Activist, anthropologist, author, caregiver, ecologist, LSD researcher, teacher, and Zen Buddhism priest — Joan Halifax is many things to many people. Yet they all seem to agree that no matter what role she plays, Halifax is consistently courageous and compassionate. Halifax runs the Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, a Zen Peacemaker community she opened in 1990 after founding and leading the Ojai Foundation in California for ten years. Her practice focuses on socially engaged Buddhism, which aims to alleviate suffering through meditation, interfaith cooperation, and social service.
As director of the Project on Being With Dying, Halifax has helped caregivers cope with death and dying for more than three decades. Her book Being With Dying (2008 via Amazon) helps clergy, community activists, medical professionals, social workers and spiritual seekers remove fear from the end of life. Halifax is a distinguished invited scholar of the U.S. Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Advisory Council.
In a recent TED Talk, Halifax speaks about compassion and the true meaning of empathy. And her wisdom and experience in alleviating human suffering extends far beyond how to care for someone in the final chapter of their life — it encompasses every dimension of the human experience. I discovered Joan while browsing through the amazingness that is Grieveyard, a website that my friend Robynn suggested to me. It’s an extraordinary resource of beauty and inspiration and you absolutely must check it out by visiting Grieveyard.com.