Roshi Joan Halifax Thanks Supporters After New Mexico Zen Refuge Fire
SEATTLE—In the aftermath of the devastating fire earlier this month that consumed several buildings at the Prajna Mountain Forest Refuge in New Mexico, Roshi Joan Halifax, founder and abbot of the Upaya Institute and Zen Center, has issued a statement of gratitude for the all support and assistance that has been received.
On Wednesday, Halifax wrote: “Many of you have donated to the Forest Refuge Rebuild Fund. And I thank you with all of my heart. And many of you have written words that have lifted my spirit. I am so grateful for your sense of connection to this place and to me. My heart to all of you, and again, deepest thanks for your generosity.” (Facebook)
Several buildings at the Prajna Mountain Forest Refuge were destroyed in an electrical fire on 14 December. The refuge, located north of Santa Fe in New Mexico, is affiliated with the Upaya Institute and Zen Center. Halifax, posted photos and updates from the scene of the fire to social media.
The day after the fire she wrote:
nothing left of my home at the mountain refuge, save one precious japanese tea cup. i thank all of you for so many kind words. right now, after a day in smoke, i need to rest and recover my spirit. i am just deeply grateful for your support. again, my heart to baizan, myoshin, sean who kept the fire contained within the buildings so the forest did not go up in flames. noah driving at warp speed to get us back to the refuge. and to the dozens of men and women (and especially johnny abeyta) from ojo sarco, penasco, truchas, dixon, el valle, and other villages in the area who are volunteer fire fighters who came to our rescue. they all gave their best for many hours today, while i slowly walked the perimeter with a heavy heart. there is some kind of terrible beauty in all this. twisted and melted metal, black ash and white foam fire retardant, the proud chimney standing alone against the winter sky, the charred logs from our forest that hold fire within them...... i don't have more words right now. but thinking of all those who saw all they had go up in flames. my heart is with them. and harder, those who did not make it out of a fire........ that was not our fate. so thank you for your words. your kindness helps.........
The area where Prajna Mountain Forest Refuge is located is described as “a very remote, high-altitude valley, surrounded by 3 million acres of national forest.” The refuge’s mission is “to provide a place of deep retreat for dedicated practitioners.” A recovery fund was quickly established for those who wish to contribute to rebuilding the forest refuge, including “Roshi’s retreat home, a second retreat cabin, and the bath house.” (Upaya Institute and Zen Center)
Roshi Joan Halifax is an American Zen teacher, anthropologist, activist, and hospice worker. She serves on the board of directors for the Mind and Life Foundation and has written and worked widely on the topic of death and dying. In the 2002 book, Westward Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Asia, Christopher Queen wrote of her:
She teaches the techniques of “being with death and dying” to a class of terminally ill patients, doctors, nurses, lovers, family, and friends. She speaks calmly, with authority. In a culture where death is an enemy to be ignored, denied, and hidden away, Joan physically touches the dying. She holds them, listens to them, comforts them, calms them, and eases their suffering by any means possible. She shares their thoughts and fears; she feels their last shuddering breaths, holding them in her arms. She travels easily from church to synagogue, hospice to hospital, dispensing techniques and training born of Buddhist traditions and beliefs in a culturally and spiritually flexible manner.
Halifax founded the Upaya Institute and Zen Center east of Santa Fe in 2002 and opened the Prajna Mountain Forest Refuge in 2010.
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