No talking in class

The third floor hall in the College of Arts and Sciences Building is quiet on Thursday evenings. If speaking is necessary it is whispered. Students kneel on round pillows, face the wall and remain silent.

Welcome to Zen Sitting 194.

The Department of Languages is offering a one- credit Zen Sitting class for fall semester 2001 and spring semester 2002. The Rev. Tozen Akiyama teaches the class. Akiyama was ordained in 1974 at the Soto Zen School in Japan.

What is the goal of the class?

“Nothing,” Akiyama said. “We have too many goals in life.”

Seventeen people are enrolled in the class that consists of 30 minutes of sitting, 10 minutes of walking followed by another 30 minutes of sitting.

Akiyama moves silently around the students checking posture. The 10-minute walking breaks not only allow for stretching, but also to work on standing posture, control breathing and calm thought processes.

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A few short essays on Zen sitting, or Zazen, and Zen walking, or Kinhin, along with Zen in daily life are the only required assignments.

“I'm taking the course to get an appreciation of another type of culture and people,” said Bill Stahlin, a third year student studying human services.

“I'm enjoying myself, taking a few classes,” he said. “This is very interesting so far.”