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Entering the Digital Zendo: A Guide to Online Meditation Etiquette

A cognac colored zafu sits to the right on top of an earth-toned berber style carpet. A green varigated plant in the theleft foreground.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, many ways in which we typically went about our daily lives changed. We worked online, attended meetings online, even had social gatherings online. More traditional practices also found their way into the online realm, and Zen meditation, or Zazen, is no exception. With the rise of virtual meditation communities and online zendo sessions, practitioners around the world have the opportunity to come together at the same time to practice together, and find community in a digital space. 

Rising Lotus Sangha began in 2021. It was planned as an online space dedicated to being accessible to everyone. Just as in a physical Zendo, some Zen etiquette is important to preserve the sacredness and harmony of the practice environment. In this post, online mediitation group best practices will be outlined to help ensure a meaningful experience for all participants.

Arrival and Preparation

  • Sign Up on our website to receive the Zoom link 30-60 minutes before sitting group,

  • Arrive early: Just as you would arrive a few minutes before the start of a physical Zazen session, join the online Zendo a few minutes early to settle in and prepare yourself. Note* Whereas many physical zen centers do not allow water or tea in the Zendo for meditation groups, Rising Lotus Sangha encourages you to have water or tea with you if needed.  

  • Dress appropriately: Even though you are participating from the comfort of your own space, remember you are entering a zendo. Please, no sleeveless shirts. Short, three-quarter, or long sleeves are appropriate for the zendo. We also encourage you to wear muted earth-toned colors. This is so there is as little distraction as possible in the zendo, and that we honor each other as equals.

  • Set up your space: Choose a quiet, clutter-free area for meditation. If you can be undisturbed for 20 or so minutes, that’s most beneficial. We acknowledge that children (and pets) may wander in and out. If you need to attend to them you are welcome to turn your camera off, take care of the need, and return to sitting. 

  • Off-camera is ok. We’d love to meet you face-to-face, but we understand it might be hard for some to appear on camera. 

Technical Considerations

  • Test your equipment: Check your internet connection, audio, and video settings beforehand to minimize disruptions in the zendo. How to join our Zendo.

  • Mute your microphone: Say hello and bow, then mute your microphone to avoid distraction during sitting group. We generally stay and chat after sitting.  All are welcome to join.

  • Use headphones: Although not necessary, headphones or earphones help to minimize distractions and ensure clearer communication.

Engagement and Participation

  • Follow the guidance of the moderator or facilitator leading the session. They will provide instructions and maintain the flow of the zendo. 

  • Limit distractions: Phones should be on mute. Other tabs should be closed. This is your time to give full attention to your practice.

  • Be mindful of your camera: In a brick-and-mortar zendo, we sit facing the wall or facing each other. In an online zendo, it’s helpful to sit in profile to the camera during meditation.  Post-Meditation Interaction

  • After the session concludes, consider expressing gratitude silently or out loud to the moderator and fellow practitioners for their participation and support.

  • Stick around!  We invite you to stay after sitting group to meet others in the group and ask any questions you might have. 

Rising Lotus Sangha is known to be a welcoming and gentle sangha that meets people where they are in their practice and life. By taking note of these best practices, we can create a virtual space that fosters mindfulness, connection, and spiritual growth for all. Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or new to the practice, embodying respect and mindfulness in the digital zendo can enrich your meditation experience and contribute to harmony within the community.

We hope to see you soon!

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