Roaming Zen

IMG_3229Maybe we will get views of downtown from Twin Peaks…


‘Shundo David Haye has probably walked through more parts of San Francisco than you have.’ I’ll take that endorsement – it came from this nice article in  the SF Chronicle at the beginning of the pandemic.


Most roams take the form of a loop, coming back to the starting point; this next one will be a one-way roam. We will start in the Castro and end up one stop further along the underground MUNI at Forest Hill. Along the way, we will take in Kite Hill and Twin Peaks, and a newly restored trail section that runs behind Laguna Honda.

Meet at the base of the huge rainbow flag that flies over the Castro and Market intersection, at 1:30 on Saturday 31st. We will be doing plenty of staircases and other climbing, enjoy some closed roads, and many off-road trails, with amazing views in all directions as we go – fog permitting.

After that, August 22nd will be the next date, and the route might take in Pine Lake. Among future thoughts, I would like to trace the lake-creek-beach route again, and head back to the racetrack. Stay tuned!

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.


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The lost art of writing copyCorona Heights – the first picture I used to promote Roaming Zen.

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 highest point in the city.

DSCF2143.jpgLooking across to Angel Island from Crissy Field.

DSCF2807 (1)The Harry Street steps.

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

DSCF1706.jpgLand’s End, having completed the Crosstown Trail at the end of 2019.


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.

Or, to put a name to it, Attention Restoration Theory.

DSCF3735Stow Lake in the sun.


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 also crystalised 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 favourite things to do these days is to gather a small group of people, sit with them, maybe 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, lakes and hidden parks; 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 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, and FoundSF/OpenSF History for filling me in on what used to be in the places we visit.

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.

image2 copy.JPGCloser to home, leading a group around the Presidio.