Roaming Zen

Batteries to Bluffs
We also visited Marshall’s Beach in March of last year, and one of the participants sent a picture of me sitting at the beach.

The most recent roam was on a wintry (by Bay Area standards!) afternoon, through the Presidio woods, and the National Military Cemetery, ending up down at Marshall’s Beach, which is always a delight.

The next one will be on the first weekend in February, if the weather is good, and will most likely take in the eastern half of the Presidio, perhaps a loop of the four Andy Goldsworthy art pieces.

These roams are always offered by donation.

Ocean Beach January that time
This picture was taken at Ocean Beach on a January day a couple of years ago, and a print of it hung above my bed for some time…

The weather was not quite as bright as the photo for the New Year’s Day roam on Ocean Beach, but it was a warm and gorgeous afternoon nonetheless, and the tide was low enough for us to be able to walk around on the sand from the north end of the beach to the Sutro Baths, which I have never done before. And then head up to Sutro Heights where we got a better view of the sand mandalas that were being created.


Looking down Sanchez
Looking down Sanchez from Liberty Hill, as roamed in early December.

Twin Peaks
The view north from Twin Peaks, which we climbed in May and November – the latter time a perfect autumn afternoon.

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

Heron's Head
The view from Heron’s Head, visited during the bicycle roam on September 23rd.

Kite Hill
On top of Kite Hill, visited in July.

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

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.
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.

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 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.

Grand View
The aptly named Grand View Park


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!