Book Review: Standing At the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet by Joan Halifax @jhalifax

Book Review: Standing At the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet by Joan Halifax

Standing At the Edge is a once in a lifetime kind of book. I don’t say that lightly either. It’s a life-changing and life-affirming book that combines philosophy, Zen Buddhism, psychology, and much more and manages to be both personal and relevant for individuals as well as being vastly relevant to the entire human race.

Genre: Non-fiction, spirituality, Zen buddhism, psychology, philosophy.

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Halifax with the Dalai Lama

Author Roshi Joan Halifax PhD is a multidisciplinary genius, although she would be too humble to ever say so. She’s a Zen priest, anthropologist and Buddhist teacher. Through her varied career she has helped many people – even the toughest murderers in US prisons. She has lectured on spirituality and Buddhism in corporations, schools and has led spiritual and emotional recovery efforts in war zones and places where trauma is a part of daily living.

Book Review: Standing At the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet by Joan Halifax

This book takes an exciting interdisciplinary deep-dive into human psychology, spirituality, Zen Buddhist principles and more. The chapters are well organised and delve into five psychological territories known as ‘Edge States’: altruism, respect, integrity, empathy and engagement. Halifax emphasises that these edge states as being the basis of character. And yet each of these five psychological states can also be the source of much of our suffering and pain when we don’t consciously understand them. This book helps the reader to navigate through these edge states and becoming open to the the light and dark of our inner selves and to truly understand ourselves and to truly understand these edge states instead of experiencing fear and anxiety.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history based not only on cruelty but also on compassion, sacrifice, courage and kindness.

What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.

If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least, the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

~Roshi Joan Halifax PhD
Ginkaku-Ji temple zen garden, Kyoto © Content Catnip 2018
Ginkaku-Ji temple zen garden, Kyoto © Content Catnip 2018

Halifax’s flowing and beautiful writing blends wisdom from Zen Buddhism and from her own hard-won and humbling life experiences, living in different parts of the world and connecting with people who are living on the fringes of society. She manages to connect with people despite of her own personal fears, biases and anxieties.

A video I made which evocative of the peacefulness of one of the temples in Kyoto Tenryu-Ji.

This is one of the best spiritual books I have ever read. It’s not wishy-washy instead it provides concrete lived examples of the different edge states: altruism, respect, integrity, empathy, engagement using provocative writing and insights from wise people from throughout history, as well as Halifax’s own interesting experiences working with people from all walks of life. This is a clever, enjoyable, compelling and insightful book that is helpful in understanding oneself and the world. This is a treasure you won’t regret buying and that you will refer back to for years to come.

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Standing At the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet by Joan Halifax @jhalifax

  1. What a quote – wanted to copy and paste that sucka into social media post, but don’t want to invite contrary comments so I’ll hold on to it like a secret, one that I’ve intuitively known as I remain almost Pollyanna in my belief that we will overcome.

    Also, downloaded it. You sold it to me! ❤


    1. I’m so glad you loved this Lani, yes hold it close to your heart, I will do the same thing. This book is so good, a treasure, I hope you enjoy it my friend 😘🙂


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