Classes, Practice Periods, and Ongoing Groups

In addition to the daily meditation schedule, MZMC provides many different opportunities for practice and learning, including:

  • Classes on Zen, Practice Periods, and ongoing groups
  • Sesshins (which include formal services and oryoki meals) and Retreats (which are contemporary in context)
  • One-to-one meetings (dokusan and practice meetings)
  • Work Practice days
  • Guest Teacher lectures and workshops

All of these activities are open to the public. Where noted, fees are charged or donations requested for events. Financially supporting members of MZMC or other Twin Cities dharma centers are eligible for discounts on fees for sesshins and other selected events.

Introduction to Zen Meditation

For those who are curious about meditation, or would like to test the waters, Introduction to Zen Meditation is an introductory series of talks offered each week.

Introduction to Zen Meditation takes place on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings. Each session includes meditation instruction and teaching on how meditation and Zen relate to daily life.

A good place to begin would be Introduction to Zen Meditation on Sunday mornings or Tuesday evenings. Each session includes meditation instruction and teaching on how meditation and Zen relate to daily life.

For Introduction to Zen Meditation join us any Sunday morning or Tuesday night and then return the next three Sundays/Tuesdays to complete the four-week cycle. The four parts are not sequential, so you may attend them in any order. You are welcome to attend as many sessions as you like, but attend all four for the best overview. These classes are open to all with no pre-registration necessary. Admission is first come, first served, and the class often fills. We advise that you come a few minutes early. Those who can't attend the Introduction generally stay and enjoy the talk in the main hall instead.

Suggested donation: $10

The class meets every Sunday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. and each Tuesday 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Participants are welcome to stay for tea and social hour after the class.

If you are visiting MZMC to fulfill a class requirement, we suggest attending the talk in the main hall on Sunday at 10 a.m. or Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. You may also contact our office to set up a visit.

Learn the Basic Zen Forms and Etiquette

Zen Forms and Etiquette 2017
Friday, April 7
Friday, June 16
Friday, August 11
Friday, November 3
Sunday, December 3
Time: 5:15 – 6:30 pm
Class size is limited to 12.
Cost: $10
Please register five days in advance.

This class is one-hour long. The same information is covered each time. The class will briefly cover the basics of traditional Zen forms: bows, entries and exits, walking meditation, etc. This offering is designed for the newcomer who'd like an overview of forms to help them be more familiar and comfortable joining us for morning zazen or one of our sesshins. It's a good opportunity to become familiar with the forms, stay in practice, or brush up after some time away.

Foundations of Practice 2017

Four Noble Truths: How do we walk the path from suffering to peace?
with Ted O'Toole
Wednesdays, January 11 – February 15
7:15 – 8:45 pm
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

The first and most fundamental teaching of the Buddha is the Middle Way, the alleviation of suffering through compassionate action, meditation and mindful living. The Four Noble Truths of dissatisfaction, its cause, and the path to end it explain how and why to practice this Middle Way. In this class we will investigate how suffering is caused by desire and aversion, by wanting things to be other than how they are, and how we can follow the Buddhist eightfold path to move towards a deep and quiet joy.

Awakening the Heart: How do we practice the bodhisattva way?
with Susan Nelson
Wednesdays, May 3 – June 7, 7:15 – 8:45 pm
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the path of seeing through our preconceptions and preconditioning so that we may give ourselves to the joy of serving others. Bodhisattavas are those who have given themselves to this path. In this class we'll study the Heart Sutra, chanted in Zen temples daily all over the world, which expresses the Bodhisattva ideal and the Buddhist concept of emptiness.

Mindfulness in Daily Life: How do we bring awareness to our lives?
with Ben Connelly
Wednesdays, September 6 – October 11, 7:15 – 8:45 pm
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Mindfulness is a fundamental component of Zen practice and it is also widely recognized in the psychological community as an excellent tool for alleviating stress and all the problems that follow behind it. This class will help us develop day to day mindfulness practices so that we may more deeply experience and enjoy our precious and fleeting lives.

Practice Periods 2017

Practice Periods are an integral part of traditional Buddhism, and trace their origins back to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, when the nuns and monks would take time during the monsoon seasons of India to devote themselves to intensified meditation, study, and community building.

