Meet Adam Gyokuzan Coutts



  • Daily meditation practice since 1989
  • Teaching meditation since 2002
  • Lived for four years in Buddhist monasteries
  • Deep experience in a wide range of Eastern and Western psychospiritual growth lineages

I am in my eighteenth year of helping seekers to open and deepen their concentration and mindfulness practices. I bring a quick mind and a wide array of knowledge to my responses to student’s questions. I also express a dry wit that keeps learning lively and a rapid insight that powerfully gets to the heart of student’s questions and provide individualized practices.

At the age of sixteen, as a confused and emotionally tangled kid, I began a path of growth, awareness, and healing by participating in psychotherapy and counseling groups. I also began years of heavy involvement with twelve-step programs, with their paradigm of letting go to a wider spiritual truth.

In 1989, having practiced Western forms of growth for a few years, I began both a daily meditation practice and a regular yoga practice, both of which I have maintained to this day. Both felt like revelations, opening up dimensions of depth and liberation that I did not even know were possible.  Since then, I have found a daily meditation practice to be an indispensable part of my mental health, something that keeps me able to focus and stay grounded, and to be central to my feeling of what existence is about.

As I began my meditation practice and study, I was immediately drawn to the teachings of master meditation teacher Shinzen Young.  In the years since, I have undertaken meditation facilitator/teacher training under his mentorship.

In 1992, I completed a degree in psychology, with honors, from University of California at Santa Cruz. I then began an interesting career as the statistical analyst for teams of researchers investigating methods to improve drug abuse and alcoholism treatment.

In 1994, I sat my first ten-day meditation retreat, an experience I found to be challenging, but which also left me with a sense of clarity, openness, insight, and peace. I suddenly was able to intentionally focus and be aware of deeper currents in life than I had been able to before.  I have since sat over seventy seven- to ten-day retreats, and continue to find them challenging and rewarding.

In early 1996, I went deeper still, diving into the unknown and living for a seven-week stretch in a monastery as a Zen Buddhist monk. Since then, I have spent four years living as a monk in Buddhist monasteries, including five ninety-day Zen meditation intensives at the Tassajara Zen monastery and long-term residence in several other Zen monasteries.

In 1998, I began sewing a ceremonial garment for lay ordination in the Soto Zen tradition, with the Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, Ryoshin Paul Haller, officiating. I am proud to say that my ordination name, Gyokuzan, means “Mountain of the Sacred Triple Jewels” in Japanese.  The “Sacred Triple Jewels” are Buddha (liberated consciousness), Dharma (liberated teachings and truths), and Sangha (liberated community).

Around this time, I also became involved as an early pioneer in the process of developing “Circling“, a form of transformational authentic interpersonal relating that I have have stayed involved with developing as it has grown to worldwide presence in the years since.  The depth, presence, and intimacy of this work informs both my teaching and my general relating.

In 2002, at the persistent request of friends, I presented the inaugural eight-week “Meditation: A Journey of Depth and Liberation” meditation class, which was a nerve racking but wonderful experience. In the years since, I have taught twenty eight-week sections of the course, helping hundreds of people to open and deepen their experience of being alive through the practice of Buddhist meditation, and getting better at teaching each time through. Overall, I have found teaching meditation to be the most meaningful and fulfilling activity of my life.

In 2006, I began teaching meditation and yoga in the San Francisco County Jail, working through the Prison Meditation Network, which was interesting and rewarding. And in 2008, I completed a colorful and deep training program in personal coaching and transformational course leading (known as the “Transformational Leadership and Coaching Training” program), which provided me with more skills to help facilitate the growth and unfolding of people. I have also developed similar skills that assist people in opening and thriving through years of experience as a leader in a number of different men’s circles over the past twenty-five years, and through years of study of the discipline of Nonviolent Communication with its creator Marshall Rosenberg.

AboutTeacher02In late 2008, I left to travel on a two-year pilgrimage of exploration, living and practicing in seventeen different monasteries and ashrams located in California, New Mexico, Colorado, Thailand, India, and Japan. At these centers, I practiced meditation and other spiritual practices in various lineages of liberation: Zen Buddhism, Vipassana/Theravada Buddhism, Tibetan/Vajrayana Buddhism, and Hinduism/Advaita/yoga.

On returning, I have continued with my teaching in the forms of leading sitting groups in San Francisco and Oakland, guest leading friends’ sitting groups, leading sections of my eight week course, and working with clients one-on-one.

