“The Buddha was once asked, “What is the wise way of responding to suffering?” He answered by explaining the possible paths of response, some that would lead to complexity and increased suffering, and others that would lead to compassion and the end of suffering. He spoke of the path of despair and powerlessness that only leads to a darkness of heart. “Why is this happening to me? Life is unfair.” He spoke of the path of blame and the agitation and disconnection that follow in the wake of blame. “It is your fault, it is you who made me suffer.” He spoke of the path of guilt, the exaggerated sense of responsibility that claims all suffering as personal failure. “It is my fault, my inadequacy that has brought this sorrow.” He spoke too of the path of investigation, the compassionate exploration of sorrow and struggle; and exploration that is concerned not so much with denying suffering, as with understanding its cause and its end. It is an exploration that acknowledges that not all pain can be eradicated, but that there may be a way of discovering freedom within the painful and the end of suffering. This is the path of compassionate simplicity.  Compassion is concerned with bringing to stillness the agitation and fear of our own hearts, bridging the gap of disconnection, separation, and distance. It does not mean that pain will always disappear or that we will discover a solution to every dispute and conflict. We cannot always fix every moment of distress, but we can always be present, awake, and receive each moment with compassion and simplicity.  Faced with difficult, painful situations and people in our lives, our minds and hearts become ensnared in frenzied attempts to find a solution or explanation. In the efforts we make to alter, modify, and fix, we begin caught up in a despair that leads to avoidance or suppression. Our compassion, that leads us to reach out, to help, and heal, is hijacked by the desperate desire to make

Compassion is concerned with bringing to stillness the agitation and fear of our own hearts, bridging the gap of disconnection, separation, and distance. It does not mean that pain will always disappear or that we will discover a solution to every dispute and conflict. We cannot always fix every moment of distress, but we can always be present, awake, and receive each moment with compassion and simplicity.  Faced with difficult, painful situations and people in our lives, our minds and hearts become ensnared in frenzied attempts to find a solution or explanation. In the efforts we make to alter, modify, and fix, we begin caught up in a despair that leads to avoidance or suppression. Our compassion, that leads us to reach out, to help, and heal, is hijacked by the desperate desire to make

Faced with difficult, painful situations and people in our lives, our minds and hearts become ensnared in frenzied attempts to find a solution or explanation. In the efforts we make to alter, modify, and fix, we begin caught up in a despair that leads to avoidance or suppression. Our compassion, that leads us to reach out, to help, and heal, is hijacked by the desperate desire to make pain disappear. Too often we are left feeling frustrated and powerless. Some years ago, a gunman burst into a school and opened fire on a classroom of children. Amid the devastating grief and bewilderment that followed, a journalist asked the parish priest, “How do you explain what has happened here? You’re a religious leader and many people feel that they are in need of an explanation. How could this happen, how could someone do this?” The priest answered, “To try to explain this event is not the way. This is not the time for trying to understand something of this order.” There is not always an answer or a satisfactory explanation for the pain in the world. Suffering is held most fully in a still, receptive, responsive silence. The words of healing, the responses of courage and wisdom, are born of that simplicity. Compassion is not just an accident, a random moment of openness. The still simplicity of the listening heart is always available to us; learning to let go gently of our demands for answers and solutions, liberates the heart to listen.”   Christina Feldman

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“The Buddha was once asked what compassion is and he answered, “If you want to know what compassion is, look into the eyes of a mother as she cradles her fevered, ill child.” Compassion is a true vastness of heart and a depth of wisdom that listens to, embraces, and receives suffering. It is an antidote to hostility, resistance, and division. Learning to listen to the sounds of the universe is learning to soften and melt our armory of fear, mistrust, and imprisonment in a separate self. Compassion is not a quality to romanticize, idealize, or project into a future moment. Nurturing compassion does not depend upon personal perfection. We meet suffering, pain, and confusion every day of our lives. The homeless person on the street, the frail parent, the hurt child, the stressed executive, the alienated teenager. It is not easy to open our hearts to the bottomless depths of pain in the world. We hold in our hearts our own mortality and the mortality of others. All life is fragile; we live in a fragile world. health turns to illness, well-being to pain, safety to uncertainty, life to death; none of us can control the countless supports upon which our well-being rests. The moments of sorrow and confusion we meet are moments that invite us to cultivate a listening heart, to let go of separation, and to be present with every cell of our being. The difficult moments and encounters in our lives are the gateways of compassion. Our enemies are angels of compassion in disguise, inviting us to be present, to attend, and to receive. Here we discover for ourselves the healing, balancing power of compassion.’”  Christina Feldman

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‘The security that our judgments, images, and concepts appear to offer is that they convince us that there is no need to change our inner world of opinions, reactions and conclusions. If we are fully convinced that someone is irritating, frustrating, and annoying, we feel fully justified in our irritation, annoyance and frustration. In the security of that justification we may feel no need to cultivate deeper levels of patience, acceptance, and kindness in our own heart. The “irritant” is judged, banished, and frozen through our concepts, and we do not feel called upon to cultivate a new beginning in our relationship with them. If I know something to be boring, worthless, or mundane, I may feel no need to explore what difference wholehearted attention would make. If I convince myself that I am wounded, powerless, or inadequate, and accept this inner description, it is unlikely that I will feel a powerful yearning for freedom or wholeness.

