Getting started at Red Cedar Zen

What is Zen?

Zen is the second largest form of Buddhism practiced in Japan. The word “Zen” is the Japanese transliteration of the Chinese “Chan”, which is itself a transliteration of the Sanskrit “dhyana”, meaning meditation. Thus the word Zen itself carries with it the history of this spiritual practice and religion.

Red Cedar Zen Community practices in the Soto Zen tradition as transmitted to America by the Japanese Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of San Francisco Zen Center, in the late 1950s (Wikipedia article on Suzuki roshi). The tradition was modified somewhat over 30 years of practice at San Francisco Zen’s three practice centers (City Center, Green Gulch Farm, Tassajara Zen Monastery), and has been further adjusted and simplified by our Founding Teacher, Zoketsu Norman Fischer (Norman’s Everyday Zen Foundation, Wikipedia article on Norman). Zen practice is both dynamic and rooted in tradition, changing form as it integrates with American culture.

Why Practice?

A regular meditation practice (zazen) helps one to develop the capacity to experience life, with all of its ups and downs, while staying rooted in a place of stillness. Over time this can lead to more acceptance and less fear and clinging around the ever changing process of life. As our insight into the workings of our own mind deepens, wisdom and compassion naturally arise.

Orientation to Red Cedar Zen

Newcomers are always welcome, just show up or contact us to arrange an orientation with a senior student.

See the Weekly Schedule page for more details on our regular schedule.

There is no fee for joining us at the Red Cedar Dharma Hall for practice but donations are always welcome. If you determine that Zen practice and the availability of the Dharma Hall in Bellingham is meaningful to you, we invite you to become a member.

Classes & Retreats

Our 4-week Introduction to Zen Meditation class is usually offered in February, see the Events page. Other classes, workshops, and retreats are offered throughout the year. We have retreats lasting from one to eight days annually. These are also listed on the Events page and see also a sketch of our annual pattern on the Annual Calendar page.

Private Interviews and Mentorship

One-on-one interviews our Priests, Teachers and Practice Leaders can be arranged. Interviews can take place with Priests during Thursday night and Saturday morning practice, and can also be arranged directly with the individuals. Mentorship by a teacher or practice leader, a deeper and more systematic way of deepening your practice, is also available: please email our Guiding Teacher with a request.


Our priests are available on request to perform weddings, funerals, and blessing ceremonies. Please contact us to inquire. A description of Zen Forms and comportment are available on the Zen Forms page (see the downloadable handoutand the chants we use are also available on the website

Then What?

Already started and want to know what's next? 

Please see the Going Further: Study and Practice Options at Red Cedar Zen Community page. 

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