Starting in 2015, I have been leading meditation trainings at the Pacific Gas and Electric utility.  This work has included leading a weekly sitting group, training webinars broadcast to the employee body, and providing mindful experiences as part of team wellness days.

I am excited to bring “Depth and Liberation” courses to people interested in exploring meditation as a path towards greater depth and liberation in their daily lives. I love to meditate, I love to teach meditation, and I love to share with others the gifts that I have received from the practice of meditation.

Video And Audio

Listen to In-Depth Three Hour Classes That Adam Presented Through Shinzen Young’s Home Practice Program:

Death As A Motivator For Life – This course explores how keeping a regular mindfulness of our inevitable death can bring more inspiration, motivation, energy, richness, clarity, and depth to our experience of life. Includes information on how to transmute fear of death into spiritual connection. The program includes both lecture and contemplative exercises, and draws from such diverse sources as traditional Theravada and Zen Buddhism, Goethe, Ramana Maharshi, Ram Dass, Stephen Covey, Kierkegaard, Osho, Steve Jobs, and more. (First presented July 14, 2018)
Mindfulness And ADHD – Some general information about ADHD, and then specifics about how meditation can help create focus, self-soothing, achievement, and comfort. (First presented October 27, 2018)
Mindfulness In A Vehicle – Most of us spend time driving cars and riding in/on cars, buses, trains, airplanes, and ships, and – given the nonverbal and repetitive nature of the mental activity when we do so – this can be a great opportunity to open our experience and deepen our meditation practice. The course contains a selection of techniques and information about mindfully driving a ca and riding as a passenger in vehicles. (First presented June 7, 2019)
Mindfulness Of Feeling Tone – The classic ancient meditation on “vedana” – whether something feels pleasant or unpleasant – that can help us find less reactivity and more self-awareness and spaciousness. (First presented September 8, 2019)
Spacious Interpersonal Presence – Exploring how to intentionally create open, attuned, spacious, and comfortable presence while in conversation with other people. Among the topics explored are: maintaining self-awareness when around others, deep empathetic listening, tolerating the intensity that happens during interpersonal intimacy, physical grounding, finding a balance of awareness between self and other, and what gets in the way of mindful communication. (First presented December 14, 2019)
Meditations For Falling Asleep At Night – Exploring use of awareness, visualization, and mindfulness to soothe insomnia and ease into restful sleep. Includes the practice of techniques including elongation of the breath, progressive relaxation of the body, mindfulness of body rest states, and visualization of tranquil scenes. Also discusses paradigms and information about meditation for sleep and healthy sleep tips in general. (First presented July 12, 2020)
Practical Tips for Regular Meditation Practice – This session explore best practices and options for how to set up a more stable and reliable meditation practice. It covers subjects like: where to meditate, at what time of day, for how long, how to know which techniques to deploy, what to do if having a hard time getting it going, and the value of connecting with others in practice. The goal is to help create a more steady, easeful, and regular practice, and is designed to be useful to people at all levels of experience. There are also some breaks for some body mindfulness practice. (First presented February 13, 2021)
Meditation On Sound And Hearing – Many people find meditating on external sound to be anchoring, calming, centering, and enjoyable. Sounds is a beneficial object of meditation for development of both concentration and for insight/clarity. This session explores meditation on active sounds and meditation on silence, and discusses the techniques as well as including guided meditations. (First presented June 6, 2021)


Watch Adam interviewed on TV about mindfulness meditation:

“Buddha By The Bay”, January 2007
Part 1 – The four foundations of mindfulness, breath and body sensation meditations
Part 2 – Meditation on thoughts and feelings, transcending feelings of hunger
Part 3 – Visual meditation, balancing effort and effortlessness in meditation

“Buddha By The Bay”, June 2006
Part 1 – Breath meditation, meditating while exercising and in the workplace
Part 2 – Existence as waves of energy, reminders of mindfulness in daily life
Part 3 – Work as a meditation, the Eightfold Path

Listen to Adam interviewed on Radio and Podcast about mindfulness meditation:

2014 – Interview On Radical Self Acceptance Online Telesummit
2008 – Interview On Money Mission & Meaning Podcast – Part 1
2008 – Interview On Money Mission & Meaning Podcast – Part 2
2005 – Interview On KPOO Radio
2003 – Interview On KFJC Radio