Thousands across the country have attended in-person teaching events with Mel Ash. He is an ordained Zen teacher in a Korean tradition, a Unitarian Universalist, Beat scholar, visual artist and performer in the tradition of the Als (Ginsberg and Watts). He is the author of the classic Zen of Recovery, the first book to blend eastern wisdom with the 12-steps as an alternative healing model for addiction.

Thousands across the country have attended in-person teaching events with Mel Ash. The workshops have proven extremely popular and been featured and invited back at well-known growth centers, adult learning centers and organizations such as: The Open Center (NYC), First Class (D.C.), Learning Annex (San Francisco, San Diego, L.A.), Interface (Boston), Zen Mountain Monastery (Woodstock, NY), Rowe Unitarian Universalist Camp and Conference Center (Mass.), FunEd (Dallas), Discover U (Seattle), Learning Connection (Providence), Whole Life Expo (Pasadena), Massachusetts Medical Association Annual Meeting, The Beat Museum (San Francisco), Insight Meditation Society and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (Barre, Mass.) as well as various U.U. churches, rehabs and retreat centers.

Structure of Classes

The workshops, classes and retreats feature a unique blend of hands-on activities, meditation instruction and humor. All workshops and classes incorporate numerous props, handouts, opportunities for interaction, and Zen traditions such as tea ceremony, painting, poetry, guided meditations and music.

The events are structured to be friendly to all faiths and 12-step variants, or even none at all. Many students have no background in Zen, recovery, arts or spirituality but benefit enormously from the powerful and effective teaching methods, experiencing immediate and lasting results.

This is the test and promise of the teaching. Anything less is merely diversion. If you attend one of the events, you will go away with valuable tools for transformation and immediately begin a new and improved approach to living. Results guaranteed or your suffering returned in full!

Current offerings

The Zen of Recovery

A three-hour workshop featuring meditation instructions, 12-step style sharing, and a comprehensive introduction to Zen practice and recovery philosophy. A powerful and fun way to improve the quality of your life and connect with others. No Zen or 12-step experience necessary. This is the book come to life and the most popular offering! Immediate conscious contact with your higher power.

The event is structured to integrate the 11th step of recovery (“sought through prayer and meditation to maintain conscious contact with a higher power”), one of the most problematic steps for many in 12-step recovery. The unique synthesis of the teachings of Bill W. and Buddha resonates not only with recovering persons, but with others as well, especially students turned off by the patriarchal and “God” aspects of 12-step recovery. Many “normal” attendees come simply to learn both popular paths in one convenient package.

Ash de-mystifies both Zen and recovery with self-effacing humor, high energy performance and a thoroughly modern approach to the often forbidding and all too serious work of spiritual growth. Numerous handouts, instructions in sitting, walking, chanting and breathing mediation, as well as tips on taking one's inventory and making amends. This workshop provides a firm foundation for successful recovery and spiritual illumination on one's own terms.

Meditation in Action: Zen Writing & Painting

Zen is not simply sitting quietly and staring at the wall. In this workshop, we experience meditation in action and learn traditional Zen activities designed to focus one's practice and reveal one's true nature.

In addition to basic meditation, the class participates in the spontaneous arts of haiku writing and Zen poetry as well as Sumi (ink) painting. Materials and permission are provided for an evening of enlightenment and laughter. Also a great way to awaken the creative spirit! You say you have no talent? No problem! Product is not the goal. Experience of the process is! Includes numerous hand-outs and tea ceremony.

Zen the Way You Like It!

A three-hour introduction to Zen practice, history and philosophy, focusing on actual practices of sitting, walking, breathing, body work, chanting and other techniques. This class is for those who want a strictly Zen experience, without recovery or other influences. You will learn all you need to know to start your Zen practice, without mystification or delay!

Beat Spirit:
The Way of the Beat Writers as a Living Experience

Beat Spirit, a 3-hour intensive workshop based on Mel's third book, is as close as you can get to an authentic Beat Generation experience. Beat afficionados and those with a new-found curiosity will both enjoy and benefit from actually doing what the Beats did: learn invisibility with William Burroughs, get naked and howl with Allen Ginsberg, sit Zen with Gary Snyder, publish like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, prepare for revolution with Diane DiPrima, discover the unknown with Lew Welch and much, much more.

