I started going to San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) in 2017. As with some of the best things that you discover in life, I found SFZC through word of mouth. I was looking for a spiritual home in San Francisco and a place to practice meditation that would be peaceful and have a sense of community.
From the moment I walked into SFZC, with its Japanese scrolls and statues and the Julia Morgan architecture, it felt like this peaceful serene place that was familiar. For me, my home has been and continues to be the Young Urban Zen (YUZ) affinity group. Especially during Covid-19 and sheltering in place it has been a great support and a consistent stable space. I see familiar faces every week. I get exposure to the dharma. There’s a sense of growth and connection there.
What’s impressive about YUZ is that it’s very much with the times and what’s happening in the world. It’s relevant. After George Floyd’s death we sat and meditated and had a space to reflect on police violence, racism, and Black Lives Matter. Similarly, there’s been talks about what it means to sit with your own loneliness during shelter in place and the inability to be close physically to people and how to deal with that. YUZ allows me to flex my practice with a group and with the facilitators’ guidance, in a way that feels very real to the times right now.
As I look back at my time coming to SFZC and, more recently, seeing people daily and weekly through my screen, the idea of trust is very prominent. We are seeing into each other’s homes and we are opening up to each other more than you would expect in a time when everyone feels very vulnerable.
SFZC has given me a space to practice and trust in the process of sitting, of just being with myself. So in a way it is about trusting myself. It’s about trusting others to be present with you. Trusting in letting your thoughts go as they need to go. The challenge right now is in this day and age, a cynical mindset has become easy and popular. But to be able to trust that things are a certain way and cannot be controlled; that’s a hard but rewarding thing to do.
What’s unique about SFZC is that it’s not about outward promotion of a certain ideology or philosophy. People seek it out when it’s right for them. It’s like water: it will seep where it needs to and trickle where the earth allows it to go. The way I see its influence in my life is in intention-setting and learning to be more gentle and patient with myself and the way I bring that positivity, or maybe in some ways a neutrality, into the world.
In practicing Zen and being connected to San Francisco Zen Center I realize there is very little I have control over. What I can do is find that inner stability in myself and hope that those waves and ripples, as they come into contact with others, create a sense of calm. Whether it is kindness or setting good intentions for other people, it has a positive carry-over effect.
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