Roshi Joan Halifax


Roshi Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and author. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. For the past twenty-five years, she has been active in environmental work.

A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism.

For more information about Roshi Joan, visit

Roshi Joan Halifax sums up the deepest attitude towards life fulfillment – her deepest “secret” for living in the video below.


Boundless Qualities of Mind

by Roshi Joan Halifax

Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity.

A Brahmin once came to the Buddha and asked him how he could enter the Abode of Brahma or the Divine. The Buddha told him that this was possible by practicing boundless kindness toward all beings, boundless compassion with all beings, boundless joy in the salvation and basic goodness of all beings, and boundless equanimity toward all beings, whether friend of foe. Practicing thus, the Buddha explained, makes it possible for one to transform the obstacles of meanness, gloating over the misfortune of others, unhappiness, and preferential mind. This was the way, he explained, that we enter the abode of the divine.

In another sutra, there is a story about the Buddha manifesting these boundless qualities of mind that he taught his Brahmin student. Once there was a very ill monk. His body was covered with suppurating, foul-smelling sores that were leaking pus. No one wanted to care for him because he looked and smelled so terrible. The Buddha went to the monk’s bedside and cleaned his sores, bathed him, and gave him support and inspiration as well as teachings. Some time later the Buddha told his followers that if they really wanted to serve him, they should serve the sick with boundless kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. The Buddha knew that he was not separate from any form of suffering.

The Four Boundless Abodes are lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. These are qualities of the mind and heart that are inherent to our basic nature. Buddhism calls these universal virtues the Four Boundless Abodes. By cultivating them in our activities, we strengthen their presence within us. As their presence grows stronger, so does their boundless quality. These abodes are the unconditional treasure that is always available to each of us, even when we are dying.

Generating these four qualities is the ultimate form of self-care. They connect us to the stream of basic goodness, and they connect us to one another. They are the qualitative basis for our work in being with dying. In some deep sense strengthening their presence is the best self-care we can give.

You can practice each of the abodes by directing its energy to yourself, a benefactor, a friend, a loved one, a difficult person, a person about whom you feel neutral, or all beings. You can also start with yourself and expand the practice by spending a few minutes directing the energy toward each of these parties sequentially, until, at the end of the practice, all beings are included.

I begin by sitting quietly and remembering how much suffering there is in the world and how much I would like peace and happiness for all beings. I remember that someday, sooner or later, I will die and all beings will die. I want to use this precious human life as best I can. I then vow to free myself from suffering and help others be free from suffering.

Resting in openness, I bring my attention gently to my breath. Then I begin my practice with myself, a friend, a loved one, or a relative who is suffering. This opens my heart and deepens my commitment. On the in-breath, I take in suffering. On the out breath, I offer one of the abodes. I often practice with one of the phrases below, directing it to the chosen recipient. Feeling open and committed, I pay attention to what is arising in my heart and mind during practice and let the practice shift accordingly. For example, I might find myself resisting inhaling the suffering. Then I shift the focus to sending compassion to myself.

At the end of a period of practice, I again rest in openness, inviting the feeling of gratitude to be present. How rare it is to open to the nourishment of basic goodness! Then I dedicate the merit of the practice to all beings everywhere.

Original Source: Roshi Joan Halifax Upaya Meditations