The Founders

The Lotus Institute was founded by Dr. Peggy Rowe Ward and Dr. Larry Ward,  senior dharma teachers ordained by peace activist and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Deeply inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh, they have committed their lives to non-violent social change, healing, and transformation at all levels, from individuals & communities to the global scale. Peggy and Larry transmit a rare combination of academic, lived, and embodied wisdom that helps actualize healing for self and community. Their background in Buddhist practice, justice/service work, psychology, corporate coaching, education, trauma/resiliency training and somatics creates a powerful dynamic for healing and change. Peggy and Larry are co-authors of the book, Love's Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships.


Dr. Larry Ward


The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed Larry’s life. He was searching for direction when this event called him into community service, spiritual growth and planetary peacemaking. 

He joined the staff of the Ecumenical Institute / Institute of Cultural Affairs in 1969. Over the next twenty-five years, he lived and worked in over twenty countries. He became an ordained minister in 1972. Larry has taught clergy and lay theological wisdom, organizational change and community development. Larry has lived in inner-cities and villages of the world serving efforts toward local community renewal.

He served in India for two years training village leaders in human development skills. For five years he lived in Hong Kong where he consulted with leaders throughout Southeast Asia on human development and strategic planning. For ten years drawing upon his life experience and degree in psychology and organizational behavior he had a management consulting firm that provided Fortune 500 firms services in diversity education, organizational change and executive coaching. 

Larry’s introduction to Buddhist practice began in Calcutta, India in 1977 but it was not until 1991 when Larry met Thich That Hanh that this practice became the center of his life and service. He was ordained as a lay minister in Thay’s Plum Village Tradition in 1994 and a Dharma teacher in 2000. He has lived in spiritual community and has assisted Thich Nhat Hanh throughout the world. He has accompanied Thich Nhat Hanh on peace-making missions in China, France, Korea and Vietnam, as well as throughout the USA. 

He currently serves as Advisor to the Executive Mind Leadership Institute at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and is a Board member of The American School of Bangkok.

Larry has a PhD in Religious Studies with a Buddhism emphasis. His work focused on the intersection of mindfulness and neuroscience.

His teaching, called, “Deep Buddhism,” is interdisciplinary, integrating Buddhism with neuroscience, trauma/resiliency work, indigenous wisdom and social imagination. His aim is to energize the Bodhisattva ideal through an embodied Buddhist practice that supports the healing and transformation of societal karma at the deepest levels of body and mind.

Larry is a knowledgeable, charismatic and inspirational teacher, offering insights with personal stories and resounding clarity that express his dharma name, “True Great Sound.”


Dr. Peggy Rowe Ward


Peggy’s joyful spirit enables her students to discover and embody their most creative and authentic selves. She offers a path of deep insight through methods such as movement, writing, art and ritual.

Peggy grew up in the lake country of Wisconsin and has a strong connection with woods, lakes and the natural world. She experienced the world through the eyes of a mystic and had active friendships with rocks, trees and animals. At five, she wrote an autobiography expressing her desire to be a teacher, following the vocation of her maternal ancestors.

Peggy has her doctorate in Adult Education and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She serves on the faculty of a graduate program in Mindful Leadership at Atlantic University. She has also studied and practiced with many wise Native American elders.

She has worked in corporate training with international Fortune 500 firms, was a Director of Education at a medical center, and has taught courses in psychology, counseling psychology, and education at universities in the United States, Thailand and Canada.

Peggy met Thich Nhat Hanh in 1991, became a lay minister in 1994 and an ordained Dharma teacher in 2000. She and Larry joined Thich Nhat Hanh in international exchanges throughout the world and served as staff for 20 years.



Operations Director

Kimberly Fleisher, M.Ed


Kim is an embodied educator and long time mindfulness practitioner with a background in Transcendental Meditation, Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism and Zen practice in the tradition of Zen Master/peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. Kim has been practicing Reiki, meditation and yoga for nearly 25 years. She is a member of The Order of Being (community of ordained students of Thich Nhat Hanh), the co-founder and former director of The Reiki School and Clinic in Philadelphia, as well as a teacher with a masters in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. As a teacher, Kim strives to create a learning environment that thrives in the intersection of art, music, play, movement, community building, self-cultivation, empowerment and social justice. As a human, US citizen, queer and white-identified person, Kim engages in Buddhist practice as a method to unapologetically dismantle and heal internalized and outward white supremacy, misogyny, paternalism, rape culture and hate. In addition to teaching, Kim helps make sure that all of Lotus' online and in-person activities run smoothly.  Her Dharma name is True Beautiful Dwelling.

The Lotus Institute Board


Victoria Mausisa


Victoria has a passion for cultivating inclusiveness and for healing communities of color.  An advocate for racial and social equity, she co-created ARISE Sangha -- Awakening Through Race, Intersectionality and Social Equity. After a career in healthcare management, she now dedicates time in  building community in Sanghas in the Plum Village tradition of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. 

