Zoom Sessions and in person Santa Rosa Meditation Evenings

Sept 11 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (in person meeting)

Sept 18 Deanna Hopper Sensei (in person meeting)

Sept 25 Zoom Rev. Chris Bell Sensei

Oct 2 Zoom Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi

Oct. 9 Michelle Brandt Sensei (in person meeting)

Oct 16 Zoom Deanna Hopper Sensei

Oct. 23 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (in person meeting)

Oct 30 Zoom Rev. Chris Bell Sensei (Ancestors)

Nov 6 Zoom Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi

Nov 13 Gary Brandt Sensei (in person meeting)

Nov 20 Zoom Rev. Chris Bell Sensei (Taking Stock – gathering in)

Nov. 27 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi(in person meeting) (Gratitude)

Dec 4 Zoom Rev. Chris Bell Sensei (Shakyamuni Buddha's Story – from birth to enlightenment)

Dec. 11 Zoom Deanna Hopper Sensei

Dec 18 Rachel Mansfield-Howlett (in person meeting) (Winter Solstice Celebration – practices for the dark)

Dec 25 Closed Holiday

Jan 1 Closed Holiday

Email to receive notices about our meditation evenings including links to the Zoom meditation sessions and directions and details about the location for our in person Monday night meditation.

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: 

Upcoming meetings will be held on:

Oct 11
Nov 8

Dec 13

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:
Upcoming meetings will be held on:
Sept 23
Oct 28
Nov 25 
Dec 23

In-person sittings 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.

 Sesshin January 2023

JANUARY 20-27 2023
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 for the first time in a long while at our Great Winter SesshinCityZen’s senior teacher, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, Roshi will be giving dharma transmission to Deanna Hopper and Rev. Chris Bell 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 precious week.

Contact for questions 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 professor of law. 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
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.