Monday Night Meditation Calendar

Here’s the upcoming schedule for Monday nights through August. All in-person nights will also include a hybrid Zoom experience.

If you would like to schedule an individual in-person or remote meeting with one of CityZen's teachers to discuss your practice please contact:

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi:
Michelle Brandt Sensei:
Chris Bell Sensei:
Deanna Hopper Sensei:
Gary Brandt Sensei:
Suggested minimum donation for dokusan is $25.

To receive the Zoom link for Monday nights or directions to our in-person location please email:
Invite Link 
06 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Zoom) 
13 Deanna Hopper Sensei (Zoom) 
20 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (In-person)
27 Holiday (closed)

03 Chris Bell Sensei (Zoom)
10 Deanna Hopper Sensei (Zoom)
17 Michelle Brandt Sensei (In-person)
24 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (In-person)

01 Gary Brandt Sensei (In-person
08 Chris Bell Sensei (Zoom)
15 Deanna Hopper Sensei ( Zoom) 
22Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (In-person)
29 Michelle Brandt Sensei (Zoom)

05 Chris Bell Sensei (Zoom)
12 Deanna Hopper Sensei (Zoom)
19 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (In-person)
26 Gary Brandt Sensei (In-person)

Email to receive the Zoom link or directions to the in-person location.

In person Fort Bragg CA twice a month meditation evenings led by Deanna Hopper Sensei are held at Evergreen UMC at the corner of Corry and Laurel at 6:00pm. Contact: 

In person Portland OR meditation led by Rev. Chris Bell are nondenominational meditation mornings from 9:00-10:30am on the 4th Saturday of the month through Trinity Cathedral. Contact:


JANUARY 26 - February 2 2024
Full or part time attendance 
Scholarships available

St. Dorothy’s Rest
Occidental, Sonoma County

Sesshin is an ancient Zen tradition; it’s a special environment built to help you discover your own awakening. Often in your daily life, the light of your attention goes out from you into the world; during sesshin you turn the light back inward into your own heart/mind. 

We are so looking forward to meeting in person again for our Great Winter SesshinCityZen’s senior teacher, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, Roshi will be giving dharma transmission to Gary Brandt on Sunday afternoon.

We practice in a relaxed traditional form of sesshin, with lots of dharma talks and opportunity for meeting individually with the teachers. Our silent retreat is held at St. Dorothy’s Rest in Camp Meeker, with stunning views of the redwoods and rolling hills and featuring exquisitely made hearty vegetarian meals.

We wholeheartedly invite you to join us for this practice intensive.

Please contact:, for more information about accommodations and registration.

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi is a koan master in the Pacific Zen School lineage and the Founder and senior teacher at CityZen in Santa Rosa CA. With degrees in botany and law she is also a public benefit environmental attorney and law professor. She is a contributor to The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan and The Hidden Lamp, Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women.

In-person sittings with hybrid Zoom have begun in Santa Rosa!

We're very excited to announce that after an over 3-year hiatus we've resumed in-person sitting on some Monday nights in Santa Rosa and the balance of the time we'll continue to hold our meetings via Zoom. Our goal is to offer 2 in-person and 2 Zoom evenings per month. It's a beautiful space and we're very grateful for this opportunity for the renewal of our sangha in a physical location.

If you have friends you would like to invite to join us please ask them to email for details about the location,

Our Zoom evenings are and will continue to be very important to us—we will absolutely continue to offer our meditation evenings in this format. Over the Zoom years we’ve been able to include some folks who don’t live in the area or have mobility issues, which has enriched our sangha immeasurably. We will continue to offer a full evening program via Zoom.

If you would like to join the list group and receive our notices, the links to Zoom and other practice opportunities please email

If you live in Fort Bragg CA or the Portland OR area, please go to the teacher page for more information about the programs held there.

Nothing has ever been hidden. 