Victoria began mindfulness practice in the Plum Villiage Tradition in 2002 when she joined the Mindfulness, Diversity and Social Change Sangha.  She ordained as a member of Tiep Hien, the Order of Interbeing, in 2015 with the name True Eternal Garden.

She is a volunteer spiritual caregiver, completing  the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. 

A contemplative at heart, Victoria thrives in deep connections with friends and family. Her most current joy is spending time with her newest granddaughter.  She enjoys a hike in the woods and travel to just about anywhere. You might find her writing, reading, or dancing with her partner, Jon, in their kitchen!


Grace Franklin


Grace emerged from college and grad school with a major in Political Science and worked for many years analyzing the impact of government policy choices on citizens.  Feeling called to work directly with people, she launched a second career as a reference librarian in the Columbus public library (this was in the days when “google” was neither a verb nor the only source of information people consulted.)  

Grace encountered the Dharma in 2000, met Larry and Peggy in 2006, and has been with them ever since — love at first sound!   Among her most vivid life memories is receiving the Fourteen Trainings from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2011. She is an active volunteer for Lotus Institute as well as the Dominican Sisters of Peace Ecology Center and the Blue Heron Sangha, her true home.  

You can find her nourishing spirit and balancing work by walking in nature, cuddling cats, meditating with horses, practicing and teaching Tai Chi, tending gardens, and savoring the mysteries of the night sky



Samantha Rise Robeson


Although Sam studied wellness traditions from around the world, their mindfulness practice emerged through the discovery of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh; when they learned of his nomination for the Nobel peace prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., and heard the phrase "We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness,” the phrase became permanently impressed on their heart. Samantha was introduced to Peggy and Larry at a Retreat in Estes Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and they are deeply honored to join the Lotus Institute's Board of Directors in support of this vital work. 

Samantha’s passion for music and community building are the heart of thier work: Over the last decade, they have worked as a performer, teaching artist, enrichment instructor, youth services librarian, yoga instructor, and farmer. Samantha loves to practice within nourishing traditions, building and feeding spaces that are inquiry-driven, equitably operated and abundant in joy!  

In addition to their experience as an artist and teacher, Samantha has a deep commitment to social justice.  Samantha is a co-founder and facilitator of Many Faces Sangha, an intersectional practice community in West Philadelphia that centers the perspectives and leadership of people of color and TLGBQ+ communities.  They are dedicated to the practice of engaged buddhism and its incredible capacities for healing, cultivating resilience and deepening understanding.

Samantha identifies as a musician and vocalist, and believes that Music is a Birthright: they are dedicated to creating equitable access to music as a tool for healing, transformative justice, and self-determination.  They are currently the program Director at Girls Rock Philly, a music mentoring organization dedicated to building an intergenerational community of girls, women, and trans and gender non-conforming people. 

Samantha is likely the loudest Lotus board member, and looks forward to growing together, living the questions and amplifying this incredible work.

P.S. Sun Sagittarius, Moon in Capricorn, Gemini Rising.


Marjorie McBroom Huyck


Growing up on a sheep farm in Southeastern Australia forged an independent spirit in Marj. She learned to love open spaces and the great silence of the land. Educated in a Catholic convent Marj later traveled extensively as a travel consultant and lived and worked in Europe and with the Australian Trade Commission in Canada.

After the death of her first husband and raising 3 boys as a single parent Marj was led to a serious spiritual exploration. This came into focus through encountering the teachings, writings and practice of Thich Nhat Hanh in the 1980s. Thays words “my life is my practice” became her inspiration.

Marj’s home sangha is Blue Heron Sangha in Columbus Ohio. She is also a member of the Order of Interbeing. Poetry, journal writing, visual journaling, being in nature and with family and grandchildren are her entry points into the exploration of deep embodied practice.

Marj is grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board of Lotus Institute with its global outreach. She shares the vision of setting up frameworks for people to inhabit and explore their own relationship to the Dharma.

photo credit Dunya Alwan

photo credit Dunya Alwan

taisha paggett

(She/Her, They/Them)

taisha paggett is an interdisciplinary dance artist who first begin studying movement over 20 years ago from what feminist scholar Hortense Spillers has called “a political passion,” or to survive coming of age as a Black, queer, working class, female-bodied person in the arid racial climate of Central California. Another part of that survival was being born into a heart-centered family illuminated by both Baptist Christian and Buddhist teachings.

Though first introduced to the Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn’s insight while in college in the late nineties, it wasn’t until more recently that taisha paggett’s path would re-encounter Thay and the essence of Engaged Buddhism, this time through the prescient, embodied work of Larry and Peggy Ward and their vision for the Lotus Institute.

