VDZS practice leader Keizan (Respect Mountain) Titus O’Brien has studied Zen for nearly three decades, since he was introduced to the idea by a teacher in college – the composer and artist John Cage. Keizan spent years residential training in centers and monasteries in both Korean and Japanese Zen schools, and has studied with teachers in other religious traditions. From 2008 to 2013, he studied with Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago. He was novice priest-ordained by Taigen in 2011, and continues to regularly return to Chicago to practice with him. He served as Shuso (head monk) for ADZG’s 2017 annual practice period. His understanding of Zen is informed by his creative practice as a professional artist, arts educator, and writer, as well as a lifelong interest in body and movement arts including hatha yoga and Tai Chi Ch’uan.
Keizan moved to New Mexico in 2013; Taigen asked him to help found Valley Dragon in order to make the practice of shikantaza (“just sitting”) publicly available in Albuquerque. Keizan takes to heart and promotes Taigen’s primary practice direction, which is simply to settle, enjoy your inhale and your exhale, and express this settled joy creatively in one’s life.