Koan Small Groups

One of the best ways to understand what we do, and how to get the most out of it, is through a koan small group. This is one of our innovations. When we work with koans in a group, we learn to embrace whatever in our lives rises to meet the koan. That becomes our gate of entry. Brightness appears through whatever is in front of us, whether beautiful or difficult.

Groups give us a chance to listen, too. When we really hear someone, without any agenda, we meet life at a deeper level. It is fairly common for someone to say “I listened to the sound of the rain and it was inside me and I became one with the rain. The colors are fresher and I’m in love with the world.” Garden experiences of freedom like this are exactly what the ancient masters used to notice, and they are wonderful. And as with rain, so with people. Koan meditation is just consciousness—it’s a natural capacity that is always available, in the woods, on a city street, in a room full of other human beings.

The groups happen in different ways in different locations. Some groups happen through our established centers, with senior teachers nearby. A lot of times they happen farther afield. Explore below or contact one of our zendos to see if one is happening near you. The koans on the Zenosaurus blog can also help you explore this way of practicing.

PZI Koan Small Groups (with local or online teachers or leaders) are happening in the following places: California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Tennessee, New York, and Oaxaca, Mexico.  


Open Door Interfaith Zen

Santa Rosa, CADavid Parks_Ramage

When we meet: Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Where we meet: First Congregational United Church of Christ, 2000 Humboldt Street, Santa Rosa

Spiritual transformation is without boundary. Open Door Interfaith Zen is spiritually multilingual. Under the guidance of Rev. David Parks-Ramage Sensei, we encourage spiritual transformation across and within a variety of spiritual traditions. At Open Door you will find courses in Christian Centering Prayer alongside PZI-style koan small groups, and Celtic Blessing Services.

Our PZI Small Group Koan practice group  is ongoing.  Traditional Zen koans are used for meditation, and occasionally the parables, sayings and doings of Jesus are approached as koans, opening a new avenue for spiritual exploration and discovery.

All are welcome! Drop-ins are encouraged. There is no charge but donations are always accepted with joy and gratitude.

For more information, contact:
David Parks-Ramage – dparkram@gmail.com or (707) 546-0998

Website: www.opendoorinterfaithzen.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ZenInterfaith

p.s. David blogs about koans and interfaith practice at: www.opendoorinterfaithzen.com/#!blog/c6p7



Rio del Mar Meditation

Santa Cruz, CA

When we meet: Tuesdays, 7-9pm

Where we meet: 112 Winfield Way, Aptos, CA (Parking along Moosehead is suggested in order to be kind to our neighbors!)

IllanaBergerSmallWe come to meditation for many reasons, but mostly to seek relief from our suffering. At Rio del Mar Meditation, the Santa Cruz home of PZI, we use koan practice to help people find more peace and happiness in life, and to open up space for the inconceivable to appear. We want to encourage each other to transform our responses to the things that make us suffer, instead of slapping on a band-aid.  We offer a flexible and adaptable practice that can meet your life just as it is.  

We host 6-week koan salons on Tuesday evenings. Contact Illana or visit our website to find out when the next salon begins.

No experience is necessary. ​A donation of $10 per class is greatly appreciated. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds.

For more information, contact:
Illana Berger – illanaberger@gmail.com or (510) 759-8758

Website: www.riodelmarmeditation.org



Koan Meditation Salon Monterey Bay

Monterey, CA

DAllenWhen we meet: 2nd and 4th Monday nights of most months

Where we meet: McGowen House on the St. James Church campus in Monterey. Contact D Allen for more information.

We’re a diverse group of meditators who live on the Monterey Peninsula, and we always welcome more voices. Accompanied by koans, we use meditation, conversation, writing, and whatever shows up to discover both our own lives and community. Having no meditation experience is a plus! Having lots of meditation experience is another plus!

For more information, contact:
D Allen – lindobird@gmail.com or (831) 620-5030

Facebook: www.facebook.com/koanmeditationsalonmonterey



Grass Valley/Nevada City Koan Groups

Nevada City, CA

We currently have 2 groups in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area:



When we meet: Saturday mornings, 10am-12:30

Where we meet: Inner Path, 200 Commercial St., Nevada City, CA 95959

CoreyHitchcocksmallOur Nevada City Koan Sangha sits in meditation with Zen koans in the Rinzai Zen/Chan Buddhism tradition, with the guidance of Rachel Boughton Roshi from Santa Rosa. At the end of each session, we share our experiences of the koan as it meets our own lives. Tea provided. $5-10 suggested donation. All are welcome all the time.

