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Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D.

Buddhist teacher, Founder

Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center

Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D. is a Buddhist teacher, Founder and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a social activist, author, and in her early years was an anthropologist at Columbia University (1964-68) and University of Miami School of Medicine (1970-72). She is a pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She has lectured on the subject of death and dying at many academic institutions and medical centers around the world. 

She received a National Science Foundation Fellowship in Visual Anthropology, was an Honorary Research Fellow in Medical Ethnobotany at Harvard University, was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress, received the Pioneer Medal for Outstanding Leadership in Health Care by HealthCare Chaplaincy, the Sandy MacKinnon Award from Covenant Health in Canada, Pioneer Medal for Outstanding Leadership in Health Care, received an Honorary DSc from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. She has received many other awards and honors from institutions around the world for her work as a social and environmental activist and in the end-of-life care field.

From 1972-1975, she worked with psychiatrist Stanislav Grof at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center with dying cancer patients. She has continued to work with dying people and their families, and to teach health care professionals and family caregivers the psycho-social, ethical and spiritual aspects of care of the dying. She is Director of the Project on Being with Dying, and Founder of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She is also founder of the Nomads Clinic in Nepal.

She has practiced Buddhism since the 1960’s and was formally ordained in 1976 by Zen Master Seung Sahn.  In 1980, she was ordained as a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. In 1990, she received the Lamp Transmission from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. In 1997, she was ordained as a Zen Priest by Bernard Glassman Roshi, and was given Inka in 1999 She is a Founding Teacher in the Peacemaker Community and Zen Peacemaker Order. She has also studied with renowned Vajrayana teachers including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Venerable Khyentse Rinpoche, Venerable Chakdud Rinpoche, and others. She founded the Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order in 2002.

Her books include: The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav Grof); The Fruitful Darkness, A Journey Through Buddhist Practice; Simplicity in the Complex: A Buddhist Life in America; Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Wisdom in the Presence of Death; Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet; Sophie Learns to Be Brave; In a Moment, In a Breath: 55 Meditations to Cultivate a Courageous Heart

She has been involved with the Mind and Life Institute since its inception and is founder of the Varela International Symposium.

Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D.
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