Windhorse Zen Community

Windhorse Zen Community, Inc. is a residential training center offering essential Buddhist teachings and practices within a lay, community-based context. By working with evolving forms of dharma practice—ones uniquely responsive to the relational, psychodynamic, and ecological forces that shape our present reality—we seek to help people live fuller, freer, and more compassionate lives.

The training at Windhorse is open to all who seek a more authentic and fulfilling way of being in the world. Working with breath, koan, and awareness practices, we offer regular weekly sessions, residential training, sesshin retreats, and Zentensives. Windhorse is maintained as a 16 acre wildlife refuge, and is located just outside of Asheville, NC, and overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sunya Kjolhede and Lawson Sachter, the founders and spiritual directors of Windhorse, were ordained and sanctioned to teach by Roshi Philip Kapleau.

Sunya-roshi, along with her other teaching activities, has traveled regularly for over two decades to Poland, where she serves as spiritual director of the Bodhidharma Zen Center, a Polish Zen community founded by Roshi Kapleau in 1975. She has trained in Clinical Pastoral Education, working for a period of time as a hospital chaplain, and has also worked as a storyteller in schools.

Lawson-roshi is also the spiritual director of the Clear Water Zen Center, and a licensed psychotherapist with extensive training in Habib Davanloo’s ISTDP. Many of his clients have been engaged in dharma practice, and he also leads specialized trainings called Zentensives. These retreats are APA accredited trainings designed specifically for mental health professionals, and others interested in working with the unconscious dynamics that arise during intensive meditation.

While the practice at Windhorse is rooted in the depth and power of East Asian wisdom teachings, we also value the contributions of the psychotherapeutic community to the greater well-being of so many. We emphasize a dynamic practice both on the mat and in the world—a living practice that helps us to respond in wise, flexible, and heartfelt ways, to the realities and urgent challenges of contemporary life.

Beyond the Binary:
A Zoom Evening with
Giovonni Santiago

Wednesday, May 29 from 7:00-8:30 PM

      The bodhisattva Kannon has many forms: man, woman, non-binary, and beyond. In the wider world, 20% of Millennials (1981-1995) and 30% of Gen Z (1996-2012) identify as LGBTQ+.  To help us  partner and connect with this growing population, Windhorse is offering a training in communication and empathy to broaden our often cisgendered horizons. Some of the topics that will be covered include the importance of pronouns and pronoun etiquette, the mental health and societal challenges of those within this community, and deepening the understanding of the transgender experience. This evening will help us together, with our transgender and non-binary sangha, to foster a safe community where everyone is seen.


     With this spirit in mind, we are excited to have activist, educator and veteran Giovonni Santiago offer a workshop and dialogue with our sangha. 

     A former Air Force police officer Giovonni served in the military from 2006 to 2010. That was during the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) days, which was the official United States policy on LGBTQ+ identities within the military until 2011. In 2019, the defense department approved a policy that banned members of the military from transitioning. As of 2019, Santiago was one of an estimated 14,700 troops on active duty and in the reserves that identify as transgender. Giovonni began his transition process while still in the military. He learned that he was his doctor’s first transgender patient. Before long, he was advising a panel of military doctors on how to better serve transgender veterans. This eventually led to him helping develop the first clinic for transgender veterans in the United States. Voted one of the Most Interesting People of 2018 by Cleveland Magazine, to being named NBC’s #Pride30, Giovonni has a long list of impressive accolades. From walking in New York Fashion Week and appearing on national television, but above all else this renaissance man enjoys mentoring Trans*, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming youth and guiding them on their journey towards self-love and acceptance. 

     This program is offered free of charge; however, we do encourage individuals to make a donation. You can make a donation by going to and click the donate button in the top right corner. Your donation gives us an opportunity to offer dana to Giovonni for his efforts.

American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War with Dr. Duncan Ryuken Williams

Zoom Only

Wednesday, June 5
Wednesday, June 19
Wednesday, June 26
from 7:00-8:30 PM

     We are so excited to have author Dr. Duncan Ryuken Williams engage in a Zoom dialogue with our community. Dr. Williams was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend college (Reed College) and graduate school (Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion). Williams is currently Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages & Cultures and the Director of the University of Southern California’s Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture and former Chair of USC’s School of Religion. Previously, he held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at UC Berkeley and served as the Director of Berkeley’s Center for Japanese Studies for four years. He has also been ordained since 1993 as a Buddhist priest in the Soto Zen tradition and served as the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University from 1994-96.

     Prior to meeting with Dr. Williams, we will be discussing his book: American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. Amazon shares, “This groundbreaking history tells the little-known story of how, in one of our country’s darkest hours, Japanese Americans fought to defend their faith and preserve religious freedom. The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is not only a tale of injustice; it is a moving story of faith. In this pathbreaking account, Duncan Ryūken Williams reveals how, even as they were stripped of their homes and imprisoned in camps, Japanese American Buddhists launched one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom in our nation’s history, insisting that they could be both Buddhist and American. Nearly all Americans of Japanese descent were subject to bigotry and accusations of disloyalty, but Buddhists aroused particular suspicion. Government officials, from the White House to small-town mayors, believed that Buddhism was incompatible with American values. Intelligence agencies targeted the Buddhist community for surveillance, and Buddhist priests were deemed a threat to national security. On December 7, 1941, as the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Attorney General Francis Biddle issued a warrant to “take into custody all Japanese” classified as potential national security threats. The first person detained was Bishop Gikyō Kuchiba, leader of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist sect in Hawai‘i. In the face of discrimination, dislocation, dispossession, and confinement, Japanese Americans turned to their faith to sustain them, whether they were behind barbed wire in camps or serving in one of the most decorated combat units in the European theater. Using newly translated sources and extensive interviews with survivors of the camps and veterans of the war, American Sutra reveals how the Japanese American community broadened our country’s conception of religious freedom and forged a new American Buddhism.

This program will be offered as a three-part series.

  • We are encouraging participants to participate in a minimum of two of these programs; however, all three would, of course, be best.
  • We are also asking all participants to be on time and to stay throughout the entirety of the program. 


Here are the dates and times of this series: 

  • Wednesday, June 5 from 7:00-8:30 PM  — Group Discussion about American Sutra with Ven. Lani Banner 
  • Wednesday, June 19 from 7:00-8:30 PM — Dialogue with Dr. Duncan Ryuken Williams 
  • Wednesday, June 26  from 7:00-8:30 PM — What Next? An Evening of Reflection with WZC Resident Andy Ford 

     This program is offered free of charge; however, we do encourage individuals to make a donation. You can make a donation by going to and click the donate button in the top right corner. Your donation gives us an opportunity to offer dana to Dr. Williams for his dharma efforts. 

About Windhorse


Getting Started

Great is the matter of birth and death
Life slips quickly by
Time waits for no one
Wake up! Wake up!
Don’t waste a moment!

– Zen Master Bassui