Take a step from the top of the 100-foot pole, and the world in all directions will be your body.

– Zen koan


PZI member Michael Hofmann leading
a sumi-e workshop in Santa Rosa.

Creativity is its own practice, and it is at the heart of what we do. When you wake up, creativity blossoms. This could shift the way you solve problems at home, or in your work as an engineer, or it could open space for an image or poem to land in your mind. It’s all the same movement towards spaciousness, towards freedom.

John Tarrant recently sat down with Jane Kolleeny of the Garrison Institute to discuss the approach to creativity, koans, and meditation that John and the PZI community have developed over the last 30 years. You can watch that 4-minute video here:



And here are some of the many ways that PZI supports creative process:

  • John Tarrant has developed a unique kind of Zen retreat with a focus on meditation, koans, and the creative process. These are the Open Mind retreats, and they usually happen twice a year. At Open Mind retreats we work with koans, poems, and stories to touch a deep, rich place inside of us, that opens up into fresh awareness. We have time for long walks, conversation, and dreams.


  • Even at a more traditional long retreat, or sesshin, there is space for art. Literally space to make art, as well as the inner space to take creative risks, try something new.


  • PZI has also launched a new online magazine of Zen and the arts called Uncertainty Club. In the inaugural issue, John Tarrant explains the relationship between uncertainty, koans, and art:


“Some bits of the universe are profoundly alive; they show up in the morning even before we are fully awake. We at Uncertainty Club are attracted to lively pieces because they’re beautiful or because they are destabilizing and that’s exciting. The pieces that jump out at us refer to something larger than our usual interests, to how we know things and what we are and our place in the matrix of everything. A piece here is a piece of the pattern, something that opens a door out of whatever prison the mind might have wandered into.

Zen koans, like art, can change your life. The change is in the direction of strolling through such doors.”


  • Every year PZI creates an Art Card, with original artwork by someone in our community, and a brief essay on koan practice by John Tarrant. Download our 2016 Art Card here.


  • PZI is filled with creative people and artists! To learn about some of our members who are artists, click here.


In a post on her blog Zen Notes, written in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, Rachel Boughton Roshi wrote:

We’re living in a time when we need more artists, not fewer. We need more spontaneity and freedom, more experimentation, more heart… We’ve had a lot of shocks recently, and we’re not at an end of them. How to respond, is a question. Here maybe the answer is to let ourselves feel the world as deeply as we do, and do the work that’s important to us. We can be as generous as we know how and love our friends and appreciate strangers and treat them with kindness. We can also make art, play music, write poetry, dance together, laugh and cry together and enjoy our communities. This is the practice, our lives as they are, lived with courage and creativity.”


2015 Art Card: Front
2015 Art Card: Photo of Angkor Wat, by PZI member Lee Allen.

Support Us

Through your generosity, you help people find their own path into awakening and you help us grow.

Your support allows us to support our teachers, keep our doors open to everyone regardless of means, and make sure our systems run smoothly.

Give Dana

Join our Mailing List

Enter your email address to receive our monthly mailer – full of dharma, videos, poetry, and event invitations.

If you’d like our annual Art Card, you may enter your mailing address. We will never sell or share your data and you may unsubscribe at any time.

Join our Mailing List