For Beginners

Welcome to Insight Santa Cruz

Orientation for people new to this center

Insight Santa Cruz is envisioned as a place of refuge, providing an environment that is welcoming and peaceful for all who come to practice. ISC offers many programs and opportunities. You are welcome to participate at any level of involvement.

Creating and participating in a culture of mindfulness is an important part of meditation practice and of being in community together. This document is intended to provide orientation to the way of doing things at ISC.

Beginner Meditation Class

Several times per year, Insight Santa Cruz offers a 6-week Beginner Class to introduce the main practices of Insight, or Mindfulness, meditation. Please check the main Calendar of Events to find out about the next class.

How does ISC work?

Insight Santa Cruz is a Buddhist community based in the Theravada tradition. It is led by a Guiding Teacher in association with other community teachers. Events are taught by these teachers, senior students, and outside guest teachers, as indicated on the schedule. There is a Board of Directors and a robust volunteer organization that manages the center. We are all volunteers

No Cost & No Registration

There is no cost or required donation for our programs. At the same time, we are grateful for any donations. Two kinds of donations can be offered, using the labeled baskets in the foyer:

  • “For the Teacher”: This is for the person teaching the program when the donation is made.
  • “For the Community”: This is for the center’s operational expenses.
  • Please write any checks to “Insight Santa Cruz” and put a note in the memo whether it is for the teacher or for the community.

Most of our programs do not require registration. The few events that require it will be clearly marked on our website.

Volunteer Opener and Closer of Sittings and other Events

This volunteer is usually the person who sets up the hall for a sitting meditation or an event. She or he would be happy to answer questions you may have about ISC or about participating in our programs.

What to Know about Coming to the Center

Here is some of the commonly shared etiquette that supports a culture of mindfulness.


It is important to be mindful about parking near ISC. Please park in regular spaces and only up to two hours at the Trader Joe’s parking lot. They will tow your car if it is over two hours.
You can also park for an extended time at the River and Front Street Garage.
Please allow extra time to find parking, so that you will not be late to the sit.


  • Please leave your shoes in the shoe rack outside the entrance.
  • Please keep your valuables with you.
  • Please only bring water – in a secure container – into the meditation hall. No tea or other drinks.
  • When you come in, you are welcome to find a seat on the meditation cushions on the floor or in a chair. Additional cushions, pillows, and blankets are found in racks at the back of the meditation hall.

Arriving Late: While we prefer that people not come late to our events, we recognize that people have many responsibilities, and want people to feel comfortable about arriving late if necessary. If coming late for meditation:

  • Enter quietly and settle in without making adjustments (getting extra pillows, etc) until the end of the meditation session.

There are bathrooms located inside the center and outside. When there is an event happening in both the Meditation Hall and Community Room, please use the bathrooms assigned for each room. You will need a key to unlock the outside bathrooms, this is located within ISC.

There are flyers about events and programs on the table just inside the entrance.


Please silence all cell phones, pagers, and other such devices while at ISC. These communication activities can be disturbing in a quiet atmosphere. If you need to use your device, please go outside to do so.


Please do not wear scented products at the center, including lotions, perfumes, and aftershave. This is out of respect for those with sensitivities and allergies.


Many people who participate at ISC bow at the end of meditation and at the end of a talk. Most commonly this is an expression of appreciation and gratitude. This bowing is not required.


Since we have no custodial staff, we rely on each person in our community to keep ISC clean and orderly. Please leave the center at least as neat as you found it. This may mean:

  • Brushing off your mat and plumping your cushion after a sitting
  • Picking up any litter from the common spaces
  • Washing your cup

There are also opportunities to clean the center more thoroughly with other practitioners at the end of some events. These can all be expressions of mindfulness and generosity to those who share this space with you.


ISC also has a library. You are welcome to sign out books.

The Five Precepts

A significant aspect of Buddhist practice is sila, the Pali word for ethical conduct. We practice choosing actions that are not harmful to oneself or others. The Five Precepts address different areas where we can practice avoiding harmful actions and engaging in compassionate actions.

We encourage observing the Five Precepts while at ISC in order to support a safe and harmonious environment:

  1. To refrain from killing living creatures. (Some people also add: to practice compassionate action),
  2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (and to practice generosity),
  3. To refrain from using sexual energies unwisely or uncaringly (and to practice responsibility in all relationships),
  4. To refrain from harmful speech (and to practice kind speech)
  5. To refrain from the misuse of alcohol and drugs (and to practice caring for the body and mind).

Further information

Flyers for ongoing and special events are located on the table just inside the door. Our website is, where you can find information about programs and teachers, sign up for email reminders, and learn more about our organization.

Recordings of some of the talks given at ISC can be found on this page:

Volunteering: Once a person is familiar with ISC and is known in the community, it may be of interest to volunteer. There is a section on the website about this, or you may speak with someone who is already volunteering.