Guo Gu

Guo Gu (Dr. Jimmy Yu) is the founder and teacher at the Tallahassee Chan Center. He first learned meditation as a child in 1972 with master Guangqin (1892-1986), one of the most respected Chinese meditation masters and ascetics who lived in Taiwan. In 1980, Guo Gu moved to the United States and began studying with master Sheng Yen (1931-2009). In 1991, Guo Gu was ordained as a monk and became Master Sheng Yen’s first personal attendant and assistant. In 1995, he was given permission by the master to teach Chan independently; his experiences were later recognized by other teachers as well. Wanting to bring Buddhism beyond monastic walls, Guo Gu left monkhood and re-entered the world in 2000. In 2008 he received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Princeton University and is currently a professor of Buddhist studies at Florida State University. For Guo Gu’s list of events, please bookmark his personal website: www.guogulaoshi.com




Assistant Teachers

The Assistant Teachers are appointed by Guo Gu. They are available to discuss Chan practice and the issues around it with all members and interested visitors.

Fran Berry

Fran took refuge as a Buddhist in 1980 in Lexington, KY at a meditation center affiliated with Tibetan Rinpoche Choyam Trungpa, founder of Shambala Meditation. She began studying with Guo Gu in January 2010, after attending English meditation instructions and retreats at Dharma Drum Mountain Monastery in Taiwan. Fran took Bodhisattva Precepts in 2010.  Fran is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Chan Center, and has been teaching Beginning Meditation Workshops and other meditation classes since 2015. She has also taught Taiqi (Tai Chi) for 25 years. Fran has been married for 43 years and is a professor of public administration and policy at Florida State University.





Maria Williamson

Maria started practicing in 2011 in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, whose teachings touched her heart. She took the five mindfulness training at that time. She met Guo Gu in 2012 and has continued on the Buddhist path under his guidance. This practice has helped Maria to transform her life in profound and subtle ways and continues to be a source of development. Maria took Bodhisattva Precepts in May 2016. She is part of a team that teaches at the women’s federal prison in Tallahassee. During her career, she was in public service in the area of child nutrition and her educational background includes nutrition and a M.S. in Family and Child Sciences. She is currently the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Chan Center.


Dewaine Rester

Dewaine began studying Buddhism in 1992 and started training with Guo Gu in 2009.  In 2010 he trained as a timekeeper at Dharma Drum Retreat Center, and has been teaching the Beginners Meditation Workshop and other programs at the Tallahassee Chan Center since 2014. Dewaine took Bodhisattva Precepts in 2010.  He is also a 2nd Degree Black Belt in both Tae kwon do and Pangai Noon Kung Fu. He is a father of three and has been married for 31 years. In his day time job, Dewaine is a self-employed contractor.





Janette Arispe

Janette began studying with Guo Gu in 2011 and took refuge in 2012 at DDM Taiwan. In 2013 she took refuge in the Bodhisattva Precepts. She was asked by Guo Gu to teach the Beginners Meditation Workshop in 2014 and has been teaching most of the Center’s beginner classes and retreats. She has a daughter and has been married for 28 years. She has also been a long time practitioner of Taiqi (Tai Ch’i). Janette is an advisor of the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Chan Center and volunteers for most of the Center’s activities. She is a retired physics professor in Venezuela, and now works for the Department of Health.




Assistant Teachers in Training

These are practitioners currently training to be timekeepers and monitors, and they assist in supporting practitioners’ weekly.

Thomas Ledermann

Tom has been practicing at the center since August 2017 and did his first retreat with Guo Gu in 2018 before taking refuge and precepts in that same year. He has practiced in different traditions for several years before coming to Chan. He loves teaching Chan practices because he finds the techniques taught at the Tallahassee Chan Center very helpful in cultivating compassion and inner joy. Tom is a psychologist by training and works at Florida State University.




Amy Frey

Amy started studying Buddhism in 2008 and began practicing Chan with Guo Gu in 2010. She took refuge in the Pure Bodhisattva Precepts in 2013. She is an RYT 200 with Yoga Alliance and practices Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as described by Marshall B. Rosenberg. She is a Governess as well as working on a degree in Social Science at Florida State University.





Katherine (Kat) Jiménez

Katherine’s curiosity about Buddhism started in 2012. It wasn’t until she moved to Tallahassee in 2017 that she found a place to receive meditation and practice instructions from her teacher, Guo Gu. Shortly thereafter, she started volunteering with cleaning at the center. Katherine attended her first retreat in December 2017, and took refuge formally in 2018. Since then, she enjoys sharing Chan and encouraging others who might be curious about meditation but are unsure of where to start. Katherine is originally from Costa Rica, and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. She currently works as a Container Garden Designer at the Tallahassee Nurseries.




Pamela Hunter

Pamela’s curiosity in meditation and Buddhism began in 2010. She started with Tonglen meditation and then migrated to Chan Buddhism. She started instruction with Guo Gu at the Chan Center when it was located at Railroad Square 2012. She took refuge in Buddhism in 2013, took her Bodhisattva Precepts in 2023, and volunteers at the center. Pam is Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Chan Center. She is also an Experienced Registered Yoga teacher in Kripalu and Hatha Yoga and a certified Iyengar yoga teacher level 1 and 2.





Sara Khan

Sara started her Buddhist practice in 2014 as a college student. Later, she became heavily involved in volunteering for the Emory University Buddhist Club and other Buddhist organizations in the Atlanta area. She attended her first retreat at the Tallahassee Chan Center in 2018, and feeling motivated to help the center, Sara left her career as a public health informatics consultant to support Guo Gu and the Tallahassee Chan Center in 2020 and took Bodhisattva Precepts in 2023. As Guo Gu’s assistant and full-time staff member for the Tallahassee Chan Center, she helps manage many of the center’s events, and volunteers for Guo Gu’s Dharma Relief effort.