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.

Assistant Teachers

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.

Dewaine Rester

Dewaine began studying Buddhism in 1992 and started training with Guo Gu in 2009. He is currently the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Tallahassee Chan Center. 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.

Myosen Julie Sprott

Myosen started practicing Japanese Zen in 2004 at the Albuquerque Zen Center under Joshu Sasaki Roshi, and was subsequently ordained as a lay nun in that tradition in 2009. When Sasaki Roshi retired in 2012, she began searching for another teacher, meeting Guo Gu in 2013 and subsequently moved to Tallahassee the following year to practice with that sangha. She has been teaching Beginning Meditation Workshops and other meditation classes at the Center since 2015. Myosen took Bodhisattva Precepts in May 2016.  She is part of the teaching team giving stress reduction classes at the Kearney Center for the homeless and for women inmates at the federal prison in Tallahassee. She also volunteers with Big Bend Hospice. Her educational background includes language study, nursing,and a PhD in cultural anthropology.

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 the Treasurer 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.

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 meditation at the Kearney Homeless Shelter and the women’s federal prison in Tallahassee. She also volunteers at St. Francis Wildlife Association. 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.    

Assistant Teachers in Training

Tina Bush Rester

Tina began studying Buddhism in 1992. Her practice with Guo Gu started in 2009. Since then she has participated and volunteered on retreats regularly. She has been a member of the advisory board since its inception and assists the Board’s Treasurer. Tina took Bodhisattva Precepts in 2010. In 2015 she earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Geology, while raising her 3 children with her husband of 31 years. In 2017 she became a timekeeper in training. Other than meditation practice she enjoys being in nature, traveling, photography and spending time with family.

Derek Phillips

Derek began studying and practicing Buddhism in 2010. In 2015 he attended his first 10-day intensive meditation retreat with Guo Gu and formally took refuge and precepts. He serves on the board for the Tallahassee Chan Center and volunteers regularly for TCC. Derek is also a board member with the Tallahassee Farmers Market and the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. Derek owns and operates an organic produce farm in Quincy.

Aaron Nicely

Aaron was introduced to Buddhism and meditation in 2010 by his now husband Derek Phillips, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he began practicing intensely. He attended his first retreat with Guo Gu in 2017 before taking refuge and precepts later that year. Aaron is currently the webmaster and the secretary of the Board of Directors at the Center. He also volunteers regularly for TCC. In his day job, Aaron works as an information system manager for a regional cooperative educational organization supporting small and rural school districts in Florida.

Tom 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 meditation traditions for many years before coming to Chan. He loves teaching Chan practices because he find himself 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.