Like the enso symbol, Leslie’s journey from formal practice to householder to a practice-based position at Enso Village is a circle being drawn in real time. If you are inspired by her path, you may want to consider one of our many Guest Student and Apprenticeship opportunities at GGF, City Center, and Tassajara (summer months). Stays can be as short as 5 days; longer commitments are also possible.
by Tova Green
Leslie Thiele has been working for Enso Village, the Zen-inspired senior living community in Healdsburg, CA, since June 2019. Of the five-member team in the office she has been there longest. Enso Village is a collaboration between San Francisco Zen Center and Kendal, a not-for-profit organization that has developed thirteen Quaker-based senior living communities on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
When she was 24, Leslie went to Green Gulch Farm to participate in the Winter 1995 practice period there. In 2005 she, her husband Michael (whom she met at Tassajara), and their two children, Lukas and Lyla (then six and two years old) moved to Sebastopol. Leslie established a part-time landscaping business while also raising their children. Michael worked in a local company and Lukas entered the local Waldorf School. Leslie and Michael continued their Zen practice informally.
Through her work at Enso Village, Leslie feels she is returning to SF Zen Center in a totally different way. Leslie’s role as Sales Counselor on the Marketing team entails working at a desk in an office – things she hadn’t been doing before. She had worked solo in her landscaping business and was delighted to be part of a team. The other team members all had many years of experience working in Senior Living communities. Leslie brought “the through-line of Zen practice.”
Leslie finds joy in her work, “meeting hundreds and hundreds of people who are drawn to Enso Village’s vision of mindful aging and making deep connections.” She responds to questions by phone and email and, now that people are visiting the Preview Center, in person. People speak with her about their life journeys and deep concerns as she guides them on a tour of the three-dimensional scale model of Enso Village and the model kitchen, and helps them choose and reserve their residences.
Some of the people she meets have been to Tassajara, Green Gulch, or City Center and her familiarity with those centers is a bridge. Leslie believes that “what we’re offering at Enso Village is vital as people turn towards and imagine this next phase of their life.” She looks forward to accompanying future residents through the process of introducing them to the models, supporting the programs that connect them with one another while construction is taking place, and to welcoming them when Enso Village opens.
There is a small zendo at the Preview Center where the staff meditates together in the morning several times a week. The other staff members are new to meditation and Leslie enjoys sitting with them and sharing the forms. Most of the team members have visited Green Gulch Farm and City Center since they began working for Enso Village and they plan to visit Tassajara as soon as that is possible.
Leslie received lay initiation from Eijun Linda Cutts in 1998. Her dharma name is Kaiko Kodo / Radiant Ocean, Loving the Way. Leslie couldn’t imagine her life without Zen practice. “Although I’m no longer training formally, practice infuses my life.”