About Hidden Leaf


Hidden Leaf is a small family foundation established in the 1980s explicitly to promote the integration of wisdom awareness practices into work for systemic social change. Hidden Leaf was founded by David Brown and is now governed by his three daughters: Karie Brown, Tara Brown, and Kristen Stinnett-Brown. Tara directed the foundation for 16 years. We are now transitioning to our first non-family executive director. An exciting step for a family foundation!

Hidden Leaf Founder David Brown

Dave Brown was born in 1936, and grew up immersed in the culture of a small farming community in Walnut Grove, California. Although Dave studied agricultural economics at Berkeley, he turned his business acumen toward real estate and, with Jon Reynolds, founded Reynolds & Brown, based in Concord, a company that quickly grew into a successful commercial real estate development firm. At age 35, Dave had reached a pinnacle: he had a wonderful family life, a successful business, good friends, and economic security. Having achieved the “American Dream,” though, Dave still felt that something was missing.

To fill this gap, he began to turn his gaze inward. Inspired by Buddhist meditative practice, Dave embarked on a decades-long pursuit of spiritual discipline and awareness. As this pursuit helped him feel grounded, and as it deepened his joy in everyday life, it also kindled a commitment to philanthropy. In 1988, Dave founded the Hidden Leaf Foundation with his three daughters. He guided the foundation and served on the board until his death in 2013.

The Myth of Hidden Leaf: The Name and the Mission

The name “Hidden Leaf” came into being during a moment of playfulness and tenderness shared by founder Dave Brown and his three daughters around the dinner table. What began as a humorous family joke became the expression of the values of the Brown family: love, humor, family, progressive good works, and confidence in deep intuition. A leaf symbolizes a rich nurturing process that joins light—an invisible wave form coming from the heavens—with matter, creating nourishment and sustenance for life. A similar process is hidden deeply within our beings.

Hidden Leaf Foundation’s mission is to assist individuals and organizations, with values similar to ours, move closer to this mysterious process that the leaf symbolizes. The closer we come to this inner source, the Hidden Leaf, the more we can live into our full and potent power.

Contemplative practice can assist people in creating together a living experience of a new paradigm of social justice out of which work can then flow, work that creates social justice rather than striving to create social justice while leaving a trail of social debris.
— Robert Gass, Rockwood Leadership Institute