Subversive activities, mind-altering experiences and new-found friends conspire to make this a memorable and transformative experience. Guaranteed to jump start or focus your creative process. Perfect for artists, musicians, writers and all creative people. Wanna get beat?

Dharma Bums: Beat Zen

A three-hour participatory workshop with Zen teacher and Beat scholar Mel Ash serves as an entertaining and "enlightening" introduction to American Zen history, practice and heritage as introduced by the Beat Generation. Zen first entered the American spiritual landscape through the Beat writers of the 50s and 60s, igniting vast cultural and spiritual changes that continue to this day.

We will be discussing, learning and practicing meditation and awareness techniques adapted from the Buddhist Beats and fellow travelers including Alan Watts, Lew Welch, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Diane DiPrima and others. Experienced Zen students and those with what pioneering San Francisco Zen master Shunryu Suzuki called "beginner's mind" will leave the workshop with a firm grounding in new forms of meditation and a good grasp of Beat/Bohemian spirituality. A perfect way to meet new friends, strengthen or begin your Zen practice, have a fun night out and learn some cool stuff.

"The second teaching from the Golden Eternity is that there never was a first teaching from the Golden Eternity. So be sure." — Jack Kerouac

Shaving the Inside of Your Skull:
Crazy Wisdom for Becoming Who You Really Are

A workshop derived from the exercises in my second book, the class draws upon Zen, California human potential psychology, psychedelic wisdom, world religion, counter-cultural forms, arts and gender theory, among many other techniques, to examine what it means to be fully human.

Expansion of consciousness and the attainment of our latent possibilities is a guaranteed by-product of this class, so be warned! Fast-paced, wildly diverse and vastly entertaining, the Skull workshop shaves away the overgrowth of old habits and beliefs in your head and eliminates stinking thinking. If recovery made us put down our addiction to substances, Skull enables one to put down addictions to our limited minds and recover all that we can be. Recommended for adventurous students ready to expand their limits.

The 12-Steps of Zen

A 12-week course based on the steps as presented in The Zen of Recovery. An intensive and life-changing experience that includes meditation, writing, art activities, movement and group sharing. Can also be structured as a weekend retreat. Be ready to get real and recover 100%!

Class and Workshop Formats

Three and one day retreats

All workshops can be presented in retreat formats of one, two and three day sessions at appropriate facilities that offer food, lodging, privacy and space. The Zen of Recovery three-day retreats (Friday evening intro, Saturday all-day session, and half day Sunday) have been enormously popular with many repeat students. Deeply transformative and emotionally resonant, a three-day retreat offers a rare opportunity to experience total immersion in spiritual practice and a real-life commitment to one's well-being, as well as the chance to meet fellow seekers. A sequel to The Zen of Recovery (unpublished at this date) is based solely upon these retreat experiences, exercises and student contributions.

Staff Trainings & Consultation

Special seminars and in-service trainings are available to facilities where the client base could benefit from applied basic Zen awareness techniques, relaxation methods and 12-Step applied philosophy. Firmly based on Mel's extensive experience in social services (see Who is Mel Ash), the training teaches hands-on staff valuable tools for crisis management, compassionate intervention, client motivation and effective counseling. If your staff is interested in adding these popular and proven skills to their therapeutic and professional repertoires, please get in touch for a program tailored to the unique needs of your facility or institution.


Individual teaching and private counseling sessions available for students in the Bay area. Contact for confidential information.


Mel also hosts a private, semi-regular group in the Bay area for serious students and those merely curious. Ask for details.

Pro Bono

Pro bono appearances will be considered and offered for the good of all beings, especially non-profit public service organizations, schools, churches, rehabs, medical, mental health and correctional facilities.

Please get in touch

If you or your facility are interested in hosting an event with Mel Ash, please contact us for more complete details and available dates. All events can be customized to meet your organization's needs, clientele and mission.

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