Remembering Darlene Cohen

We’ve received word that the author and Zen priest and author Darlene Cohen has died, passing away at 1:15 a.m., Pacific Time, this morning. Her work, as she described it on her website, focused largely on:

“[encouraging and inspiring] people living with chronic pain or crushing stress to learn the skills necessary for dealing with these often catastrophic situations. […] Though I was ordained as a zen priest in 1999, I have always been more interested in what happens when we get up off our meditations pillows and face our everyday work and family situations than in a strictly monastic setting for practice.”

Cohen, an M.A. and a licensed massage therapist taught by Meir Schneider, earned her graduate degree in physiological psychology in 1966 and was ordained as a Zen priest in 1999. While living at Green Gulch Farm, San Francisco Zen Center’s temple in Marin County, she developed rheumatoid arthritis. Beginning in 1980, Cohen began her work people living with chronic illness, helping them to discover relief through meditation and concentration practices. She maintained her relationship with the SFZC community and taught regularly.

Cohen authored several books, including Arthritis: Stop Suffering, Starting Moving / Exercises for Body and Mind, Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain, and most recently, The One Who Is Not Busy: Connecting to Work in a Deeply Satisfying Way. A friend and contributor to the Shambhala Sun, she wrote the articles “Finding Joy Amid The Pain” and “No Harm in a Little Gossip, Right?”

She is survived by a husband, Tony Patchell, a son, Ethan, and a grandson, Anthony. We offer our condolences to them, and to all the many people whose lives were touched by Darlene and her teachings.

An announcement released today by Susan Ji-on Postal of the Empty Hand Zen Center reads:

Early this morning, at about 1:15 Pacific time, beloved teacher Surei Kenpo Darlene Cohen peacefully breathed her last. Tony and Ethan, husband and son, were with her at home.

Cynthia Kear, newly transmitted by Darlene, called with the details a while ago. The Memorial Service date is still not known, but it will be at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, both Dennis Keegan and I will be attending, Michael Wenger officiating.

Here at Empty Hand we begin the cycle of services for the 49 day Memorial Period on Sunday.

To write to her family:

Tony Patchell
P.O. Box 2234
Guerneville, CA 95446

We have been touched by an extraordinary person of great passion for the Dharma and great compassion for the suffering of all beings.  May our ceremonies and love support Darlene’s journey as she now enters the great mystery.


  1. Stephanie H (via FB) says

    What sad news, I never met her, but nonetheless her talks had a profound impact on my practice.

  2. Malcolm Backus says

    I met Darlene at the SFZC in 1999 and listened to a number of her talks while a resident there.May she be free from pain.
    Mal Backus

  3. Jennifer Kerr says

    I met Darlene only once and then briefly but her book "Finding Joy" sustained me through many a hard time. I wept when I heard the news.