Newcomer Tips

Welcome to the Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley. We look forward to getting to know you. Be sure to visit the greeter’s table at the rear of the hall at the beginning or end of the evening or at the break to pick up copies of our Brochure and Meditation Instructions or to ask any questions you may have. If you’re new to meditation or to our group, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions page..

Here are some tips to make your first visit comfortable:

  • Please refrain from using scented products in the monastery to protect the health of those with environmental sensitivities.
  • We meet at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery on the SW corner of Bancroft and McKinley streets in Berkeley, CA. The entrance is on McKinley. The form of Buddhism practiced in this monastery is known as Ch’an, which originated in China, rather than the Theravadan insight meditation that we practice. Please expect exuberant altars with images, sculptures, flowers, and fruit.
  • If you arrive before 7:15 pm, the monks who live at the monastery may be chanting. In that case, please wait quietly outside, at the front door, until it is opened.
  • Doors open at 7:15 pm on Thursday evenings.
  • As you enter the main door, the meditation hall will be directly in front of you and stairs to a balcony will be on your right. Leave your shoes in one of the shoe racks near the doorway and remember to turn off your cell phone.
  • If you are inclined to help setup the meditation hall with sitting pads, zafus, chairs, and the like, please ask anyone around if they need any help.  They’d appreciate it.
  • Each  meeting begins with 40 minutes of silent meditation with no introduction except for the first Thursday of each month when James Baraz, our teacher, gives brief meditation instructions.
  • There are cushions for sitting on the floor and plenty of chairs. The front of the hall is reserved for floor sitting. Feel free to use the cushions and mats stacked along the side walls. There are also blankets available for the colder months when the monastery can be quite cool. At the end of the evening, please help out by mindfully stacking the chairs, cushions, mats, and folding blankets. 
  • If you arrive after 7:30 pm, please enter the meditation hall quietly. We reserve a row of seats at the back of the hall for latecomers. You may either sit there or in the balcony. The stairs to the balcony are at your right as you enter the main door of the monastery.
  • Our community is accessible and welcoming to all who wish to participate regardless of ethnic origin, race, cultural or religious background, socio-economic class, age, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability.