FAQs

Can anyone just drop in for one of the regularly scheduled practices at Stillpoint?
Does it cost anything to practice at Stillpoint?
Does Stillpoint have a guiding teacher?
Is it accptable not to bow if I'm not really comfortable doing so?
I’m uncomfortable with chanting.  Is it OK if I don’t join in?
If I can’t stay for the whole practice schedule, is it OK to come late or leave early?
What if I need to change my position during zazen?
The period has ended, but my leg is asleep and I’m afraid I’ll fall if I get up, now what?
Can I help with anything at Stillpoint?

I want to become a Stillpoint Member; how do I do that?


Can anyone just drop in for one of the regularly scheduled practices at Stillpoint?
We welcome newcomers to sit with us. Our
Visit Stillpoint page will be helpful in planning your visit.
If you are new to sitting practice (zazen), we ask that you come 15 minutes before a regularly scheduled sitting on Sunday or Wednesday for an orientation with one of our members.
This way you will know what to expect when you join us for practice and we can introduce you to some of the fundamentals about sitting posture and technique that will benefit your experience when you sit. 

If you have previous experience with zazen and are familiar with zendo etiquette, feel free to drop in.  We suggest that you arrive 10-15 minutes early so we can exchange introductions before we sit.

Away from your own practice community while on travel to Pittsburgh? We hope that you will find Stillpoint a welcoming sangha away from home.

If you have any questions, feel free to send us an e-mail: sit@stillpointzen.org.  

Does it cost anything to practice at Stillpoint?
It is only through the generosity of members, friends, and those who visit and sit with our practice community that Stillpoint is able to offer and maintain our zendo and this quiet, gentle place to practice and learn with one another.



So yes, we have suggested amounts for donations and membership, which we list below, as this is our best means of communicating what our support needs are.  At the same time, consistent with our commitment to offer a Zen practice community that is truly accessible to all, we wish to be clear that anyone with a sincere interest in practice may sit with us, regardless of ability to offer financial gifts of support.



When you visit or practice at Stillpoint the generosity of any gift is always gratefully received and will be mindfully put to use.

Suggested Donations:
Stillpoint Member:                                                     $30-$40/month
Friend of Stillpoint:                                                    $15-$25/month
Visitor:                                                                       $3-$5
Orientation and Introductory Instruction in Zazen     $5-$10
    (for those new to sitting practice (zazen). 

Please view our Contributions page for information about making a one time contribution to Stillpoint via Pay Pal or mail.
Stillpoint is a 501(c)(3) charity and all donations to Stillpoint are fully tax deductible.

Does Stillpoint have a guiding teacher?
Stillpoint is a lay Zen practice community.  As a truly accessible practice community Stillpoint, intentionally, has chosen not to seek
a single guiding teacher. This simplicity of Stillpoint practice allows many to find a place to practice regardless of their lineage; individuals with different teachers and traditions find common ground in the simplicity and stillness of Zazen.  The openness of our practice community has permitted us to maintain rich friendships with those from other practice communities, near and far. We also share an enduring relationship with Shohaku Okumura-Roshi, with whom we have had the privilege of having with us as our invited teacher during our annual Stillpoint retreat over many years.  A number of those with whom we have practiced together have received the Zen precepts and participated in jukai ceremony; some have gone on to become ordained priests. 

Is it acceptable not to bow if I'm not really comfortable doing so?
If one chooses not to bow, simply sit or stand quietly.  
Sometimes one is clear about the reasons for preferring not to bow, and that is fine.  
Other times, one is simply not clear about the practice of bowing and how and why it is a part of our practice.  You can always speak to one of our practice members about any questions you have about practice.  Also, see our Zen Etiquette page and scroll to ‘Why Bow?’, which will point you to a very thoughtful article on the practice of bowing.

I’m uncomfortable with chanting.  Is it OK if I don’t join in?
Not all Stillpoint practices include a chanting service. If you are present during a Stillpoint service where chanting is part of that service and choose not to chant, you may simply sit quietly during the chanting service. Sometimes one is clear about the reasons for preferring not to chant and that is fine.   Other times, it may be that because a chant is not in English or one has not yet studied the sutras, that one is simply not sure they understand what is being chanted and why we chant.  Practice questions such as these can always be discussed with one of our practice members.  


If I can’t stay for the whole practice schedule, is it OK to come late or leave early?
Should you arrive late or wish to depart early from a scheduled practice, it is preferable and customary to wait to enter or leave the zendo during a period of kinhin (walking meditation).  If your schedule does not permit you to remain for all periods of sitting, it is perfectly acceptable to join or depart between sitting periods, during kinhin.  If you feel you benefit from sitting, but wish to opt out of reading and discussion following zazen, this is perfectly fine. 

What if I need to change my position during zazen?
Sometimes minor discomforts create an opportunity to continue our practice in the midst of this distraction, observing how sensations come and go.  However, when discomfort or other physical sensations become so distracting that they become the focus of your attention, it may be preferable to make adjustments so that you can get back to ‘just sitting.’ In such case, do so quietly so as to least disturb others.  If your discomfort is such that you need to leave the zendo before the bell or the next kinhin (walking meditation) do so as quietly as possible.  Physical difficulties with sitting may simply indicate the need to adjust your technique or the type of physical supports you utilize when practicing. Ask one of our senior practice members to help you observe your posture and/or to explore alternative ways to sit using a cushion, bench or chair.  


The period has ended, but my leg is asleep, now what?
Practice does not ask that you disregard physical necessities. If it is necessary for you to stay seated momentarily, do so.  You may simply gesture with a gassho (palms together with a slight bow) from where you are, adjust your position mindfully as you require, until you are able to rejoin others.  If this is a recurrent difficulty for you in sitting you may wish to consider elevating your cushion or sit in a chair. Ask one of our senior practice members to
help you observe your posture and/or to explore alternative ways to sit using a cushion, bench or chair.  


Can I help with anything at Stillpoint?
Yes!  There is always a garden to tend, porches to sweep, a building to repair (here and there), and invitations to extend to others in the community to sit with us.   Let us know if you want to adopt a project, big or small, or if you would like to join our Outreach, Practice or Building Committee.

 We always have a wish list; if you have items or supplies to offer that you think we might be able to use, send us an e-mail
sit@stillpointzen.org

I want to become a Stillpoint Member; how do I do that?
Thank you!  Just click on the following to find our
Stillpoint Contribution and Member Pledge Form.  You can e-mail the completed form to us at sit@stillpointzen.org, mail them to the address at the left, or bring them with you next time you visit. Being a Stillpoint Member is not about how often you sit with us, or even if you live nearby.  Stillpoint Members are those individuals who have chosen to make an active declaration of membership and have offered a pledge for ongoing financial support of Stillpoint in the form of monthly, quarterly, or annual contribution.   Stillpoint is grateful for our friends, near and far, who have chosen to become Stillpoint Members.