Our Teachers


headshot Janet AbelsRoshi Janet Jiryu Abels

Roshi Janet Jiryu Abels, founder of Still Mind Zendo, has been a teacher in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and the White Plum Asanga since 2000, when she became a dharma successor of her teacher, Roshi Robert Jinsen Kennedy. In April 2015, she received Inka from Roshi Kennedy and was given the honorific title of Roshi.  Previously, she was a spiritual director for more than 12 years and worked as a community organizer and peace activist. Roshi is also a certified Bio-Spiritual Focusing teacher and is the author of Making Zen Your Own: Giving Life to Twelve Key Golden Age Ancestors (Wisdom, 2012). Her dharma name, Jiryu, means Compassionate Dragon.

headshot Gregory Abels2Sensei Gregory Hosho Abels

Sensei Gregory Hosho Abels became a dharma successor of Roshi Robert Jinsen Kennedy in 2006, in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and the White Plum Asanga. He has enjoyed a 50-year career as an actor, stage director and Master Teacher of Acting in New York City. Sensei is also a poet and a nature photographer. His collection, Never Something Else: Poems from the Eye of Zen, features poetry sparked by practice and inspired by the natural world. His dharma name, Hosho, loosely translated, means Voice of the Dharma.

The teachers, married and the parents of a grown daughter, are members of the White Plum Asanga, the American Zen Teachers Association and the Lay Zen Teachers Association.

headshot Marisa CespedesDharma holder Marisa Seishin Cespedes

Dharma holder Marisa Seishin Cespedes began practicing meditation in the mid-1990s and joined Still Mind Zendo in 2003, becoming a student of Sensei Janet and, eventually, a senior practice leader. In 2008, she received Jukai, the Buddhist Precepts, and was given the dharma name Seishin, which means Clear Heart. In January 2013, Sensei Janet named Marisa a Dharma holder, the step before receiving transmission as a Zen teacher (Sensei). Born and raised in Mexico City, Marisa works as a news correspondent and bureau chief for a major international television network, and is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Jean photo for SMZ website

Dharma holder Jean Seiwa Gallagher

Dharma holder Jean Seiwa Gallagher began Zen practice at Still Mind Zendo as a student of Sensei Janet Abels in 2000. She has served as a senior student since 2002, and received jukai, the Buddhist precepts, in 2008. Her dharma name, Seiwa, means Serene Harmony. She was named Dharma holder in 2015. Jean is a poet and a professor at NYU, where she teaches writing and literature. She is married and is the mother of a school-age daughter.