Participants are expected to attend the eight weekly meetings (Wednesday evenings from 7:15 – 8:45 p.m. OR Thursday mornings from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.), commit to regular zazen practice, attend at least one day of retreat and one work practice day, read the assigned text(s), and have regular meetings with an assigned practice partner.

Spring Practice Period, Cultivating Bodhichitta: Awakening the Heart to the Cries of the World
Ted O'Toole with Mark Turbak
Wednesday evenings, March 8 – April 26, 7:15 – 8:45 p.m.
(There is also a morning option for those who cannot attend Wednesday evenings: Thursdays, March 9 – April 27, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.)
Cost: $145 members; $180 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Bodhichitta, also known as the awakened heart, is the key to the bodhisattva path. Bodhichitta is equated with compassion — our ability to cherish all living beings and the wish for others to be free from suffering. As Pema Chodron teaches, with practice we can learn to seize life's most vulnerable moments to awaken bodhichitta. In this eight-week practice period we will engage in an experiential journey toward action. We will examine options that are open to us and ask how we can contribute to the well-being of our family, friends, sangha, nation, and world in a sustainable way.This examination will occur primarily through assignments and exercises, with minimal reading. Participants will be required to commit to an eight-week plan that includes regular meditation, retreat days, participation in work practice, working with a practice partner, and attending the eight group meetings.

Fall Practice Period: Not Always So
with Tim Burkett and Bussho Lahn
Wednesday evenings, October 4 – November 15, and Monday evening, November 20, 7:15 – 8:45 p.m.
(There is also a morning option for those who cannot attend Wednesday evenings: Thursday mornings October 5 – November 16, and Tuesday morning, November 21, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.)
Cost: $145 members; $180 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Tim Burkett and Bussho Lahn to lead fall practice period using Tim's core teacher's book Not Always So.

Once Suzuki Roshi was asked by someone, "How much ego do you need?" Suzuki said, "Just enough so that you don't step in front of a bus." Buddhism began to put down roots in the West in 1959 when a Zen priest named Shunryu Suzuki landed in California. As word of a true Zen master spread in the world of San Francisco bohemia, students gathered around the monk to learn the practice of zazen. Through the students trained at San Francisco Zen Center and the classic books, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Not Always So, the teachings of Suzuki Roshi permeate American Buddhism to this day.

Tim Burkett was one of those first students of Suzuki Roshi, and his memories and stories of Suzuki's teachings are some of his favorite additions to dharma talks and teachings. This fall, to help mark the occasion of the 15th year anniversary of its publication, we'll be offering a practice period centered on Not Always So, a collection of Suzuki Roshi's dharma talks.

In a recent dharma talk at MZMC, Tim said, "The late Dr. Huston Smith, who was a mentor of mine, said that walnuts have a shell and they have a kernel. Religions are the same. They have an essence, but then they have a protective coating. I think it's a sad commentary on our human condition that we spend so much time caring for the protective coating and so little time cracking it open to taste the essence: the interconnectedness of all life and the love and compassion that arise out of this. But here at MZMC we can enjoy tasting the meat of the nut together."

Suzuki Roshi was certainly a master of cracking open the shell of his own tradition to allow sincere Westerners to taste something essential; something beyond time, culture, and outward forms...something universally human. We invite you to consider doing an intensive seven-week immersion into Zen practice with us in the fall, so we can appreciate the tastiness of the nut's meat together.

Advanced Studies 2017

Yogacara and Buddhist Psychology: How do we work with the mind?
with Ben Connelly
Wednesdays, January 25 – March 1
7:15 – 8:45 pm
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Yogacara, or mind-only, Buddhism emphasizes psychological transformation through Buddhist practice. The psychological insights formed by this tradition two thousand years ago still ring true, and the Yogacara principle that each aspect of our consciousness can be transformed into enlightened activity by wholehearted attention profoundly influences the way we practice Zen.

Nagarjuna's Middle Way: What is beyond self and other?
with Bussho Lahn
Five Wednesdays, July 12 – August 9
7:15 – 8:45 pm
Cost: $100 members; $120 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance.