For more information, contact:
Corey Hitchcock – corey@thegreendrum.com
Shelley North – shelley10493@gmail.com



When we meet: Every other Monday, 2:30-4:30

Where we meet: Email for current information and details.

We are a group of committed Pacific Zen Institute students working together with a koan curriculum in 12-week segments. We meditate together,  and then share our experiences with each koan. We reference John Tarrant’s Zenosaurus blog for our inquiries. While the current group is full, and we strongly prefer participants who have attended a PZI retreat or who work with a teacher, if you are interested in learning more, send us a line.

We request a $5-10 donation each meeting, to help bring teachers to the area.

For more information, contact:
Corey Hitchcock – corey@thegreendrum.com




Roseburg Zen

Roseburg, OR


When we meet: Thursdays, 6-7pm

Where we meet: 3rd Floor of the First Presbyterian Church, 823 SE Lane Ave., Roseburg, OR (Use the “Church Office” entrance, and take the elevator.)

We get together every week and share meditation and conversation about what arises in our everyday lives when we drop a koan into the hopper.

Every six weeks we start anew with a get-together that is aimed more at welcoming and introducing people to the group, meditation and koans. It’s a relaxed and friendly way to experience whether Zen, koans and conversation about what’s real in your life might be for you. Contact Jim or visit our website if you’d like to know when the next series begins.

No experience needed. All are welcome. There is no charge.

For more information, contact:
Jim Cardin – roseburgzen@gmail.com or (541) 530-1522

Website: roseburgzen.wordpress.com




Seattle Koan Discussion Groups

Seattle and Renton, WA
We currently have 3 groups in the Seattle area:

Tuesday Evening Koan Group (Phinney Ridge)
Koans on the Ridge meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday evenings of each month, in 12 week cycles. Co-Facilitators: Lance Sobel (lrsobel@yahoo.com) and Amy Darling (amylac@amycdarling.com)

• Wednesday Evening Koan Group (Ballard) –
Meets Wednesdays, 7-8:30 pm, in 12 week cycles. Co-Facilitators: Dan Morris (danmpix@gmail.com) and Kay Elmer (katie4u@mac.com)

Saturday Afternoon Koan Group (Renton)
This is our newest group. It is meeting on Saturdays from  2:30-4:30pm. Co-Facilitators: Don Baumer (dhbaumer3@gmail.com) and Karma Forbes (karma.l.forbes@gmail.com)


We are all interested in the open, inclusive, and engaging way of working with koans that is practiced at Pacific Zen Institute. Sharing our experiences after meditating with a new koan has given us insights that arise from a deepening trust and respect for the inherent wisdom we all possess. Through sitting together, we have discovered a deep appreciation for companionship, for the larger PZI sangha, and for John Tarrant’s unique methods of teaching Zen. Our members come from varied backgrounds including those who have practiced koans traditionally, those who are new to koans and those who do not identify as Buddhist practitioners, or have no previous meditation experience.

Dan MorrisOnly the Saturday group in Renton is currently open to new members, but if you contact us we can tell you more and contact you when spaces open up.  If you are currently unable to participate in a koan group but would like to be on our mailing list for other PZI events in the Seattle area, please let us know. 

For more information, contact one of the group facilitators above, or:
Dan Morris – danmpix@gmail.com or (206) 782-6447
Kay Elmer – katie4u@mac.com or (425) 369-8430




Santa Fe Rhino Book Group

Santa Fe, NM

rhino-cover-217x300When we meet: Monthly on a Friday, 3-5pm

Where we meet: Private residence. Contact Catherine Gordon-Jones for more information.

This is an open group reflecting on and discussing John Tarrant’s book Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans to Save Your Life. We have members from the Pacific Zen and local Awakened Life communities, a few sufis, and others too! Anyone can join at any time.  Welcome one and all!

For more information, contact:
Catherine Gordon-Jones – vcatherinejones@yahoo.com or 505-690-7449




Desert Lotus Zen Koan Group

Tempe, AZ

DebSaintWhen we meet: Sundays 4-5:30pm, in 6-week series. See website for details.

Where we meet: Private residence. Email for details if you plan to attend a session.

