Monday, 27 March 2023

Last meeting at the Quaker House

This morning I sent an email to the Northampton Quakers to tell them that we'll be moving in April to a new venue, and to send my thanks and the thanks of the group for all they have done to support us and so many other small community groups in Northampton town.

We met for the first time at the Quaker House on Monday 4 July 2011 - the day after the first post on this blog! - almost 11 years and 9 months ago. It seems like a lifetime ago! I remember how nervous I was that first evening that no-one would come, but also determined that even if no-one came I'd continue to sit there and maintain the space all on my own for as long as I could afford it.

It turns out, I needn't have worried! I don't remember exactly, but there were at least three or four other people that evening, and while we've never exactly drawn the crowds, we've maintained a steady group over the whole period. We've practised together nearly every single week ever since that first meeting, with only occasional breaks for retreats, the odd summer or winter break (not often!) and of course the pandemic.

So many people have been through the doors - many finding out straight away that Zen wasn't for them! - and to each and every one of you, no matter how many times you came, I want to pass on my gratitude for the energy, curiosity and friendship that has been put into this enterprise. 

The work of sitting together to express our true natures continues! We are sitting from now on in a different venue, and one that in many ways fits our physical needs better than the Emmeline Davis room at the Quaker House, but our time with the Quakers will always be part of the history of this group and of the wider StoneWater Zen sangha.

We end our time with one final sit and service this Wednesday at the usual time in the usual place, and you're all invited to join us. We'll express our gratitude to those who have made this possible, the Quakers and their community, by "dedicating the merits" of this service to them.

From April, we meet on Mondays at 7.30 at the Warrior Quest Dojo at 6 Fish Street, and a new chapter begins.

With a deep bow!


The Emmeline Davis room set 
up for Zazen in January 2012

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Not many Zen neighbours...!
I posted something to a Zen group on Facebook the other day using this image of a Google map of UK & Irish Zen groups that I helped develop a while ago.

I took a closer look at the map today, and realised that SWZ Northampton isn't really at the centre of a hotbed of Zen activity in the UK!

As far as I can tell, the closest Zen group to us is in Oxford, 35 miles (57km) away as the crow flies. It's a shame, would be nice to have some Zenny neighbours!

For now, though, we're it as far as I can tell - so join us to learn about and practice Zen meditation in an authentic lineage right here in good ole Shoetown.

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

New Venue - our trial at Warrior Quest dojo

Starting this week, and for the next three weeks (i.e. 14, 21 & 28 March), we are sitting on Monday evenings on an experimental basis at Warrior Quest dojo on Fish Street in the town centre. Very happy for anyone to come and join us whether you've sat with us before, or are completely new to Zen.

We meet at 7.15 outside the dojo (see photo below for exact location), and the sessions run from 7.30 to 9.30 including tea and a chat/reading on a Zen topic.

Note that our usual Wednesdays continue as usual.

This week, Valentina shared some images and even one short video to give you a flavour of the place... scroll on...

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Zen and Relationships - According to our new overlords!

 Out of curiosity this evening, I asked the occasionally scary and occasionally uncanny ChatGPT AI bot to write a blog post about Zen Buddhism and relationships. Here's what it came up with...

Zen Buddhism is a spiritual practice that originated in China and spread throughout East Asia, including Japan, where it has had a significant impact on culture, including the way people approach relationships.

At its core, Zen Buddhism emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things and encourages individuals to develop a deep sense of compassion and understanding for others. These teachings can be applied to relationships in several ways, including how to approach conflict, how to communicate, and how to cultivate a sense of intimacy with others.

One of the fundamental teachings of Zen Buddhism is the concept of non-attachment. This principle encourages individuals to let go of their attachments to material possessions and desires, and to live in the present moment. This can be applied to relationships by encouraging individuals to focus on the present moment with their partner, rather than being preoccupied with the past or the future.

In addition, Zen Buddhism emphasizes the practice of mindfulness, which involves paying attention to one's thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present moment. This practice can help individuals to be more aware of their emotions and how they are affecting their relationships. For example, if someone is feeling angry or frustrated with their partner, they may be more likely to act out of these emotions if they are not aware of them. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can become more aware of their emotions and choose how to respond in a more constructive way.

Another key principle of Zen Buddhism is the concept of "mu-shin," which translates to "no mind" or "empty mind." This principle encourages individuals to let go of their preconceptions and judgments and to approach situations with an open mind. This can be applied to relationships by encouraging individuals to approach their partner without judgment and to be open to their thoughts and feelings.

Overall, the teachings of Zen Buddhism can be a valuable resource for individuals looking to cultivate healthy relationships. By emphasizing the importance of non-attachment, mindfulness, and an open mind, Zen Buddhism can help individuals to develop a deeper sense of compassion and understanding for others, which can lead to more fulfilling relationships.

I'm not going to respond about this yet - going to let it sink in a bit and figure out how I feel about it. Might come back in a few days with some follow-up thoughts to this lesson from ChatGPT Roshi! 

Monday, 19 December 2022

Xmas closing 2022

Just a quick note to say that we'll only be closed for the week between Xmas and New Year this year (so no Zen on Weds 28 December). We're meeting this week as usual, and again on Weds 4 January.

Note that from Weds 11 January we're running our introductory course on Wednesday evenings (goes for four weeks), so there'll be less sitting and more teaching for those weeks.

Merry, merry!

A laughing buddha wearing a Xmas hat

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Finding Stillness & Stability: An Introduction to Zen Meditation

 I'm very happy to announce that we will be running an introduction to Zen meditation in the New Year called "Finding Stillness & Stability". This will run for four weeks on our regular Wednesday evenings, from Jan 11th to Feb 1st. 

More details can be found at, and flyers are being distributed around town and around social media - you can download one for yourself by clicking the link below:

Intro Course Flyer

You can also download and share this image:

Intro course social media image

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Happy Rohatsu!

All the best for the coming year - on Rohatsu, or Bodhi Day, we celebrate the Buddha's enlightenment, and we aspire to emulate his determination in sitting under the Bodhi tree until he came to his realisation. May you and your friends and families have a year touched by wisdom and compassion! 

Image of the Buddha seeing the morning star as he is enlightened