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Living Zen: 30 Days of Practice, April 1-30

Living Zen: 30 Days of Practice

A monk asked Joshu, What is zazen?
Joshu said, “It’s not zazen.”
The monk said, “What do you mean it’s not zazen?”
Joshu said, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

In these 30 Days of online practice support, we will explore the many dimensions of “Living Zen”– all the ways this practice is alive, on the cushion and off. 

Throughout this month of shared study and practice, you will receive daily encouragement for your meditation practice through: 

  • A daily message with Zen teachings, practice tips, and reflection prompts
  • 4 live workshops led by with Zen Teacher Valerie Forstman and Assistant Sanbo Zen Teachers Scott Thornton and Shana Smith
  • A lively shared meditation journal for personal reflection and peer connection 
  • Opportunities to sit, daily, online with the cohort 

The 30 day course was outstanding in every regard…little did I know the peace, calm, wisdom
and overcoming past traumas that could happen in just one month.
30-Day Participant 

Some of us may want to get on track with a steady meditation practice. Some of us may want to dive deeper into our spiritual journey. Some of us may want more ease and peace of mind. Some, a bit more connection with sangha. We’re here to support!

Thank you, I have struggled to achieve daily practice for years and this did it for me!
~30-Day Participant 

What you’ll receive – all live events will also be recorded and shared:

  • Daily email messages: teachings from Zen Masters through the ages, practice tips, & reflection prompts
  • 4 Live Workshops which include a live talk, Q&A, and community discussion with Guiding Teacher, Valerie Forstman, and Assistant Teachers Shana Smith & Scott Thornton
  • Optional community forum with daily prompts to support peer learning with your cohort  


  • April 1-30, 2023
  • Live Zoom Events (recordings will be shared): April 1, 8, 15, 29 at 9-10:30am MT
  • Your daily practice can be done on your own OR online with a larger group on Zoom. See here for our daily sitting schedule. 

You can register at any time during this course and receive a digital copy of the daily emails that have already gone out as well as recordings of all live events. 


  • Daily messages via Email
  • Live events via Zoom
  • Daily connection with your cohort via our online forum.

What Makes this Program so Powerful?

Guidance from Mountain Cloud Teachers 

Consistency is key in developing and deepening a meditation practice, and Mountain Cloud’s teachers are here to support us. We will have messages from Henry and Valerie throughout the 30 Days, and Q&A sessions with Valerie, and Assistant Teachers Shana Smith and Scott Thornton.

Daily encouragement, teachings, and practice tips 

Every day you will receive a message that includes a brief teaching from the Zen tradition and a practical practice tip, to inspire meditators at any experience level. Your daily digest of teachings and practice tips will feature quotes from Zen Masters that uncover the deep wisdom within your everyday life and interactions. We’ll provide strategies for maintaining daily practice and connecting with your meditative awareness throughout the day. This series of messages will support, encourage, and deepen your practice over the course of these 30 days. We’ve chosen these teachings to give you a taste of the freedom, compassion, and wonder of meditation and Zen practice.

Your daily practice: meditation and journaling

If your schedule allows, we encourage you to join the cohort on Zoom for your daily sitting. (See here for the daily schedule.) You can choose when – and for how long – you will meditate each day.

The daily journal is an optional, easy, and deeply encouraged part of this program. This is the“thread that deepens and builds, this through-thread, this value of continuous practice.” We will provide participants with a daily reflection prompt, and encourage you to post your response on our private online message board.

“The sangha aspect of the daily journal–reading others’ shared posts, identifying and learning from those shared posts, responding to others’ posts and getting feedback on my own posts–made me feel part of an open-hearted, like-minded community, which felt wonderful.” ~ 30-Days Participant 

Your weekly practice: discussion groups with your cohort, including Q&A with Zen Teachers and Assistant Zen Teachers.

Each week, we will gather on Zoom to connect with one another, and receive direct guidance on our sitting. These meetings will include open discussion and sharing in small groups. In addition there will be a Q&A portion in which you will pose questions to our amazing teachers.


Valerie Forstman is an Associate Zen Master of the Sanbo Zen lineage. Her first teacher, with whom she continues to work, was Ruben Habito Roshi. Since 2003, she has also trained under the guidance of Yamada Ryoun Roshi, current abbot of SanboZen. Valerie joins Mountain Cloud with a shared vision of the core of the Zen path, a way of coming home to who we truly are. This includes koan training, “just sitting” practice, and breath awareness practice, and what it means to undergo the immense change of heart implied by the term “awakening.” What a joy and what a long road it can be, not just to taste this, but to embody it and live it out in lives of compassionate service.

A first-career classical musician with degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Stony Brook in New York, Valerie changed course in response to her practice and went on to earn a Master of Theological Studies and Ph.D. in Biblical Interpretation (Hebrew Bible). She recently retired from her work as Associate Dean for Admissions and Common Life at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX.

Scott Thornton is an Assistant Teacher in the Sanbo Zen lineage. He has been a student of Ruben Habito Roshi for 22 years at The Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, TX, and soon will be moving to Santa Fe to practice at Mountain Cloud and to direct its Residents Program.  He has been a Clinical Psychologist for 34 years. His first career was in Theater, and he is still an active singer/songwriter and performer.


Shana Smith
discovered yoga in 1990 and began attending regular classes in several different styles of yoga After several years of ardent practice and study, she began to teach at her local studio and Yoga Temple.  Shana became interested in the sensations and insights she experienced in Savasana, which led her to begin a regular meditation practice and in 2007 took refuge in the Sanbo Zen Lineage, and recently become a Sanbo Zen Assistant teacher.  Over the years, she has found a tremendous synergy between Yoga and Zen, and integrates the two in her daily, committed practice.


  • Benefactor Fee of $149
  • Program Fee of $99
  • Reach out to Sarah sarah@mountaincloud.org to learn about our sliding scale option. 


You may register at any time during this course and receive a digital copy of the daily emails that have already gone out as well as recordings of all live events.  Contact Sarah if you have any questions about the program.

30 Days of Zen - Living Zen, April 2023

  • e.g. friend, web-search, teacher, book, etc
    Select a payment. Reach out to Sarah for sliding-scale options.
  • $0.00


April 1 @ 12:00 am
April 30 @ 12:00 am
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