Event: Saturday Morning Zen

When: Saturday December 14, 2019 • 8:30am-12pm

Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waynesboro

Spend a morning with Zen practice: intensive meditation, tea break, chanting, dharma talk, council process. Open to newcomers and experienced meditators! Bring a meditation cushion and mat if you have them. Chairs will be available; we have a limited number of extra meditation cushions.

If you are new to Zen, please arrive 15 minutes early for a brief introduction.

RSVP to shenandoahzen@icloud.com

There is no charge for this event though donations to UUFW are appreciated, for use of their space.


Please Note: Due to the coronavirus, we are currently not meeting for weekly zazen in person. We are meeting for weekly meditation online on Sundays, beginning at 8pm. We use Zoom.

I am also offering individual meetings/dokusan via videoconferencing. Send me an email if you are interested in online meditation and/or individual meetings.

Also, if you are new to Zen and/or have questions about getting started with Zen practice, do feel free to send me an email.

About Shenandoah Zen

Shenandoah Zen is a group of people who come together weekly for Zen meditation. We began meeting at UUFW in 2015.

We are currently meeting online, Sundays from 8pm until about 9pm. Our schedule varies weekly, but generally includes time for a 25 minute round of meditation, chants, and an occasional dharma talk.

Shenandoah Zen is organized by Benjamin Mui Pumphrey, Roshi, a Zen teacher who received Dharma Transmission in the White Plum lineage from Charles Shinkai Birx, Roshi, in September 2016 and Inka in April 2022. He began his Zen practice with Charles Shinkai Birx, Roshi, Ellen Jikai Birx, Roshi, and the New River Zen Community in 1996.

Shenandoah Zen abides by the Ethics Policy of the White Plum Asanga

Beginning in September, we will meet in-person on the first two Sunday nights of each month. We will meet online via Zoom for the remaining Sunday evening meetings. Our in-person meetings are held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waynesboro located at 565 Pine Street, Waynesboro VA 22980.

Not too far from I-64, our Zen meditation group is accessible to those coming from Staunton VA, Crozet VA, Charlottesville VA, Lexington VA, Harrisonburg VA, and surrounding areas. Contact Ben Pumphrey if you would like meeting schedule details.

​We sit three silent 25-minute meditation rounds, with two silent 5-minute rounds of walking meditation. Please bring your own cushion (zafu) and meditation mat (zabuton) if you have them. If you are new to Zen meditation, please arrive about 15 minutes early for a brief introduction.

What is Zen?

This is a question that necessarily does not have any ready-made answer. Once started with Zen practice, it is a question that you should continue to ask. More conventionally, though, Zen is a contemplative school of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on meditation as a principle practice for awakening. It spread east from India through Asian countries before reaching the western hemisphere. With each culture that it contacted, Zen developed into different flavors particular to each region, while preserving its core. We are currently witnessing, and are part of, the development of Zen in American modes.

The styles of Zen practice you may encounter across this country are quite variable and local. The style of Zen practice through Shenandoah Zen is basic and accessible, with a strong focus on intensive meditation. Even though intellectual understanding is not a focus of Zen practice, it may be helpful to have some context for this work. Some good introductory books about Zen include: Healing Zen and Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. Some good introductory books about Buddhism include: What the Buddha Taught and The Heart of Buddha's Teaching. For a resource on Buddhist ethics and Zen precepts, I recommend The Mind of Clover. If you are interested in the intersection between Zen and Christian practice, I recommend a few books: Embracing the Inconceivable: Interspiritual Practice of Zen and Christianity by Ellen Birx, Roshi, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit by Robert Kennedy, Roshi, and Zen Gifts to Christians also by Robert Kennedy, Roshi.

Zen may be practiced regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation (or lack thereof). There are Zen teachers who are also Christian Priests and Jewish Rabbis. If you have a current religious or spiritual perspective, Zen practice may complement and deepen your understanding of your current faith tradition.

This work is not about making anyone a better Buddhist. Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, involve approaches and practices for helping us discover and live our lives as full, more intimate, human beings. To engage in Buddhist practice to become something or someone other than who or what we already are --even a "Buddhist"-- is to miss the point.

What do I need to get
started with Zen practice?

Fundamentally, there is not anything else that you need.

There are, however, things that may help support your Zen meditation.

Several helpful items include a meditation cushion, a meditation mat, and some protected time and space for meditation every day.

Of these three, time and space for daily meditation are the most important. If you do not have, or want, a meditation cushion and mat set, that is completely fine; any chair or firm pillow will work.

If you wish to purchase a meditation cushion (a zafu) and a meditation cushion (a zabuton), some good websites to visit are Zen Works (through Zen Community of Oregon), Carolina Morning, Samadhi Cushions, and Dharma Crafts. If you do not yet have a meditation cushion, you may want to try one filled with buckwheat hulls, rather than kapok filling, first.

Zen meditation is in part a personal practice but it also helps a great deal to sit with the support of a meditation group.

How much does Zen cost?

Practicing Zen does not require or involve any transaction, fundamentally.

Occasionally, there are costs associated with use of spaces, retreat costs, and opportunities to make donations to organizations supporting Zen practice. However, it is important to consider the true relative costs of Zen practice: only your serious intention to practice and your appropriate efforts.

Practice with Shenandoah Zen is offered free of charge otherwise, out of respect and thanks for my teachers, all the Zen teachers of the past, and in deepest gratitude for their substantial efforts.

It can be confusing and detrimental when money and Zen training mix. Charging for access to Zen practice and teaching carries risks of commodifying that which is freely available, readily accessible, and is each of our birthrights. Zen is not a practice that one can profit from.

Does Zen Meditation Involve Risk?

The potential for risks or adverse effects of intensive meditation is a topic that is not discussed as much as it should be.

Every person is different and each person's physical and psychological tolerance for deep meditation and the shifting physical and mental states that it may provoke need to be considered carefully. If you have any acute or chronic medical concern, especially of a cardiovascular or neurological variety, please speak with your primary care provider and/or specialist to determine if intensive meditation is safe for you.

If you have any acute or chronic psychological or psychiatric difficulty, please discuss with your mental health provider whether or not intensive meditation is appropriate and safe for you. You may not want to begin any meditative practice, Zen or otherwise, without having these conversations.

Please Note

If you are a current patient of Ben Pumphrey's through his clinical psychiatry work and want to begin Zen meditation, that will require conversation with him to determine the best course of action for you as he does not supervise Zen practice of current or former patients.

Engaging in Zen practice with Shenandoah Zen neither creates nor implies a clinical treatment relationship with Ben Pumphrey. Nothing said in the context of Shenandoah Zen or outside of Ben Pumphrey's psychiatry office is a clinical recommendation or represents clinical advice. Zen is not psychotherapy or a clinical treatment of any kind.

There are other area Zen practice groups you may want to consider, should you be a current or former patient of Ben Pumphrey's or if there is another barrier to practice with Shenandoah Zen.

More Zen Resources

For more information, please send an email to:
shenandoahzen (at) gmail (dot) com