Zendo Etiquette

Many people ask about zendo customs at Twining Vines.  Here are some guidelines to help you feel comfortable, whether on your first visit or later on.  By practicing together using a common set of forms, we provide a harmonious external setting to support and reflect our internal practice of mindful attention, our awareness that we are a community, and a safe place in which to notice the ego arising and awaken to clear, spacious mind.

Our aim is to avoid dressing or acting in a way that is distracting to others.    


Modest, covering shoulders and legs

Neutral and subdued in color and pattern

Comfortable and loose

Leave shoes outside the door

Hats and caps are not worn in the zendo


Please be on time: this means being settled in your seat before the Han begins, i.e. 10 minutes before the starting time listed on the schedule.  

Turn off cell phones and/or any electronic devices


Avoid wearing scents


Avoid distracting jewelry and watches


Handle zendo objects with respect; do not move cushions/mats with your feet.


Sit upright during discussions or Dharma talks, feet tucked under or in zazen position; if you feel it will be difficult to maintain this posture, please consider moving to a chair.


Please plan to sit for the entire schedule for that evening/morning.  If there is a class/discussion on Saturday at 10, it is OK to leave before the break and not stay for it; however we ask you not to come just for a class/discussion at 10--these dialogues arise out of our zazen mind. 


Once the candles are lit, we maintain silence in the zendo, and do not look around, but turn our attention inward.  This contributes both to our own peace and harmony and that of our fellow sangha members.


When entering the zendo please bow in gassho by raising your hands in front of your chin with the palms together, the tips of your fingers at about the level of your nose. When you arrive at your place, bow to your seat. The people on either side of you may return your bow. Then turn and face in the opposite direction and bow to the community.  If we are facing each other during that period the person directly across from you and his/her neighbors may return your bow. If you come into the zendo after the zazen period has formally begun, perform your bows, but others will remain in their practice and will not return them.


Try to fill seats in the front of the room first.  Arrange your seating so that you can sit comfortably with a straight back without moving for the duration of a sitting period (25-30 minutes.)  


If you arrive late:


Enter with a zazen mind and take a seat as unobtrusively as possible

If the zendo is being formally opened, wait at the entrance until the third bell before taking a seat as usual

If there is only a minute or two before the end of the period, please wait upstairs (or outside the zendo at Old Greenwich) till the period ends.




Dokusan means “going to the teacher.”  It is an opportunity for us to discuss our spiritual practice and how it is integrated into our lives.  All are welcome and this does not imply a formal commitment to the teacher.  Please sign up on the pad or speak with the teacher about setting up a time. 




Dana means “generosity.”  This is a way in which we can contribute out of our gratitude for the practice.  There are no membership requirements for sitting at Twining Vines Sangha, and all are welcome at all times and for all events. We welcome contributions of service to the community, and also monetary donations in order to pay rent for our space and keep the sangha activities going.  There is also a box in Purchase for donations to the teachers.  Buddhist teachers receive no salary but continue the ancient monastic tradition of freely offering the teachings.  Your contributions help them to lead a life devoted to teaching the Dharma and to take time for their own practice, ensuring that their teachings are continually enriched.



Again, these guidelines are offered not to shame or embarrass anyone; there will never be any harsh corrections if they are not followed!  Our practice is to observe our reactions and habits of mind with presence and attention, and in a safe and harmonious environment.  The zendo traditions provide us with a context in which we are willing to make mistakes and become aware of how we respond to these issues in our minds and actions--this way we cultivate a mind of compassion toward ourselves and others.