Roaming Zen

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

An old picture of Goldsworthy’s Wood Line – the first of four installations we will visit.

Hopefully the current bouts of rain will have moved on by Saturday, and we can have clear skies and dry ground for the next roam, which will be a loop of the Presidio to take in four pieces by Andy Goldsworthy.

We will meet in front of the Presidio Cafe building, just in from the Arguello Gate, and officially on Finley Road, at 2pm on Saturday 25th.

Bring the usual: good shoes, water, snacks, and layers to deal with any vagaries of the weather. Much of the route is on soft trails, and there is some climbing involved. Please be punctual.


After that, since I will be at Tassajara offering my mountain roaming retreat at the beginning of June, the next plausible date is June 23rd – which would make for a midsummer roam, so perhaps starting later to catch the sunset somewhere auspicious.


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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DSCF2800.jpgThe wonderful view downtown from Billy Goat Hill

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

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Grand View is aptly named.

Sitting on the crags by Heptonstall during the second English roam in September.

Mt Sutro woods 5 copyA trail up the side of Mount Sutro.

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

The lost art of writingCorona Heights.

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.

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.

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!