Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 5 – Roshi Joan Halifax

Ethan Nichtern - The Road Home - Ep. 5 - Roshi Joan Halifax

Roshi Joan Halifax visits Ethan for a chat about the challenges and rewards of service work and the intersection of Dharma and social action.

Roshi Joan is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Learn more at

Show Notes

Standing at the Edge (Opening)

Roshi Joan shares the inspirations for writing her most recent book, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

“This book is a harvest of the relationships of trust that I have experienced over a course of decades and also examining my own experience, asking how can we can have not only more resilience but also flourish in this work of serving others. I wrote the book by pulling from my deepest experience both of the positive aspects of the work but also understanding that those aspects which give rise to flourishing can also be the source of suffering.” – Roshi Joan Halifax  

Read an excerpt from Standing at the Edge at 
Where We Are From, Where We Are Going (10:45)

Ethan and Roshi talk about the aspects of service work that can be difficult to experience but sew the seeds of personal growth. They look at the value of cultivating respect, in grounding our practice in a tradition and exposing ourselves to the traditions that benefit others.

“I am not just concerned with my wellbeing and the wellbeing of people in the service professions. I am really concerned about what is happening in the world, from a global perspective. Whether that has to do with reverence, or lack thereof, toward the environment. Disrespect between individuals and disparagement, in terms of vertical violence. We are moving not into a civil society, but quite an uncivil society. I am concerned about kids quite frankly, what are we creating for the future.” – Roshi Joan Halifax  

Engaging at Different Levels (23:40)

What does our global social and political system say about the need for wider dharmic practice? Roshi Joan reflects on the role of the Dharma in social action.

Rethink social action with Ram Dass and Roshi Joan Halifax on Ep. 15 of the Be Here now Network’s Guest Podcast.
Looking Forward (35:40)

Lastly, Joan offers advice for the next generation of Dharma teachers.

“Just being a Buddhist doesn’t make you a perfect person.” – Roshi Joan Halifax  

Photo via Kigaku