or reading. Currently, they are studying and discussing The Hidden Lamp, edited by Florence Caplow and Susan Moon.  The gathering each 1st Sunday is from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 23 East Howell Avenue.

Talks with Peter

Our co-founder, ordained priest, and head student Peter Pocock welcomes one-on-one conversations with each and every member of Del Ray Zen. Existing members of the sangha may sign up for a talk with Peter here. If you have not yet joined the sangha, you may reach out for more information here or by emailing Peter directly at [email protected].