Anne Seisen Saunders, Roshi

Head Teacher

Seisen is the Abbot and head teacher of Sweetwater Zen Center. She has been a transmitted Dharma teacher for over 20 years. Seisen is a student of the late Taizan Maezumi Roshi and a Dharma successor of Bernie Tetsugen Glassman, Roshi, cofounder of the Greyston Mandala and the Zen Peacemaker Order.

Seisen lived at the Zen Center of Los Angeles for 15 years, and worked on ZCLA’s administrative staff. She served for four years as the co-abbot of Zen Mountain Center, a traditional monastery and practice center in Idyllwild, California.

The founding of SWZC marks Seisen’s return to San Diego. Before coming to Zen practice Seisen attended UC Berkeley and then later went to UCSD, where she worked as a biochemist. Establishing SWZC is the unfolding of her vision for an urban residential Zen practice community.

Bobby Chowa Werner Sensei

Resident Teacher

Chowa found the path of Zen as a pre-teen and knew it felt right. After practicing with various Sanghas and teachers, Chowa landed at Sweetwater Zen Center in 2005 and has been practicing earnestly with Seisen Roshi and the SWZC community ever since.

Chowa has worked extensively in the music industry, composing and producing music for various projects and touring with an a cappella doo wop quartet called The Alley Cats. He also spends time volunteering with various local organizations in San Diego and hopes to continue to grow SWZC's presence in the greater community.

Herb Eko Deer Sensei

Resident Teacher

Eko Deer helped start the Sweetwater Zen Center in 2000. He left Dallas, TX and moved to Yokoji Zen Mountain Center in 1997 to study full time. He has been practicing since 1995 with Seisen Roshi, and became a full teacher in 2011 at SWZC.

He is a current resident at SWZC, and works full time as a substitute teacher in the South Bay.

“I love Sweetwater Zen Center and am so proud of our community. I feel so blessed to have been a part of its founding and that my daughter, Zoe grew up here as well. Please reach out to discuss practice anytime.”

Valerie Kyoshin Velez, Dharma Holder

Affiliate Teacher

Valerie Kyoshin Velez has been practicing Zen in the White Plum lineage since 1983. In 2010, she was authorized as a Dharma Holder by Seisen Roshi, and received lay denkai transmission (preceptor empowerment) in 2023. Kyoshin also completed a year-long training program with the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC) to become a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator in 2018 and is an affiliate teacher for the MARC’s Mindfulness Awareness Practices.

Kyoshin lives in Idyllwild, California, where she raised her family and worked for the local school district as a public health educator for 30 years. She has been leading the Idyllwild Community Zen group there since 2009.

Diana Kosei Hartel, Reverend


Rev Diana Kosei Hartel is a Zen Buddhist priest. She is a somatic therapist with focus on survivors of childhood abuse. She is also a member of the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice in San Diego. Previously she worked as an epidemiologist and founded two nonprofits, one in the Bronx for food and social justice, and another in southern Oregon for arts and environmental action. She has been an exhibiting visual artist and continues to practice zen arts.