Practicing at Home

It can be challenging to nurture and deepen our Zen practice when we’re unable to attend events at Dharma Rain, or when in-person events are limited by circumstances such as pandemics. One of the beauties of Zen practice is that it is portable, and can be done virtually anywhere. Whether or not you’re able to come in person to Dharma Rain, there are many ways to practice at home, or wherever you may find yourself. Here are some ideas for how to cultivate practice when you’re not on-site at Dharma Rain.

Set up a dedicated sitting space in your home or living space. It doesn’t need to be fancy, or require much space. If possible, leaving this space set up during the times you’re not using it can be a helpful reminder of your practice.

In addition to a dedicated sitting space, it can be helpful to set up a home altar. This is a way to honor your Buddha nature, and to provide visual structure and support for your practice. An altar is usually adjacent to your sitting space, often in a place that commands a good view, such as a high bookshelf, a mounted wall shelf, or a hutch without glass doors. An altar typically includes a Buddha or Bodhisattva figure (such as Kanzeon), a candle, incense, and sometimes flowers, a vessel of water, or meaningful practice items (such as the ketchimyaku given at Jukai).

Commit to a certain amount of zazen, for a specific time period. It can be helpful to state this as a range (“I will sit 3-5 days per week, for 30 minutes each time”), within a specific time frame (“from September 1 through Rohatsu”).

Take advantage of the .pdf version of the Chant Book, which includes sutras, verses, ancestral lines, services, and more.

Say the Five Thoughts before meals. This can be done aloud or silently. If you don’t know the verse, it’s in the online chant book.

If you can’t attend the Sunday morning program in person, join virtually via Zoom (the link is posted on the online calendar), or listen to an online recording of Sunday Morning Service.

Recite a short verse first thing each morning and/or last thing each evening. This could be a passage from the Chant Book, from the Kyojukaimon (The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts), or other works from the Suggested Reading page. Pick a verse or passage that resonates for you, even if you may be unclear on exactly why it resonates for you.

Listen to a Dharma Talk. There is a searchable archive of Dharma Talks going back to 2013, available at no cost.

Check out our online booklets (Ethics and Precepts in Sangha Relationships, The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts), and other suggested reading.

Attend a retreat. Most Dharma Rain retreats offer a virtual as well as an in-person option. You can also have a personal at-home retreat, and devote a day (or longer) to sitting at home.

For further solo practice ideas and inspiration, read this reflection on ways the Triple Treasure is always available.

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