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The Open Source

Our practice has the power to reveal a Zen that is not bound to another time and a different place, a Zen that is native to us; we begin to recognize the ineffable in the images and metaphors of this time and place, arising out of our landscapes, our ancestral spirits, our poetries, our psyches, and our songs.

The Open Source is a network of individuals and communities in the western United States engaged in Zen practice together. We emphasize collaboration, the development of authentic American expressions of Zen, and the confluence of koans and creativity. The Open Source is part of the Pacific Zen School, an innovative Western koan school with roots in East Asian traditions; it includes The Open Source and Pacific Zen Institute in Northern California. The house style honors the original Chinese koan way while emphasizing the integration of koan inquiry with contemporary lives, explores communal as well as individual koan practice and its relationship to creativity, highlights the contributions of women to the koan tradition, seeks to develop a body of Western koans, and in general is interested in what happens when you trust the koans themselves and the experiences of the people working with them to reveal the way the tradition should evolve. The network is centered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Joan Sutherland started the community Awakened Life.

Springs Mountain Sangha Colorado Springs, Colorado
Wet Mountain Sangha Pueblo, Colorado
Desert Rain Zen Tucson, Arizona
Crimson Gate Meditation Oakland, California


Joan Sutherland, Roshi The Open Source Founding Teacher

Sarah Bender, Roshi is the resident teacher for Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs. Sarah began Zen practice with the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in 1979 and has studied with Joan Sutherland, Roshi, and David Weinstein, Roshi, since 1997. From 2001 to 2006 she served as the meditation instructor for SMS, and in 2006 she received authorization to teach from Joan Sutherland, Roshi, becoming a sensei with Sutherland Roshi's Open Source and our first resident teacher. From 2007 to 2013 Sarah served as Cadet Chapel Buddhist Program Leader for the United States Air Force Academy. She also serves as a holding teacher for the Wet Mountain Sangha, in Pueblo. A learning disability specialist in private practice in Colorado Springs, Sarah has two children, Joe (an independent filmmaker in Brooklyn, NY) and Laura (a Service Development Advisor for NZ govt. in Wellington, New Zealand) Sarah gives talks, leads classes and retreats, and works with individual Zen students. She loves collaborating with others on this path of awakening, to use and forge tools for living lives of kindness and joy.

Andrew Palmer, Sensei, is the resident teacher for Wet Mountain Sangha in Pueblo, CO, teaches with Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs, CO, and serves as the Buddhist Program Leader for the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy. He began practicing with Springs Mountain Sangha in 1999, was named a meditation instructor in 2007, and was authorized to teach by Joan Sutherland, Roshi in February 2011. Andrew's love of koans and affinity for the ancestors combines with an everyday, ordinary-mind-is-the-way approach to practice, where awakening is always readily at hand. Andrew lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and son. Visit Andrew's website

Tenney Nathanson, Sensei started studying with Joan Sutherland in 1997, regularly attending retreats in northern California and New Mexico. In 2008 he and Jennifer Sellers founded Desert Rain Zen in Tucson, serving as Meditation Instructors in this new Open Source group. Tenney was authorized to teach by Joan in early 2012 and now serves as Desert Rain Zen's resident teacher. A poet as well as a scholar of American poetry, Tenney is fascinated by the life-changing power of both koans and poems to open us up to intimate experiences of emptiness and form. Tenney lives in Tucson with his family, where he teaches in the University of Arizona English Department and helps lead the arts collective POG as well as Desert Rain Zen.

Megan Rundel, Sensei leads the Crimson Gate Meditation in Oakland, California. She has practiced koan Zen for over 20 years, and has been a student of Joan Sutherland since 1996. Megan is interested in koan practice as a way of sparking the spiritual imagination and enlivening meditation experience. She is committed to lay practice that is relevant to contemporary life, yet deeply authentic. Megan is also a psychologist, psychoanalyst, and beginning ukulele student.