Learning to dive beneath our concepts, conclusions, and assumptions, we learn to live with respect, reverence, and a divine curiosity. We find the wisdom to acknowledge that “knowing” is not always the same as wisdom and we open the doors of our heart to new beginnings in each moment. Cultivating the kindness and compassion of total attention, moments of wonder and mystery find their way into our life. When nothing and no one is confined or imprisoned in any image, there emerges an acceptance and vastness of heart that embraces all things. The great poet, Kabir, wrote:

The blue sky stretches out, farther and farther,

The daily sense of failure recedes,

The damage I have done to myself fades,

A million suns come forth with light,

When I sit firmly in that world.

The beginner’s mind holds within it a generosity of heart that liberates us from the shackles of the self-images and conclusions that binds us endlessly to the wheels of the past. We are free to begin again, to understand ourselves deeply, and to be present. The beginner’s mind is a key not only to personal freedom – it also liberates the people in our life, the world, and each moment from the chains of our assumptions, “knowledge,” and ancient stories. The historical feuds, anger, and separation sustained by the fearful guarding of our judgments, begin to crumble before the generosity of the beginner’s mind. The beginner’s mind is the forgiving mind, listening, sensitive, and receptive.’  – Christina Feldman

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“There can be immense benefit in seeking places of solitude and stillness, removing ourselves for periods of time from the bustle of the world. If we bring our aversion to the world with us to these sacred places, we also bring the bustle. If we learn to enter into sacred spaces with the intention to be awake and listen fully, they deepen and enrich us. We learn powerful lessons of letting go, of stillness and sensitivity. We learn the lessons of freedom that are offered in the meandering thought, the fleeting sensation, in the heart of sorrow and joy. We learn to live in harmony with what is, to discover the spaces between thoughts and the stillness between sounds. We explore the profound stillness that embraces the gaps between the events and the events themselves.

We discover how vast and encompassing our hearts can be, and that wisdom has no end. The freedom of not resting upon anything, not being defined by anything, not wanting or missing anything, not being captive anywhere. Stillness and awareness are the nature of the mind unobstructed by grasping. Compassion is born of the understanding of emptiness. Within this world of arising and passing forms of life in all its shapes and bodies, there is nothing separate from ourselves. In listening deeply to the world, understanding the causes of suffering and the way to its end, no other response is possible but compassion. Aware but still, we are awakened by the “ten thousand things.”

Discovering these sacred spaces of stillness, we are encouraged to approach life in a sacred way. Great moments of illumination do not only belong to the recluses of this world, but are found in the hearts of ordinary people, extraordinary in their capacity to be awakened by their life. A couple raising and nurturing a profoundly disabled child, speak of it as a spiritual journey. The sleepless nights, the constant care, the surrender of personal freedom teaches them new depth of kindness, patience and generosity. A young Tibetan nun thanks her torturer for awakening her to new depths of faith, compassion, and forgiveness. A teacher speaks of approaching her day as an opportunity to awaken just one child to new possibilities. A former athlete, debilitated by chronic fatigue, tells of the discovery of trust, humility, and kindness, amid his helplessness. The essence of all spiritual teaching encourages us to turn toward our life and discover a freedom that leans upon nothing and embraces everything.”  Christina Feldman

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“We will meet many difficult moments in our lives – people will abuse us or take us for granted, people we love will leave us; our expectations of others and ourselves will be disappointed, and there will be times when we are misunderstood or judged unfairly. The difficult encounters and moments in our lives spiral into complexity when aversion and fear are layered upon them. With aversion come innumerable ideas about how we think the world, other people, and ourselves should be, together with our strategies for turning those ideas into reality. With fear is born in our imagination what might befall us, the endless possibilities of misfortune, and our desire to flee from difficulties. Oscar Wilde once said, “The most terrible things in my life never actually happened.” In case they do, we want to be well rehearsed.

There is a simpler way of being with the difficult and painful in this life; to listen closely; to stay present, to investigate, and question – “Here is suffering. There are causes that can be understood without blame. What is the path to the end of suffering in this moment?” The path may involve intervention, the courage to say “no,” wise action; it may involve forgiveness, tolerance, or patience. Whether our response to suffering is an inner or an outer one, compassion roots itself in the dedication to ending sorrow. Our capacity to make peace with the difficult is hindered and made complex through the added ingredients of aversion, fear, and avoidance. These are the layers of complexity that we can learn to understand and release.” Christina Feldman

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‘Fear is the passageway between the known and the unknown. It is the passageway we are asked to walk through as we go beneath the concepts, labels, and images that make our world familiar and safe. In deeper levels of meditation there is an existential fear that is touched upon. This fear has no specific object; it is not the fear of the dark, of people, of failure, but the fear that comes to visit us when it is no longer possible to define ourselves or anything in our world. We are not asked to endure this fear, survive it, or suffer with it, but to welcome it and explore it, leave it if we wish and understand that it is the forerunner of freedom. Fearlessness does not mean that fear arises, but it entails our willingness to turn toward it, understand it, and find within it the simplicity of being present…

Finding simplicity within our hearts asks us to let go, just as the emergence of simplicity in all our lives asks us to let go. We let go of the stories, the beliefs, the fears, and our hearts learn to sing. Wandering in the wilderness, our sense of being lost ends the moment we find traces of the path. The wilderness is no longer an enemy. We appreciate the towering trees as well as the thorns and brambles. We are able to say, “I know you” and discover an unshakeable presence.’  Christina Feldman