FAQ – Answers to some common questions about the Phoenix Shambhala Meditation Center

Welcome to the Phoenix Shambhala Meditation Center! We often receive questions from newcomers about what to expect when they visit, and we’d like to answer some of the most common questions here. If you have further questions, please email us!


Are beginners welcome? Do I need to have any meditation experience?

Everyone is welcome! We have free meditation instruction available at all of our Public Sittings: Wednesdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 9:30 and 10 am. You don’t need to have any prior experience – we’ll give you a lesson in the basics.


What is the “Learn to Meditate” Open House? What if I missed one?

Our “Learn to Meditate” Open House is offered bimonthly, normally on the first Wednesday of every other month. This free evening program offers meditation instruction, an introduction to Shambhala, Q&A, and refreshments, all in a group setting. Please check our calendar of events for upcoming Open House dates.

If you missed the most recent Open House, you don’t have to wait two months to visit! We offer individual meditation instruction at all of our Public Sittings: Wednesdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 9:30 and 10 am.


What is the cost?

Our Public Sittings – Wednesdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 9:30 am – are free of charge, as is Heart of Recovery (Sarpashana) on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Donations are gratefully accepted but never required.

We also offer additional programming that introduces Shambhala and Buddhist teachings, and these classes normally have a fee. Please visit our calendar of events to see what’s on the schedule, and view each event for cost information (including our Generosity Policy), prerequisites, and registration details.


What do I wear? Is there a dress code?

There isn’t a dress code, and participants often wear a range of clothing styles. Many people enjoy wearing what we call “uplifted” dress – a style that can itself vary but typically resembles business casual – while others prefer shorts and yoga pants. The main requirement is that you wear something that will be comfortable to sit in.


Do I need to sit on the floor? Do I need to bring a cushion?

We have cushions (called gomdens) available, as well as other varieties of cushion to help you achieve a comfortable and upright posture. If you don’t wish to sit on the floor, we also have padded chairs available. If you have a cushion or bench of your own that you find most comfortable for you, you’re always welcome to bring it.

The meditation method taught in Shambhala, unlike some other traditions, does not require complete motionlessness if you are experiencing pain. You are welcome to leave the meditation hall if you need to stretch your legs, stand, or lie down; please do not leave or enter during chants.


Is it all silent sitting? Is there guided meditation?

Sunday Public Sitting (9:30 – 11 am) alternates 20 minutes of sitting meditation with 10 minutes of walking meditation, for a total of 90 minutes. Morning chants begin the session, starting at 9:30. The second 20-minute sitting period includes a brief reading. You are free to come and go at any time, except during the chants.

Wednesday Public Sitting (7 – 7:30 pm) is 30 minutes of sitting. Sitting is followed by evening chants.

Heart of Recovery (Tuesday at 7 pm) can run 60-90 minutes depending on the group attending, and includes about 20 minutes of sitting as well as a reading and opportunities to share without cross-talk.

All sitting meditation is silent. Public Sittings do not include guided meditations. The practice done at our Public Sittings is shamatha (mindfulness meditation), and instruction in this technique is available before sitting begins. Sunday morning Public Sitting includes a brief session of tonglen for those who have received instruction in that practice; please ask a meditation instructor for more information. The chants at the beginning or end of sitting are always optional.


Do you have activities for kids? Can I bring my kids to meditate?

At this time, we don’t have activities geared toward kids, or a designated place in our Center for children.

There is no age limit for Public Sitting, so children who have the temperament to do the silent sitting practice with us are welcome to join us in the meditation hall.


Can I come in at any time? Can I call?

Our Center is only staffed during Public Sittings, Heart of Recovery, Open House, and certain other scheduled events. We don’t have regular office hours or office staff. This is also why we don’t have a phone number for the Center; we don’t have someone regularly available to answer the phone.

If you wish to reach us outside of our normal sitting schedule, please email us. If you want to discuss your questions on the phone, please email us and let us know what kind of information you’re looking for; then we can contact the relevant person at the Center to answer your questions and call you back.


Do I need to be Buddhist?

Shambhala has its roots in Tibetan Buddhism but is a secular tradition. Buddhists are welcome, as are those from any other faith or belief system. There is no requirement to be or to become a Buddhist to get involved with Shambhala.

For those who are interested in Buddhism, we do offer additional classes that introduce teachings from Buddhism, and every few years we offer Refuge Vows. Please see our calendar of events for more information about what we currently have on the schedule.


What else should I expect when I visit?

There are some points of decorum for the meditation hall:

  • In general, maintain a silent environment in the meditation hall before and during sitting meditation. Exceptions include announcements and discussion groups.
  • When entering the meditation hall, stand at your seat until the umdze (meditation leader) sits down.
  • If you need to shift or stretch your legs, it’s best not to stretch them in the direction of the shrine except momentarily.
  • Place chant books on a cushion rather than on the floor.
  • Shoes are not normally worn in the meditation hall.
  • Please silence cell phones and other electronic devices.

 

Bowing
Many people bow on entering the meditation hall. Bowing is a simple way of being mindful and acknowledging each other. Bowing is never required.

Chants
It is not required to participate in chants. If you wish to skip the Sunday morning chants at 9:30 am, you may arrive at 10 am. If you wish to skip the Wednesday evening chants, you may leave the meditation room after the 30-minute sitting and before the chants begin. If you do wish to chant or to read along with the chants, make sure to pick up a chant book from the rack before entering the meditation hall. If you have questions about the chants, feel free to ask any of our meditation instructors or guides.


Please email us with any other questions you have. We hope to see you at the Phoenix Shambhala Meditation Center!