Today taisha is based in Southern California*, practicing artmaking and teaching from the mind of the heart, with gratitude. You can learn a bit more about those practices here and here.

(*taisha respectfully acknowledges both the Cahuilla and Tongva People, the original stewards across generations and rightful owners of the regions she currently has the privilege to work in and call home.)


Karen Hilsberg


Karen was fortunate to encounter Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and the teachings of the Buddha in 1993 during a Day of Mindfulness in Malibu, CA. She became a diligent student, continues to transform personal suffering and support her family after the loss of her beloved husband in 2005.

Ordained as a member of the Order of Interbeing in 2004 with the name True Boundless Graciousness, she received the lamp to teach the dharma in 2012.

Karen’s mindfulness practice focuses on her love of parenting her college-age children Emily and Ben and building community and connections in the Los Angeles area. She is a dedicated student of Peggy and Larry and has had the privilege of serving on the Lotus Board since 2008.  Karen also serves as secretary of the Caretaking Council of the North America Dharma Teacher Sangha in the tradition of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. A retired clinical psychologist, Karen currently works for the non-profit think tank, Container Recycling Institute as a project manager. She loves to write and has edited several books of dharma talks for the Venerable Thich Phuoc Tinh including Be Like a Tree, The Ten Oxherding Paintings and the forthcoming Forty-two Chapters Sutra.

Photo Credit by DeJean Brown

Photo Credit by DeJean Brown

Judy Nakatomi


To name yourself matters, saying who you are, making clear your cares, concerns and commitments matters. Each time you use your voice, you are a part of the shared world. Who we are in this moment matters. -Inspiration by Audre Lorde and Sara Ahmed

My name is Judy Nakatomi and I use she/her pronouns. I reside on Luiseno Kumeyaay land in Leucadia, California.

I am the daughter of Misao Bette Nakashima and Kazuo James Nakatomi, a sansei, third generation, Japanese American. I come from a long line of ancestors from Japan, connected to the traditions and ways of island people.

I am honored to serve the vision of The Lotus Institute that respectfully invites us to remember our roots, our ways, and inner wisdom to continue to heal and transform.

The Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism practice shook me when I attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh around 2000. An engaged and embodied practice where deep looking, deep feeling and reflection intersected with real-life struggles was revelatory. The Mahasangha looked very different from that of my Buddhist heritage. I recognized that I have the capacity to heal my wounds and help my community to heal. Mindfulness has taught me how revolutionary it is to be at home with my steps and breath and how social action and engagement are connected to how I sit, walk, eat, breathe. In 2017, I received the 14 Mindfulness Trainings transmission to The Order of Interbeing, dharma name, True Moon Dwelling.

Drawn early to public service, I served as a field representative for a Member of Congress as community liaison. A combination of the ever-present election cycle and an environment of mysogny and harassment changed the course of my service. I moved to a career in marketing and product development and realized a dream by co-creating a business and brand as importer and ambassador of specialty tea. I earned a degree in Communications from UCSD.

I serve as a certified Ministerial Assistant at Vista Buddhist Temple, dharma name, Shaku Yushin, Courageous Heart and founded True Inclusivity Sangha, a space dedicated to folks who self-identify as People of Color (POC). I support and co-facilitate online POC sanghas, offer mindfulness sessions to clients of therapists, and am freshly certified in Community Resilience Model (CRM), a community based trauma resilience method. Hospice volunteer experience continues to inform my practice with support of training from the Metta Institute.

I feel a growing commitment and energy toward racial justice and LGBTQ+ equity. I am committed to becoming a better alliance builder, an advocate for marginalized identities, and a pointer to systems of oppression using my voice and resources.

In this moment, I’m welcoming what it means to be radical, meaning being centered on deep love, humility and tenderness toward all beings. I feel a commitment to hesitate and internalize less, and to invite my imagination back to a place of honor.

My joyful practice includes being with my adult kids who continue to teach and inspire boundless love and my partner of over 35 years who brightens and enlivens my days. I love to sing, chant and to be close to nature whenever possible.

Come back and claim your heritage. Cherish this very moment. Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.

- Thich Nhat Hanh


Salvatore Caruso


A cultural creative, communicator, humorist and advocate for building intentional community in this age of climate disruption, Salvatore is a person of great action. The death of his father at age seven put him on a path of radical care and service for family and community. 

He received a Masters of Science with a focus in Economics & Marketing from the University of Southern Illinois.  In his business vocation, he held many senior executive positions including McDonald’s Corporation, Leo Burnett Advertising and Bates Advertising Worldwide. As a volunteer for the Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs/International, he served in leadership positions focusing on comprehensive community development using skills in branding, marketing, strategic planning and facilitation. In the last 15 years Salvatore has been on a spiritual journey with Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, focusing on mindfulness practices in community. He is part of the Order of Interbeing (OI), a member of the Mountain Stream sangha, Eco-Dharma sangha in Boulder, and the Colorado-Wyoming OI. 

