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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2009 59 her popular 1993 book the Fruitful darkness, which is given to wild, poetic flights of dreams and visions. ultimately, however, she chose Buddhism as her path. She studied with the Korean master Seung Sahn for ten years and later received dharma trans- mission from Thich nhat hanh. over the decades that followed, roshi joan sat with dying people, a practice she continues to this day. drawing on Buddhist practice and principles to guide her responses, she tries to help patients meet their challenges with awareness; both she and the patient “bear witness” to whatever emotions and experiences arise. in an initiative to support caregivers, halifax founded the Project on Being with dying, a training program for profession- als in end-of-life care, now in its fifteenth year. if these projects weren’t ambitious enough, halifax also built two spiritual communities. in 1979 she founded The ojai Foundation, a rustic Californian retreat center nicknamed “The Wizard’s Camp” for the extraordinary faculty that hali- fax invited, such as indigenous teachers and Western academics. This center hosted some of Thich nhat hanh’s first meditation retreats in the united States, as well as workshops on chaos the- ory, ethnobotany, and dream research. Then in 1992, laurance rockefeller and richard Baker roshi gave halifax a house in new Mexico, between the Santa Fe river and Cerro gordo Mountain. She set about building a new retreat center from scratch, regreening the trodden desert land. now, upaya Zen Center is a sprawling complex of adobe buildings, with a spacious zendo and lush gardens. She practiced with Thich nhat hanh and his sangha until 1995, when she asked roshi Bernie glassman, known for leading “street retreats” in new York City, to be her primary teacher. “Thay [Thich nhat hanh] is just an extraordinary force for good,” she explains. “i was deeply enriched by his dharma. But the style of his sangha wasn’t congruent with my style. Thay is too nice. i am not a ‘nice’ Buddhist. i’m more interested in a plain rice, ‘get down in the street and get dirty’ Buddhism. That’s what roshi glassman manifests.” halifax cut her long, thick hair and became a priest in the order of Zen Peacemakers, roshi Bernie’s organization of socially engaged Buddhists within the White Plum asanga lineage. although celibacy is not required of priests in this lineage, she took a vow of celibacy before the upaya sangha. “When i decided to really devote myself to practice and community development, i realized i couldn’t be in a primary relationship and do that effectively,” she says.