Roaming Zen

Pictures from the Golden Gate Park roam on February 15th – the magnolias in the Botanical Garden were drawing a crowd, but they were by no means the only things in bloom during this warm, dry month:

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Next up on the list will probably be a visit to Crissy Field and the northern edge of the Presidio; I also have in mind a more mutli-modal roam to visit various labyrinths. Stay tuned!

DSCF2143.jpgLooking across to Angel Island from Crissy Field.

DSCF2142.jpgThe view downtown from Crissy Field.


If you need some prompts as to the benefits of roaming, here are a trio of articles from the Guardian: 
Two-hour ‘dose’ of nature significantly boosts health – study
Woodland sounds help relaxation more than meditation apps – study
Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness

All of which is achievable without leaving the city limits!

And this from the New Yorker:

A small but growing collection of studies suggests that spending time in green spaces—gardens, parks, forests—can rejuvenate the mental resources that man-made environments deplete. Psychologists have learned that attention is a limited resource that continually drains throughout the day. A crowded intersection—rife with pedestrians, cars, and billboards—bats our attention around. In contrast, walking past a pond in a park allows our mind to drift casually from one sensory experience to another, from wrinkling water to rustling reeds.


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.

IMG_1783.jpgAcross to Twin Praks and the Sutro Tower from Bernal Heights.


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DSCF2807 (1)The Harry Street steps.

DSCF9002This may be the most peaceful spot in the old part of the city.

DSCF8353.jpgThe Florida Alley trail, aka the Sutro Ravine Trail, aka Bedpan Alley.

IMG_0652A trail up the side of Mount Davidson.

IMG_1625.jpgA trail in the Presidio.

IMG_0248.jpgLooking over to the Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks from the top of Mount Davidson.

The lost art of writingCorona Heights.

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

DSCF1706.jpgLand’s End, having completed the Crosstown 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.

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.

27 Tassajara.jpgLeading the way along the Horse Pasture Trail near Tassajara, summer 2019. Photo courtesy of April Nemeth.

IMG_20191026_130458.jpgLeading the way up the Smelter Trail at Wilbur in October. Photo courtesy of Laura Della Guardia.