Roaming Zen

 Walking meditation means to enjoy walking without any intention to arrive
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Land's End with bridge.jpg

Off the top of my head, I thought there were three labyrinths in the city; if you look it up – depending on where you look – there are six or seven. We have visited a couple of these on our roams, and we will be making a return visit to the Mile Rock labyrinth in the next one (I may try to incorporate others into routes this winter), on our way to Land’s End.

There are also several beautiful tiled staircases around San Francisco, and we will be starting this roam at one of the less Instagrammed ones, the Lincoln Park Steps, which you can find at the very end of California St, just past 32th Ave. Be there at 2pm on Sunday 19th. This one is mostly unpaved and more or less flat, with a long flight of stairs down to Mile Rock. Seems to be pretty hit and miss with the fog at the moment – we got pretty lucky on Mount Sutro last time out – but bring layers anyway. And water, and snacks.

The remaining roam before I head to England will be September 1st: I am very tempted to incorporate the new Transbay terminal garden into a downtown/Mission Bay roam, depending on how it looks – I will be checking it out on the open day on the 11th.

After that, with the onset of winter, planning will be more short-term.

These roams are offered by donation; they are one way I try to be able to afford to continue living in San Francisco! Thank you for your generosity in supporting Roaming Zen.

The Airbnb version is also active again. This version has a set route, and a set cost, of which Airbnb takes a chunk.

If you are in England, I hope to incorporate a roam into my weekend at Hebden Bridge again, so most likely Sunday 16th September.

Climbing Strawberry HillClimbing Strawberry Hill.

Mt Sutro woods 5 copy
A trail up the side of Mount Sutro

Part of the Lobos Creek trail – a real favourite of mine.

Grand View is aptly named.

This photo is from the first roam up Mount Davidson. 

Batteries to Bluffs
We have visited Marshall’s Beach a couple of times now, and one of the participants sent a picture of me sitting at the beach last year.

On the crags
Sitting on the crags by Heptonstall in the first English roam.

Land's End
Along the Golden Gate from the Land’s End trail.


The genesis for Roaming Zen was perhaps my shuso practice period at Tassajara, where I noticed that I derived as much energy from being on the trails or up the road, among the trees and by the creek, as I did from the hours in the zendo. It was perhaps crystallised by a visit to Tassajara with a group from Young Urban Zen a year or two later: after the days of work, a group of us set off for a hike along the Horse Pasture trail, and at one stage, hearing all the talk of people’s pre-occupations and mundane affairs, someone in the group asked if we could all hike in silence for a while and properly take in the surroundings. Afterwards, the agreed verdict was that the silence had transformed the hike.
And so, having tried versions of it at City Center, Green Gulch and Tassajara, one of my main teachings since leaving Zen Center has been to gather a small group of people, sit with them, introduce a little quote or theme, and lead them around a chosen route, cultivating mindful presence through walking and sitting quietly in the midst of city life.
There are so many little corners of San Francisco that lend themselves to the activity, surrounded by beauty, views, and sometimes quiet. We have visited hills and canyons, creeks and beaches, staircases and alleys; we have listened to birds and waves, watched butterflies and bees, smelled flowers and ocean spray. We have looked over all sides of San Francisco and to the mountains beyond.

The lost art of writing
Corona Heights

I doubt many people reading this need much persuasion about the benefits of hiking, but this article lists some of them.

I like to give some credit to OpenStreetMap, for featuring much more detail in paths and trails than I ever get from Apple Maps or Google Maps – I would not have found some of these routes without it.

I also have been taking great pleasure from the historic photographs at Open SF History, seeing how things looked around the places we roam in the city a hundred or so years ago.

If we go somewhere on foot, we know the way perfectly, whereas if we go by motor car or airplane we are hardly there at all, it becomes merely a dream – Chögyam Trungpa

I couldn’t ask for a better quote to sum up Roaming Zen!