Step 1 – Prepare A Flyer
We first find a coffee shop like Starbucks, Panera Bread, and other such places. Then we hope that the manager welcomes groups that meet weekly and has no objection to a Zen group.
Full service restaurants are not suitable venues.
After a place has been found, I find it best to print a flyer like the one below and present it to the manager. I tell him or her that the group will start slowly but will probably grow to about ten people. Once a group gets larger than that, it becomes difficult to have group discussions.
When that happens we start another group at the same place but at a different time.
Most managers read the flyer and say they’re happy to have the group meet at their place. I don’t ask for a decision on the spot. I just leave the flyer with the manager and tell him or her that I will check back in a few days.
Here is a typical flyer. Just copy it, changing the info as needed, and print it on cardstock paper.
This screenshot shows the Word settings. The print is centered on the sheet; just cut off the sides. We need only one flyer per location and it will be placed on a bulletin board that few will ever see. This is really for the manager only. The Meetup.com listing is what brings in members.
THE COUNTRYSIDE ZEN CLUB MEETS HERE
Meetings are held at this Panera Bread every Monday night from 7:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. All are welcome. This is a discussion group.
We talk about Zen practice but we don’t limit the discussion to strictly Zen practices. Theravada practices such as metta and Pure Land practices are also covered. Questions are always welcome.
Buddhists respect the teachings of the Buddha but do not worship him. Zen is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It is a set of active practices that anyone can do.
One of the central teachings of the Buddha was to avoid metaphysical discussions over religion or philosophy. The Buddha taught that religious and philosophical arguments are a waste of time.
He set out a practical, concrete path of practice that requires no belief system. He said to follow it and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, forget it. If it does, embrace it.
We look forward to seeing you here on a Monday night!
(end of flyer)
Step 2 – Go to Meetup.com
We then go to Meetup.com and form the new group. Visit www.meetup.com/clearwaterzen/ to see the meetup page I wrote in 2009. The Clear Water Zen group is a full practice center and has nearly 200 members.
A start-up sitting group can gradually develop into a full practice center if conditions are ripe. However, it is important to maintain the coffee shop meetups even after a full practice center with hundreds of members has developed; the meetups provide an entry path into the practice center and ensure that the practice center will continue to grow.
If we live in an area with an established full practice center, we can start multiple small Meetup.com sitting groups within a reasonable driving radius of the center.
If you are interested in putting up a website, we recommend WordPress. The template we use, which includes the static website and the blog, is Tempera.
We are just beginning to learn how to install a Forum for community-building purposes. The most comon Forum for WordPress is bbPress and a book on how to build community using bbpress is entitled bbPress Complete.