Nagarjuna's teachings on the middle way deconstruct every conception they come across to show how our thinking mind limits our contact with the infinite, inconceivable, unfolding of the universe. They expand our minds beyond our usual limited ways of being so we can live without separating ourselves from life. We'll study how these teachings can lead us to what Nagarjuna calls, "the peaceful."

Spring and Fall Morning Study Groups 2017

These are advanced study groups open to those who have been in a previous study group at MZMC or by permission of the teachers.

Spring Morning Study Group: Chuang Tzu
with Tim Burkett
Tuesday mornings, April 25, May 2, May 16, May 30, June 13, June 27
7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Registration is closed. If you are already signed up, you may use this link to pay for the class.

Four features that form Zen come from the teachings of the early Taoists, who were already revered in China when Buddhism entered the country. These features are spontaneity, humor, iconoclasm, and appreciation of nature. Chuang Tzu, who lived in the 4th century BCE, is the person who did the best job of elucidating these teachings. In this study group we will be reading and discussing a translation of his basic writings. Here are two samples.

The Need to Win: When an archer is shooting for fun, he has all his skill. If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous. If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets. He is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win Drains him of power.

Flight from the Shadow: There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps, that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead. He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.

Fall Morning Study Group: An Invitation to Continue Studying our Taoist Roots
with Wanda Isle
Every other Tuesday morning September 12 – November 21
7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
Cost: $110 members; $135 nonmembers
Please register five days in advance. Also, please note that this is intended as a class for advanced students. If you have not been a part of the study group in the past, please talk to the instructor before you sign up.

In the fall study group we will steep ourselves in "the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing." This is how Ursula Le Guin describes the Tao Te Ching in the introduction to her book Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way.

Le Guin was introduced to Lao Tzu through her father at a very young age. "I was lucky to discover him so young, so that I could live with his book my whole life long." Here's Le Guin in her own words describing the book we'll use as our guide to Lao Tzu's teachings:

"The Tao Te Ching is partly in prose, partly in verse; but as we define poetry now, not by rhyme and meter but as a patterned intensity of language, the whole thing is poetry. I wanted to catch that poetry, its terse, strange beauty. Most translations have caught meanings in their net, but prosily, letting the beauty slip through. And in poetry, beauty is not ornament; it is the meaning. It is the truth. We have that on good authority."

"Scholarly translations of the Tao Te Ching as a manual for rulers use a vocabulary that emphasizes the uniqueness of the Taoist "sage," his masculinity, his authority. The language is perpetuated, and degraded, in most popular versions. I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years."

One-to-one Meetings (Dokusan and Practice Meetings)

Do you have questions about Zen? Do you want advice about establishing or maintaining a meditation practice? Does sitting present you with physical challenges? Are you struggling to apply your practice in your daily life? Do you wonder if you're really ready to do a retreat?

Zen Center offers meetings with experienced Zen teachers to address these kinds of questions. Teachers at Zen Center very much enjoy getting to know other Zen practitioners and encouraging others in their practice.

Two kinds of meetings are offered.

  • Dokusan is a meeting with Guiding Teacher Tim Burkett, or a Senior Teacher (dharma heir) (Ben Connelly, Guy Gibbon, Wanda Isle, Bussho Lahn, Rosemary Taylor, Susan Nelson and Ted O'Toole). Tim meets in dokusan only with Zen Center members; the Senior Teachers meet with both members and non-members.
  • Practice Meetings are opportunities to meet with the Center's other teachers, all of whom have been ordained by Tim. Anyone, members or non-members, can sign up for practice meetings.

Both types of meetings are simply opportunities for conversation. Topics might include zazen instruction, appropriate sitting posture, ritual, Zen Center programs, applying practice to daily life, or finding ways in which the practice can be helpful in difficult situations. It's also perfectly appropriate to sign up for a meeting just to get to know a teacher better. Repeat visits, to the same teacher or another teacher, are welcome. All matters disclosed in dokusan and practice meetings are kept confidential.

If you would like to meet with a teacher, check the sign-up sheets on the front bulletin board at MZMC. If none of the designated times work for you, contact the office to arrange another time. You may ask for a specific teacher or have one assigned to you.

Our mission is to help people experience a deep and quiet joy – a joy that arises whenever we are fully engaged in the work or play of this moment.