a space for pondering: sundays at green gulch (marin county, ca)

When I started this blog, I wanted to talk about so many different things – not just food.  This entry is a departure from my many recipe posts as of late – it’s also part of life here in San Francisco that I’d like to share.  If you had told me 12 years ago I’d be meditating in a Buddhist temple in Marin, I’d have told you to “get away from me, hippie”, but nowadays, apparently the response is “sure, why not?”.  

A while back, I was going through an internal crisis and trying to prevent myself from wallowing in misery, so I asked all my friends via Facebook where they go when they need to escape from it all and just think.  One of my friends mentioned the Sunday morning program at the SF Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm at Muir Beach. I grew up in a devoutly Christian family, and I felt a little weird about hanging out at a Buddhist temple on a Sunday morning, but I figured that meditation and praying (regardless of who you’re praying to) can happen just about anywhere, so I was game.

Enlisting the aid of  Tessa (a fellow yogi who had been to Green Gulch before), we got an early start on Sunday morning and crossed over the Golden Gate towards our quest for enlightenment.  We arrived with plenty of spare time, so we took a walk around the gardens.  Green Gulch grows organic vegetables as part of a Zen apprenticeship program, so they also had rows and rows of crops amid manicured trees, flowers, and sitting spaces.

At 8:15 am, we were lead into the Green Dragon Temple and given a brief introduction to zazen (meditation practice).  We sat on cushions, facing the wall, and did a ten minute meditation, then had a break before the regular public meditation session was to begin.

The public meditation session was quite full.  Stillness has never been easy for me (seriously, ask my mother).    I have a serious tendency to look around, but selecting a seat that gave me only a view of the white wall was what I needed to force myself into concentration mode.  I find that ten minutes is just about the limit of my ability to be still – then I start noticing that my foot is numb, or that I’m actually freezing cold (just a tip: wear socks and layer up, as the temple tends to be freezing cold at 9am), or that the person next to me has a stomach that is rumbling loudly.  The meditation lasts for maybe 30-40 minutes total, but it felt longer in my head!  

After the mediation session, some people left, but a more people arrived for the Dharma lecture.  Every Sunday at 10:15am, they bring in a speaker who talks about a subject relating to Zen practice, or life in general.  They don’t really put the subject of the Dharma talk on the website, but today’s topic (touching upon realizing our own remarkableness) was uplifting and helped me to feel a little less off-kilter, and a little more amazed.  We all need reminding now and then.

Once the Dharma talk is over, everyone is invited to stay for tea and muffins ($1 donation) and check out the organic produce for sale. You can even stay for lunch (vegetarian, $8-10 donation).  Tessa and I stayed to sip our tea and enjoy the vegan muffins (which were delicious) and stand around in the sun.  I have to admit, I did feel way more Zen after the meditation session, or maybe it was just being among the trees and grass and ocean air.  I hope to return here very soon.

Sunday Morning Program at SF Zen Center Green Gulch Farm – $5-10 donation for meditation session, $8-10 donation for vegetarian lunch.  Open to the public.  Located at 1601 Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach.

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fiendishly fond of cooking, SoulCycle, Pilates, green smoothies, and Korean spas.

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