People Interested in deepening their practice can live and train at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center as a resident. The Zen Center is a lay practice temple that creates an environment for infusing Zen practice into all daily activities. Our schedule is structured to support focused and selfless training and the subtlety of everyday practice.
Hundreds of residents, from across the country and abroad, have lived and practiced at the Zen Center over the years. A wider sangha joins in practice on weekends and during special events. We regularly host guests, especially members from our Poland and Iceland sanghas as well as nuns and monks visiting from Japan. The temple is on quiet, forested grounds near the top of Sonoma Mountain and overlooks the Valley of the Moon.
We have different programs that individually support a container of practice at the Zen Center.
Immerse yourself in Everyday Zen by living and practicing with Zen Center residents for a limited stay of up to three months and enjoy the quiet and natural rural atmosphere of Sonoma Mountain. The daily schedule includes: morning and evening zazen (meditation) and services (bowing and chanting), samu (temple work practice), informal communal meals. Afternoon rest breaks and private time (2.5hrs) are free for studying, hiking, walks or attending to personal things.
Accommodations vary from a shared dormitory-style room with no restroom to a simple rustic room with restroom. Not all meals are prepared. Upon arrival, SMZC’s guest person will review practice schedule and detailed information about the center. General review of meditation instructions and Zendo etiquette may be requested at the beginning of a guest stay.
We welcome full-time undergraduate students to come for a minimum of one month during summer/winter breaks or gap years to experience the temple life in a dormitory-style room accommodation.
Staying at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center is an adventure, a unique opportunity to be engaged in wholehearted practice in the midst of profound stillness.
Starting from $85/night (dormitory room, shared restroom) to $160/night (private room w/restroom) including self-serve or communal vegetarian meals. 10-20% discount for 8 days or longer.
Students with a serious interest in Zen training can apply to live as a resident at the center under the guidance of Jakusho Kwong-roshi. This program is for practitioners willing to commit at least one year to intensive practice, though two years are strongly recommended. We advise applicants to practice Zen at least one year before considering this commitment.
Residents are fully incorporated into our community and as such, participate fully with mandatory attendance in our daily zazen schedule, work practice, retreats, and all other activities that support the maintenance of the zen center. Every month there is a 1-, 3-, 5-, or 7-day sesshin intensive. Every February and August, we hold a 1-month Ango Practice Period. Our schedule is highly structured as our effort to support focused and selfless training.
This is an intimate residency situated in a quiet countryside. There are usually around ten residents, and we often host guest residents staying anywhere from three days to three months. Our larger Sangha includes about one hundred members from nearby cities, out of states and European countries. While our practice emphasizes Zazen meditation, our community provides ample opportunity to connect with others who support our spiritual endeavor.
Room and board, meals and participation in all our programs, study groups, workshops and sesshins are available. The monthly fee will be determined based on the available accommodations. Scholarships may be available for students with particular skills and work experience. The center closes the last two weeks in December; and after one year, residents receive an additional week of vacation.
Sangha life is just like a pearl: there's much rubbing, and the more agitation there is, the more pearl-like our lives become.
Below are positions vital to the functioning of our temple.
The kanin leads the center and oversees its general affairs. They organize the communications, development, finance, membership, events, and administrative duties that uphold the Sangha and temple. Volunteers who like to engage with the community or work on special projects can support the kanin by organizing events or writing for the newsletter.
Tenzo (Head Cook)
The tenzo is an important position in the Zen temple, tasked with nourishing and bringing “the assembly satisfaction, peace, and joy,” in the words of Eihei Dogen. Volunteers who would like to help feed their community might help the tenzo by cooking meals on Saturdays.
Ino (Maintains Zendo Pratice)
The ino oversees the zendo, or meditation hall. The ino leads the doanryo to deepen the container of ritual practice with the sounds, sights, and smells of the zendo. Volunteers who enjoy creating this atmosphere might help set up the altar for service on Fridays or Saturdays, ring the bonsho, or strike instruments during service.
Shissui (Work Leader)
The shissui stewards the physical grounds of the temple, caring for the land that beautifies and supports Zen practice. Volunteers who like to work with their hands and spend time outdoors can help the shissui tend to the garden, work on the buildings, or clear their mind raking the gravel.
Shika (Guest Person)
The shika creates a welcoming environment for practitioners by arranging accommodations and maintaining an intimate atmosphere in all the cabins. Volunteers who like to care for the members of a community can help the shika with activities like preparing the sangha house, receiving special guests, or arranging flower vases.