We have a meditation period followed by tea and a koan conversation..  The group is guided by Deborah Saint, Sensei, and sometimes lay-led with alternating facilitators. Our group works with koans via a two-way process—how koans open our lives and, in the other direction, what our lives teach us about koan work. We are guided by Zenosaurus, the innovative Short Course in Koans developed by John Tarrant, Roshi.

Working with koans in a group allows us to share with and learn from one another. Koan work reveals a brightness and openness to our lives, that is independent of either our own perception of others or others’ perceptions of us.  Then the freedom of the universe can be found within our own freedom.

You are invited to join us as we work together to explore koans and share our insights.


For more information, contact:
Deborah Saint, Sensei and Mark Coe – DLZkoans@gmail.com

Website: desertlotuszen.org




Bottomless Bucket: A Koan Meditation Group

Kansas City, MO

When we meet: Sundays, 9:00-10:00am (although sometimes we have such a good time we stay longer)

Where we meet: Om Prana Yoga Studio, 6 E. First Street, Parkville, MO 64152

Our group was born of a connection between Barth Wright, who sits with students at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, and a meditation group that Barth and Rob Poe began together at Om Prana Yoga Studio in Parkville, MO, outside Kansas City.  This connection has blossomed into a wonderful and eclectic crew that is open to all comers.  The group has a beautiful life of its own, and combines sitting, koans, and discussion.  Those that have never meditated are welcome.  Some introduction to both posture and breath can be provided as can a brief introduction to koans.  Having had some years of experience with Zen practice and koans, Barth is essentially the guy who hands out the hors d’oeuvres, which are then tasted and savored or spat out.  We’re a group that enjoys swimming in uncertainty, sharing our pains and joys, and laughing. Join us.

For more information, contact:
Barth Wright – wright.barth@gmail.com or (816) 503-1417




Knoxville Koan Study Group

Knoxville, TN

When we meet: 1st Wednesday of each month, 6:30-7:30pm

Where we meet: Glowing Body Yoga Studio, 711 Irwin Street, Knoxville 37917

We sit around and do a lot of nothing. That means we meditate, and okay – we talk, too. The only rule we have is that no one is trying to teach anyone anything. We check in for the first few minutes and see if anyone has an experience they would like to share from the prior month’s koan. Then we sit for 30 minutes with the new koan. Afterwards, we share (or not) what’s emerging. And then a whole lot of something happens, but I am not sure what. If I read this description, I probably would not come knocking on our door to find out about awakening. So, let me say it this way instead: we wear party hats and have a peanut gallery, and sometimes, we even dance out loud, yet no one ever seems to remember that part and it never ends up on Youtube. But it feels important, and touching, and fun. Try it out – koan meditation is different, and important, and touching, and fun.

For more information, contact:
Tammy Kaousias – tammy@kaousiaslaw.com




Hudson Valley Koan Group

When we meet: Every other Wednesday evening

Where we meet: Online!  

We are a small group that meets via Skype. The group began as an experiment between friends who split their time between the Hudson Valley and Manhattan.  marion_hike_closeWe are exploring the way that koans help us show up inside our lives, and we appreciate the ability to stay connected with each other virtually and emotionally in this way.

The group is currently full at six participants, but if you would like to learn more, find out about local visits by PZI teachers, or join a waiting list, send Marion an email.


For more information, contact:
Marion Yakoushkin – myakoushkin@gmail.com




Koan Meditacion Salon Oaxaca

Oaxaca, Mexico

When we meet: 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, 6:00-7:15pm

Where we meet: Casa del Angel

Somos un grupo nuevo y utilizamos los koans para indagar y descubrir las cárceles internas en las que vivimos sin conciencia, así como para descubrir nuestras propias alas y los tesoros del mundo. Somos un grupo diverso, conformado por oaxaqueños y extranjeros. La mayoría hemos asistido a algunos retiros de meditación. Para nosotros los koans son novedosos, extraños, pero sentimos que resuenan con nuestra cultura y nos dan luz en nuestra vida diaria.  Nos reunimos el segundo y el cuarto miércoles de cada mes de 6 a 7:15pm a Casa del Angel, y ofrecemos la posibilidad de participar en vivo por internet. Estamos abiertos a recibir con gusto a quienes se interesen en participar con nosotros.


For more information, contact:
D Allen – lindobird@gmail.com
Virginia Filip at virginia.filip@gmail.com