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Our Intention

We are a group of friends on a voyage of discovery who get together every week to practice meditation, mainly following the Zen Buddhist tradition. Our practice flows from an understanding that all beings are Buddha and that to sit in meditation is in itself the realization of awakening.

We invite you to join us in this practice. We follow a simple and basic form inspired by the Soto Zen school, established by Dogen Zenji in Japan in the 13th century and transmitted to us in the West by the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, along with other contemporary teachers. The teachers whom we invite to Montaña Despierta each have their own personal style and experience, yet they all follow a style of transmission that can be described as “from warm hand to warm hand and from warm heart to warm heart”. In other words, this is a style characterized by a spirit of cordiality, wisdom, inclusion and compassion. By placing our mind and our heart in this precise moment, we can open ourselves up to the totality of human experience and bring more depth and spontaneity to our lives and to the entire world. Our tradition emphasizes the daily practice of sitting meditation (zazen), as well as integration between the formal practice (attending retreats) and everyday life. The spirit of our practice can be summed up in the phrase: “Realize your self, help others.”

We have discovered that this practice strengthens and supports the spiritual life of people from diverse religious backgrounds. We do not aim to change anyone´s religion. We welcome all who are interested in meditation practice, whether they are beginners or experienced meditators. We will be happy to offer basic meditation instructions and a general orientation for the practice.

We are happy to announce that in January 2014 we were officially invited to become part of San Francisco Zen Center Branching Streams Affiliate Sangha Network. 

Affirmation of Welcome

Inspired by the code of ethics of the San Francisco Zen Center and other like-minded groups, we travel the human path expressing our intimate connection with all beings. The source of our sense of wonder is the mystery and vastness of human experience. Here, at Montaña Despierta, we welcome diversity and thus offer the opportunity to practice meditation to all people, regardless of race, nationality, social class, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, intellectual makeup, age or physical ability. May all beings realize their true nature.

What is Zen-Inspired Meditation?

The Sixth Patriarch of Zen in China, Huineng, once came across a novice monk, Nanyue Huairang, and asked him, “Where do you come from?” The latter replied, “From the monastery of Master Hui An in Song Shan.” The Patriarch asked, “What is it that thus comes and how did it get here?” The novice was left speechless. One day, eight years later, he suddenly attained what could be called a kind of spiritual awakening. He then returned to see the Patriarch and told him, “I have experienced a certain awakening.” The Patriarch once again asked, “What is it?” Nanyue replied: “To say that it is something would be to lose its essence.” “But can it still be practiced and experienced?”, insisted the Patriarch. “While to try to define it would be a mistake, it can still be cultivated”, responded Nanyue. The Patriarch then concluded: “This very thing that cannot be defined but can be cultivated is what all the Buddhas have actualized and protected. It is for you and also for me.”

The question “What am I?” is the same one that Buddha Shakyamuni had practiced with for six years, culminating in his great realization beneath the bodhi tree. The Buddha, Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch all asked the same question, “What am I?”, and all replied, “Don´t know.” Still, as the novice Nanyue’s answer shows, this “not-knowing” (which opens us up to amazement and the ineffable in human life) can be cultivated.

This is the way we are. We cannot define ourselves, grasp ourselves or nail ourselves down. Nothing can be held in a permanent, absolute way. And yet, this is where our strange beauty lies. What am I? What is this that appears? What is expected of us in order to truly enter this path of self-reflection and knowledge? The intimate and profound exploration of these questions has marked the essence of Zen from ancient times until now. This mind of wonder is the Zen mind, and it is this very mind that we are trying to awaken through our practice. Meditation practice helps us to “face the music” of what happens —throughout our entire life, and death—with this beginner’s mind, clear and open. The wisdom and compassion of the Buddhas and of all great spiritual masters are its natural consequence.

“There is a joy that is deeper still than the actual feeling—fleeting as all feelings are—of being happy or cheerful, and it is the joy of knowing that we are in a relationship with a practice and with the life that flows from it. In this way, even when we are feeling pain or sadness at any moment in our life, if we are able to feel that these emotions are part of the process of learning and opening up, a process that we may not completely comprehend and whose paths still seem mysterious to us, but which we trust that they will result in something good, this can lead us to the deeper joy of knowing that we are part of this living process, of being in contact in a vast and intimate way.” This is what the practice of Zen-inspired meditation is really like.


"Zazen is simply a thorough intimacy with whatever is happening."
-Tenshin Reb Anderson