Certified in permaculture design. Salvatore and his partner, Dianne, are currently  implementing and transitioning a permaculture site in a 25 year old eco village in Litibu, Mexico.  They also engage with Indigenous Lakota healing ceremonies in Nebraska and South Dakota. Salvatore's passion is to bring Eco-Dharma, Mindfulness practices, and Indigenous wisdom together to support community resurgence.  He believes the work of the Lotus Institute through its teachings in workshops and retreats is fundamental to building healthy communities.

International Advisors



Nisanart(Gift) Dharmageisirattana


Gift earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Television from New York University (1998) and her Masters Degree in Education Administration in Public Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2013). Currently, she serves as the Director of the Mindfulness Academy of Asia. Trained at Columbia, Yale, France and the United Kingdom in various mindfulness disciplines, she introduced and implemented the Mindfulness in Education program which was well received by all stakeholders at The American School of Bangkok. In addition, she also works for the Thailand’s Ministry of Education and assists in the government’s initiatives in teaching English to Thai students. Among her trainees in mindfulness techniques are a multibillion dollar enterprise such as Amata Nakorn, executives, celebrities in the media, and doctorate students from Thammasat University, Thailand. She has also delivered trainings on mindfulness in education at various conferences across Asia and Europe. 



Tetsunori and Hisako Koizumi 

(HE/HIM) and (SHE/HER)

Tetsunori is the Director of The International Institute for Integrative Studies (TheIIIS). He has a Ph.D. in economics from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and has taught at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, and Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan. In addition to books on social sciences such as Interdependence and Change in the Global System (1993) and The Cricket, the Sprite and the Little God of Earth: Towards an Integrative Study of Right Livelihood (2018), he is the author of two books on Buddhism: Reinventing the Wheel of the Dhamma: Buddhism, Modern Science, and the Path towards Individual and Societal Transformation (2014) and A Practitioner’s Dozen: Thirteen Essays on the Conjoined Path of Learning and Practice for Zen Practitioners (2016).

Hisako is the Coordinator of Biwako Sangha, a mindfulness practice group in the tradition of Plum Village, in Omihachiman, Japan. She is also an active member of Blue Heron Sangha, Columbus, Ohio. She has a MD from Osaka University, Japan, and has taught in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. With her main academic interest in childhood and adolescent psychology, education and human development, and Eastern medicine, she is the author of such papers as: Cross-cultural Issues in the Treatment of Intractable Anorexia Nervosa (1981), The Workplace, The Family, and Evolution of the Space of Interaction for Children’s Development (1985), Who Determines What the Best of Interests of the Child Are (1995), Kata in Human Development and Education (1996), and Eastern Medicine as a Systems Science (2001). She is also the author of an article on Buddhism, The Buddha as a Systems Scientist (1993), and the co-translator of Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships by Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward (2017). 



Dr. Ava Avalos, MD


Ava Avalos is an HIV/TB specialist physician who has been living and working in Botswana for the past 18 years. She has extensive clinical, research policy, and programmatic experience, serving as a clinical advisor to the Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care in the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, since 2006. Her area of clinical research and technical expertise focus on ART treatment failure, HIV drug resistance, programmatic implementation and health economics. She currently serves on the University of Botswana Institutional Review Board and is a member of the Ethics Committee at the Ministry of Health and Wellness. She is a member of the HIV & TB Clinical Care Guidelines Committee, a Research Associate of the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Initiative, and serves on the board of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), as Vice-Chair. She directs her own medical practice and consultancy business in Gaborone, Careena Centre for Health. Most importantly, Ava loves teaching yoga and dance and integrating creative arts therapies with healing. As a Dharma teacher in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, she leads Zen practice at Tshedisa Sangha in Gaborone.

Our Inspiration

Beloved teacher of thousands across the planet, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has lived an extraordinary life. A Buddhist monk since sixteen years of age, he is a scholar, poet, peace activist and leader of a vibrant lineage of the Buddha known informally as the Plum Village tradition, named after the center in France he founded after being exiled from Vietnam during the war because of his peace activities and refusal to take sides. With monasteries in Europe, The United States, Thailand and Vietnam, his students are spreading his unique methods of teaching mindfulness and the power and beauty of living fully in the present moment. Thay (as he is lovingly called by students) coined the terms Engaged Buddhism and interbeing. and has contributed greatly to popularizing the term 'mindfulness ' worldwide.

Thich Nhat Hanh's multitude of achievements include heading the Buddhist delegation at the Paris peace talks to end the Vietnam war; being nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; and authoring over forty books of Buddhist teachings, poems, and fiction. Probably his greatest achievement is the cultivation of a worldwide Sangha (community) of monks, nuns, and laypeople, who are finding deep healing and transformation through concrete mindfulness practices.