Getting Started at Windhorse
First step: If you’re interested in trying out the practice at Windhorse, simply send an email and/or give us a call (contact info below). We’ll schedule your first sitting at the center in Alexander, NC, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Asheville. We ask everyone, whatever their background in meditation, to go through a basic orientation, which takes about 45 minutes.
The best time for new people to attend an orientation is usually on Sunday morning at 8:45, before the 9:30-11:30 program of zazen meditation, chanting, dharma talk and general discussion. If Sunday doesn’t work for you, we can arrange to meet on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. The evening sittings begin at 7:00 pm, so an orientation would need to start by 6:15.
Directions: Most people now use GPS to find their way, but if you need directions, feel free to call us at any point. We need a new Windhorse sign, but in the meantime please note: GPS directions may tell you to turn off of Panther Branch Rd onto Sunberry Drive -- but that’s one driveway down the hill from the entrance to Windhorse.
Arriving and parking: After turning onto the Windhorse driveway at 580 Panther Branch Road, find a place on the right side of the driveway to park your car more or less perpendicular to the driveway. Then come up the main walk to the front (reddish) door of the house. Please remove shoes and place on rack to left of doorway. Then simply enter: no need to knock -- someone will meet you in the foyer.
Clothing protocols: Please wear clothing that is reasonably modest, loose-fitting (jeans not recommended), and subdued in color, free of distracting words or patterns. Also, we have brown sitting robes people may borrow if they wish, but outside of sesshin no one is required to wear a robe.
Cushions and mats: We have many sitting cushions at the center, as well as benches and chairs. You are also welcome to bring your own cushions -- ideally black or brown, if possible, to blend in.
Cost: Although there is no specific charge for these orientations, we depend on and are grateful for all donations (dana). No one at Windhorse receives a salary -- all contributions go toward dharma activities, maintenance of facilities, and teacher support.
Introductory workshops: Periodically we offer a full Saturday workshop at the center, which is really the best way to start one’s practice. These workshops give a far more comprehensive introduction to Zen: its background, teachings and practice, as well as more in-depth help with zazen postures, both sitting and walking. Since these workshops occur only a few times in the year, however, we offer these much briefer orientations during the week, to give people the chance to get started without going through a long waiting period.
Windhorse activities: Our schedule includes daily meditation, chanting, retreats, workshops, ceremonies and other sangha events. Residential training of shorter or longer periods is also available for those interested in immersing themselves more fully in an integrated form of practice.
A final suggestion: Anyone interested in practicing at Windhorse might want to take a look at The Three Pillars of Zen, by Roshi Philip Kapleau, who was Lawson and Sunya’s Zen teacher for decades. Most libraries have at least one copy available.