"Shi-Zan, Do-An" is the Buddhist name given to Robert Thomas by his Zen teacher, Zoketsu Norman Fischer. The Chinese characters can be translated as, "Lion Mountain, Path of Kindness." Robert's deepest intention as a visual artist is to embody the practice of kindness and express it as a creative path for beneficial action.
Robert trained as a multi-media artist in the 1970's. In the '80's and early '90's he was a San Francisco-based video artist, filmmaker, magazine creative director, and entrepreneur. In 1993 he began a spiritual journey, traveling to Asia and becoming a monk in a Thai forest monastery. A year later he entered a Zen Buddhist monastery where he would practice meditation for six years. Ordained as a Buddhist priest in 2000, in 2009 he attained the highest level of ordination in the Soto Zen lineage.
From 2005 to 2018, Robert was CEO of the world-renowned San Francisco Zen Center and the groundbreaking education nonprofit, Mindful Schools. He now spends his days drawing, meditating, writing, doing yoga, coaching and consulting, while guiding the launch of SittingLab, an innovative startup for online meditation practice.
Experience & Expertise
Mindfulness and Meditation Practice: 28 years of Buddhist meditation practice; 7 years of intensive monastic training; 21 years as Buddhist priest; 18 years as Buddhist meditation teacher and retreat leader; 18 years teaching mindfulness meditation in secular settings. Training in Thai Forest Theravada, Tibetan Buddhist, and Soto Zen traditions. 20 years of integrating meditation practice with movement and breath in yoga practice.
Nonprofit Leadership: Over 20 years as leader of two Bay Area nonprofit organizations dedicated to promoting mindfulness and meditation practice (San Francisco Zen Center and Mindful Schools). 10 years managing staff of 150+ employees and $10M+ annual budgets. Launched startup companies in film, magazine, and restaurant businesses; secured over $30M+ in foundation donations and startup funding. Mentor and coach to hundreds of rising organizational leaders. Leader of multiple strategic planning and organizational transformation processes. 18 years supporting Bay Area corporate and nonprofit leaders to integrate mindfulness principles and practices into workplaces and educational contexts.
Coaching & Consulting
Robert's extensive background in traditional Buddhist meditation, mindfulness, nonprofit leadership, body-based practice, and creative expression gives him a unique ability to support and encourage meditation practitioners of all kinds.
Robert is available for a very limited number of coaching and consulting relationships with individuals, groups, and organizations. He works intimately and intuitively to enable the design of a meditation and mindfulness practice that increases vitality and commitment, supports deeper understanding, fosters a sense of connection, and cultivates a beginner's mind that sees possibility in everything.