Roaming Zen

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!

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On top of Kite Hill

I knew I had forgotten one part of my preparation when I was sending out email invitations earlier in the week!


When I stroll around in the city
I vow with all beings
To notice how lichen and grasses
Never give up in despair – Robert Aitken

The next roam is mostly on the leeward side of the big hills, just in case there is fog. We will meet at the base of the big rainbow flag at Castro and Market, at 1:30 on Saturday 22nd, and head towards Kite Hill and Tank Hill for views in every direction. For the young at heart, there will also be an opportunity to take to the slides.

These are the dates for the rest of the summer:
August 20th
September 9th and 24th (this one may involve bicycles)

There are still a handful of new routes I want to try, and several I want to repeat; there is also another one-way roam I am contemplating.

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Along the Golden Gate from the Land’s End trail, which featured in the solstice roam.

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The view north from Twin Peaks, which we climbed on May 21st.

IMG_0467.JPGEveryone spread along Marshall’s beach for an ocean-side sit at the roam on March 11th.

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 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 a year ago 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.
I have been very happy with how the first two seasons have unfolded. There are so many little corners of San Francisco that lend themselves to the activity, surrounded by beauty, views, and sometimes quiet. We have discovered 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.

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

I want 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.

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