We stayed at San Francisco Zen Center! Buddhist temple guest rooms, garden, meditation classes.
Yukiro and I wanted our San Francisco journey to be rejuvenating. A time to regroup with friends and chill out. With these goals in mind, we did something I’ve dreamed about for a long time… and went on a mini-retreat at the San Francisco Zen Center.
Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem.
In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. He spoke English, and encouraged people from all walks of life to sit zazen with him. As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements.
Suzuki-san established the Beginner’s Mind Temple (Hosshin-ji) in 1969. We stayed at the current location of this “City Center” (308 Page St at Laguna). The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice.
The historic building carries a genuine, natural sense of calmness. The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha.
A shadow of a monk on a scroll: so simple and beautiful. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter.
You can imagine what a joy it was, to make this our home! The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation. These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.
As you can see from these posters, the SF Zen Center welcomes diversity. There is a regular “Queer Dharma” for LGBT practitioners, and their website states, “People of every race, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability — all are welcome.”
We felt perfectly comfortable staying here: there are no curfews or restrictions. Our rooms had Wi-Fi Internet, along with Buddha statues, Yogi tea and lavender soap.
Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice. All guests are welcome to attend classes, dharma talks, and ceremonies. You can see upcoming listings in their events calendar.
Our favorite part of the San Francisco Zen Center was the courtyard garden.
I’m wearing a vintage Japanese robe (it’s been in my family for years), Liz Lisa dress, and white sandals c/o Y-R-U.
Such relief to slow down, breathe and appreciate nature.
The garden is filled with hidden Buddhas. Look closely, and altars will appear.
If you want to stay longer, SFZC offers a two-year Work Practice Apprenticeship program for Zen students, “to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.”
One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote, “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
He taught, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” Now that is food for thought…
The City Center has a bookstore, where you find Buddhist works including Suzuki Roshi’s well-loved book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
The SFZC Zen Center is a very special place, and part of San Francisco history. I’m grateful we spent time here, as I’ve always wanted to do a temple stay. I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery.
Sending you loving-kindness. I’ll soon be exploring more Buddhist environments… stay tuned for the announcement of a major Asia trip.
Are you familiar with Buddhist teachings? If you’re curious, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a wonderful book for getting acquainted. After all, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”
Or as my Scottish Fold Zen Master would say, “Mmm mmm mmm!” (I found him this cat crossing sign at a Pier 39 pet gifts store.)