Our teacher, Flint Sparks

Our Guiding Teacher, Flint Sparks

Flint is a Zen teacher and former psychologist (having spent nearly four decades in psychotherapy practice), dedicated to assisting people in the unending path of growing up and waking up. An experienced therapist and a master teacher, Flint’s teachings bridge the fields of traditional Buddhist practice, the psychology of contemplative practices, and health psychology.

Flint’s background represents a unique combination of training streams. His academic training includes graduate degrees in both biology and psychology, as well as extensive postdoctoral training in mindfulness-based psychotherapies. In his psychotherapy practice, in response to witnessing the difficult struggles of people dealing with chronic illness and death, Flint began to search for spiritual practices that would support and deepen his psychological work. This led him to an ever-deepening commitment to Buddhist teachings and practices.

Most of Flint’s Buddhist training was done at the San Francisco Zen Center’s urban centers (City Center and Green Gulch) and monastery (Tassajara).  He received further training in Japan and at the Austin Zen Center, which he founded and nurtured in its early years. He was ordained in 2001 as a Zen priest by, and received Dharma Entrustment from, his teacher, Zenkei Blanche Hartman in the Suzuki Roshi lineage of Soto Zen.  He received Dharma Transmission in the lineage in 2022.

Flint is currently one of two Senior Teachers at Appamada, a center for Zen practice and inquiry in Austin, Texas. He also leads meditation and inquiry retreats throughout North America and Europe.

As the Guiding Teacher of the Open Door Zen Community (ODZC), Flint is committed to supporting the unfolding of our sangha. Some of the ways in which Flint supports our sangha:

  • He offers two retreats in Madison annually.
  • He provides advice and guidance to the ODZC Council.
  • He supports and meets (via Skype) with the ODZC Precepts classes, and has offered a precepts ceremony to our sangha’s first class of students at the end of their study.
  • He meets individually with sangha members, as they request.
  • Flint’s blog and online Dharma talks are available (on the ODZC website).

Read more: Flint Spark’s website

Video: Talks by Flint

Our Resident Teacher, Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne received teacher entrustment from Flint Sparks and Peg Syverson, co-teachers of Appamada in October of 2020 and was installed as the resident teacher of Open Door Zen Community in April of 2023. Suzanne has been a student of Flint’s for 20 years and a member of Open Door Zen Community since its inception in 2014. Prior to Open Door forming, she planned and implemented retreats and workshops with Flint yearly.

Suzanne is a retired psychotherapist specializing in marriage and family counseling for over 35 years. She assisted individuals, couples, and families in restoring love as the basis for making their life enhancing choices and decisions. As a teacher and spiritual guide her intention is to encourage the expression of Basic Goodness in each person and the community and support the unique offerings of compassion, love, and wisdom.

Suzanne offers private practice discussions for our sangha, meets with the council monthly, writes a weekly dharma message, initiated and co-facilitates Deepening Practice Groups, co-teaches the precepts class, and offers the Precepts Completion ceremony. She assists our sewing teacher, Anne Johnson, with the tasks of organizing sewing practice and she guides head students and assists Flint in the entering and exiting Shuso ceremonies in addition to the Jukai ceremony. She also offers or assists with our two seasonal half days retreats.

Suzanne can be reached at heartspace@charter.net.