In W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, there's an interview with an English farmer who at one point says:

“I have always kept ducks, even as a child, and the colours of their plumage, in particular the dark green and snow white, seemed to me the only possible answer to the questions that are on my mind.”

Your right place is always just beneath your feet.
Fish don’t run out of ocean,
And birds enjoy the endless sky.
How will you be any less fortunate?

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett

Reclaiming the Fallow of the Year

adjective: fallow (of farmland) plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility.
Synonyms: uncultivated, unplowed, untilled, unplanted, unsown; unused, dormant, resting, empty, bare.

In our northern climes, before the advent of artificial sources of light, the months of winter were a long dark time. Nature too, took her rest and there wasn’t much to do on the land for our farming ancestors. Long nights and cold days meant folks got a break from the busyness of life and entered into a more timeless place. The stillness without encouraged a slowing down, uncovering a stillness within. It’s the place before the formation of ideas; before an opinion or comparison arises. It’s the place of intuition, inspiration, improvisation and creativity.

What did our ancestors do during the long dark winter months? Told stories, stoked the fire, made love, slept, painted, played music, made something simple and hearty to eat, bundled up and took walks.

Modernly, the lights are always on, figuratively and literally. We have lost something important to our well being in converting all of our time to the activities of the light.

This familiar story shows the value of emptying or losing track of the known, to restore the fertile ground.

A man went to visit a teacher to find out about Zen. While the teacher served tea, the professor talked about what he knew about Zen. The master poured the man’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.
The man watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!”
The teacher replied, “How can I show you anything unless you first empty your cup?”

Knowing is a kind of filter that limits our vision and closes off possibility. In other words, we only see what our knowing will allow us to see. Allowing ourselves a period of fallow both empties and widens the field. Laying down the realm of the known and unknown, relinquishing our usual tendencies to form opinions and judgments, we enter the vast and wide of the Great Way itself and allow ourselves to be reshaped by this undoing.

An old master said: “The way is vast and wide, how could it ever be a matter of knowing or not knowing? Knowing is arrogant; not knowing is stupidity; the way is far beyond both of these.”

Practices for the Dark of the Year

Slowing down.

Doing a single task with all your attention gives you a needed break from the jar of constant distraction. Doing a thing, wholly, brings its own kind of joy and you can learn to rest again in the gentle peace of everyday things. When you’re sitting with a friend, give them your full attention. If you are walking, just walk. If you are sautéing onions, notice their color and smell as they cook, the rhythm of the spoon in your hand.

Give yourself time to do nothing.

This winter sit in candlelight, stare into a fire, go outside and watch the moon and stars, listen to the rain fall, sit by the ocean and watch the waves roll in and out, rest on a bench and watch birds and passersby, rest by a lake or a river and notice the insects and trees and the sound of water over pebbles.

Put down your electronic devices.

Of course. Of course! A couple hours before bedtime, or for a time early in the morning as you are waking, put away your devices and the sounds they make to alert you of emails and phone calls.


Sweet sleep restores our bodies and allows the mind to rest, to dream, to let the intelligence of all things find its way into our consciousness.          


Anywhere. A short stroll or a long walk about, it’s what our bodies are meant to do. It reminds us of the true pace of life and shows us the aliveness of the world.

Read aloud to each other.

A forgotten art, we can take it up again. Like walking instead of riding, we slow down to take in more. Resting in the cantor of the human voice, we savor what we may otherwise have missed.

Make love.

No explanation necessary, right?                       


Be quiet and listen. Notice when judgments and opinions arise, when you are comparing yourself to others or complaining about unimportant things. Then, just return to the place where you are.

Cook simple meals and share them together.

Find a local farm, bakery or supplier and gather some things that look good to you. Learn to cook a few seasonal meals that you will enjoy making. The simpler, the better.

Notice what has already been given to you.

You are given this life as a human being, each of your senses, this fine body, the moon and the stars, the green leaf, and watery sea, a home, food to eat, and each other.

May you truly enjoy the blessings of this season.