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The Heart of Zen Meditation Group

Heart of Zen

Heart of Zen Group

The profound benefits of meditation are well known, from stress reduction and peace of mind to an increase in concentration, mental agility, creativity, and kindness. 

Our group is dedicated to making the core practice of Zen, namely meditating in silence and stillness, available to all, regardless of religious affiliation or secular orientation. While this practice is traditionally understood as a means of awakening and cultivating the twin Buddhist virtues of wisdom and compassion, participants are more than welcome to interpret the practice and these virtues in terms of their own faith or worldview.

The group meets year-round, usually on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm in Fava Chapel, located in Hammerman House up the hill from the library. Study sessions, special events, and retreats are periodically also offered. If you are interested in participating, see the information at the bottom of this page.
At our weekly meetings we meditate in silence, generally with two 25 minute sitting periods and a short walking meditation in between. At the end of each meeting we take time for questions and discussion and sometimes a brief talk. Meditation cushions are provided, and participants may sit either on the floor or on one of the benches along the wall. Instructions for Zen (and sometimes other) methods of meditation are offered.

Heart of Zen MeditationThe Heart of Zen Meditation Group is directed by Dr. Bret W. Davis, Professor & Higgins Chair in Philosophy. In 2010, after having practiced Zen for two decades, including more than a dozen years in Japan, Prof. Davis was authorized to teach and direct a Zen center by Kobayashi Gentoku Rōshi, abbot of Shōkokuji Rinzai Zen monastery in Kyoto, Japan. In 2023, after having continued his formal training in Japan during sabbaticals as well as summer and winter breaks for over a dozen more years, Prof. Davis completed the entire koan curriculum and received from Kobayashi Rōshi Dharma transmission and the "seal of verification" (inka shōmei) as a Rinzai Zen master. He is one of the only Westerners to have attained this recognition at a monastery in Japan.

The Group periodically hosts visits by guest teachers, including Kobayashi Rōshi, who is often accompanied by instructors of Japanese spiritual and artistic "ways" such as the Tea or Incense Ceremony.

The Group is co-sponsored by Campus Ministry and the Philosophy Department of Loyola University Maryland. Its establishment in 2005 was inspired by the late Father Greg Hartley and the Zen meditation group he led for many years at Loyola.

Professors at Loyola are welcome to consider using The Heart of Zen Meditation Group as a vehicle for class-related experiential education. Dr. Drew Leder, Dr. Jessica Locke and Dr. Davis regularly offer students the option of participating in the Meditation Group as a component of their courses in Asian and comparative philosophy. Several other Loyola faculty also regularly participate in the Group, including Dr. Ethan Duckworth, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who assists with its administration.

General orientation sessions are given at the beginning of each semester. Newcomers are also welcome to join the group at any time, provided they make an appointment to receive a brief orientation prior to their first day of participation.

If you are interested in participating or have questions, please contact Dr. Davis at or Dr. Duckworth at Priority is given to Loyola students, faculty, and staff. On a limited basis, the participation of non-Loyola-affiliated persons may also be possible. Non-Loyola-affiliated persons are requested to provide an informative self-introduction in their initial email and a follow-up interview may be requested.

If you are interested in learning about Zen, you may want to read Dr. Davis's book, Zen Pathways: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of Zen Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2022), or watch his lecture series, Real Zen for Real Life (Great Courses, 2020), also available as an audiobook on Audible.