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Southern California is full of opportunities to learn new ways of feeling better and improving our health, from yoga hybrids to plant-based diets. Recently we decided to try radical simplicity and learn the 2,500-year-old practice of Zen meditation, something we can practice at home.

We visited the Zen Center of Los Angeles--a series of humble MidCity homes dotted around neatly trimmed grounds including a butterfly garden--for its Sunday morning class on sitting mediation, called zazen.

Our instructor wore a dignified-looking loose black robe and skipped any esoteric spiritual talk in favor of detailing the practical, physical steps of meditation. We learned proper posture (shoulders back), leg placement (full lotus, half lotus, Burmese and sitting on our heels) and even facial movement (keep eyes open, trained on a patch of floor). Our teacher suggested we count our breaths from one to ten, in order to have something to focus on when unwanted thoughts (and nagging to-do lists) intruded on our peaceful mind.

After our ten-minute practice mediation, we felt calm, a bit energized--and our legs were cramping. We?ll be practicing at home, thanks to the $38 zafu we bought at the center shop on our peaceful walk back to our car.

Zen Center of Los Angeles, 923 S. Normandie Ave.; 213-387-2351 or

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