Meditation and Meeting with a Teacher

in person or via Zoom

The Santa Rosa group meets in person or via Zoom every Monday evening at 7:00pm for: silent seated meditation, walking meditation, dharma talk, tea, and discussion. Please contact to receive the link or the notices to attend these evenings. 

You may also contact Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi directly at or Michelle Brandt Sensei at 

Deanna Hopper Sensei leads the Fort Bragg group which meets every second Wednesday at Evergreen UMC at the corner of Corry and Laurel at 6:00pm. Contact: 

If you are in Portland, Oregon, Rev. Chris Bell is holding monthly nondenominational meditation evenings through Trinity Cathedral. Contact: 

Opportunities for individual guidance with a teacher are available by appointment. 

Individual Meetings with Our Teachers
by appointment

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi

Rachel is a public interest environmental attorney, Zen Roshi, and Professor of Law with degrees in botany, environmental horticulture, and law.

Born into a family of ranchers, farmers, and schoolteachers in rural Oklahoma she moved with her family to southern California in the 1960s, attended college in Chico and settled in Sonoma County in the early 70s with her husband. Rachel traces her Chickasaw heritage through her maternal grandfather, a descendant of former Chickasaw leader Daugherty (Winchester) Colbert.

Rachel founded CityZen in 2011, offering a style of Zen practice for modern American life. A 40-year practitioner of Zen, she was authorized to teach Zen and koans in 2006 and received full transmission, Inka Shomei, in 2009 in the Pacific Zen School lineage from John Tarrant Roshi. Complimentary to her environmental law practice, she teaches a western style of Zen that emphasizes environmental and community values.

She was led to Zen in the 1970s through her interest in the intersections between the arts and Zen and she is currently involved in CityZen’s development of an indigenous form of practice that includes art, poetry, music, environmental awareness, science, and conversation. One of her particular strengths is in using dialogue and conversation as a way of encouraging people to find their own authentic and joyful life. 

She currently lives with her husband of 50 years and enjoys being a grandma to her two grandchildren.

Deanna Rose Hopper Sensei

All things are made of compassion — I believe you have to touch the suffering that is within your reach.

Deanna Rose Hopper is an old hand at Zen, having practiced for thirty years. She was authorized to teach in 2019, and received dharma transmission as Sensei in 2023 from Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi in the Pacific Zen lineage. She is the holding teacher for the Fort Bragg sangha, a branch of CityZen, meeting every second Wednesday at Evergreen UMC, Fort Bragg.

A longtime cancer survivor, Deanna has a BA in English and worked as a massage therapist and preschool teacher for many years. She is now retired and lives with her husband and cat in beautiful Fort Bragg.

Asked why she agreed to teach, Deanna speaks of gratitude to her many Zen teachers at PZI and CityZen. “They threw me a lifeline, and it saved my life. I finally connected with koans through my love of poetry. Some took me down to a very deep place. There, I knew, in my body, that the hands and eyes of Guanyin are undeniable —that all things are made of compassion, and that this is so in all circumstances.”

Rachel Mansfield Howlett Roshi says of Deanna: “More than anyone I know in the dharma, Deanna brings the awakening of the koans into her daily life, and teaches them in that way. She works with them in an extended manner, taking all the time she needs with a koan. Deanna is an emotive, passionate teacher, “Service is central to my life. You have to touch the suffering that is within your reach.”

Deanna is a regular speaker at CityZen’s Zoom Monday Night Meditation. 

Michelle (Shell) Brandt Sensei

Michelle came to Zen in her early twenties and took Buddhist vows in 1989. In 2016, she received dharma transmission as Sensei from Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi in the Pacific Zen lineage. She teaches and offers dokusan through CityZen in Santa Rosa.

Since 2005, Michelle has been studying Japanese tea ceremony (Urusenke) as an extension of her Zen practice. She has also trained to provide interfaith spiritual direction, intrinsic coaching, medical qigong and hypnotherapy. She is currently working with the Harmony Union School District in Occidental and has a wonderful hypnotherapy practice in Santa Rosa.

Michelle’s teaching is grounded in beauty and curiosity. Her experiences with Zen consistently reinforce the wonder and joy of everyday things and she values the healing, grounding, and perspectives the Zen koan tradition offers.

She explains, “The Way meets you right where you are, as you are. Can we do the same? This practice asks us to attend to our lives and to ask questions. If you are curious by nature and willing to cast a light on your own mind, relaxing your notions of how things are or ought to be, your life can reveal itself to you in unexpected and welcome ways. As a person who lived through and with illness, abuse, anxiety, depression, criticism and fear, I was drawn to the unencumbered, “clean slate” of Zen. I wanted and expected understanding, clarity, even mastery, but what I’ve received is a deep gratitude for life and a foundational experience of belonging. Being here is a gift, everything around us confirms it.” Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi says, “Michelle reveals the beauty and awakening that can be found in the intimate moments of life when you're able to meet this moment as it is.”

Michelle is a speaker at CityZen’s Zoom Monday night meditation. 

                            Reverend Chris Bell Sensei

Chris is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister with a lifelong interest in religion and spiritual matters. He grew up in a liberal Christian church in Cleveland, Ohio and was introduced to Zen and Taoism by his mother, a spiritual seeker in her own right. He earned a B.A. in religious studies from Cleveland State University in 1993, and a M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School in 2005. He started practicing Zen in 1995 under the instruction of Richard Baker Roshi at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center in Colorado. He was introduced to the Rinzai koan curriculum in 2001 by Rev. James Ford and the teachers of Boundless Way Zen in Massachusetts. 

After moving to California to become the minister of the local U.U. congregation, Chris connected with his current and lasting teacher, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi. Roshi Rachel invited Chris to begin giving dharma talks in 2017, and in 2023 she gave him dharma transmission as a Sensei in the Pacific Zen lineage. 

Chris’s teaching emphasizes the joyful insights and playful activity of Zen. “Once we’re released from the snares of opinions, stories and pre-conceived ideas, we’re free to respond in a fresh and vital way – then life, even with its undeniable hardships, can be fully embraced. It’s beauty and creativity may be truly savored. We might even find that we’re having fun.” The koans themselves assert this truth repeatedly, Chris says. “They delight in playing with language, occasionally enjoy shocking us, and are sometimes even slapstick. ‘Wake up, sleepy-head!’ they laugh as they poke us in the ribs with the stick.” Love is another cornerstone of Chris’s understanding of Zen, which helps him teach in Christian as well as Buddhist contexts. “I think the non-dual consciousness that Zen uncovers and cultivates is the same as the unconditional love of God. The path is to love life and serve it with love, leaving out no one and no thing.” Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi says of Chris “He is a multitalented teacher who speaks the language of awakening with joy and great insight.” 

Today, Chris lives in Portland, Oregon, leads grief groups and holds monthly meditation at Trinity Cathedral. Chris is a regular speaker at CityZen’s Zoom Monday night meditation, and leads our chanting service when we meet via Zoom. He also serves as the Tenzo for our extended meditation retreats and 7-day sesshin. 

Opportunities for individual guidance with one of our teachers, sometimes referred to as Dokusan or Sosan, is available by appointment.

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi:
Michelle Brandt Sensei:
Deanna Rose Hopper Sensei:
Rev. Christopher Bell Sensei:

(Suggested Dana Donation for dokusan is based on a sliding scale as you are able to contribute: minimum suggested $35)