By Ram Dass

'The hardest state to be in is one in which you keep your heart open to the suffering that exists around you, and simultaneously keep your discriminative wisdom.

It's far easier to do one or the other; to keep your heart open and get lost in pity, empathetic suffering, righteous indignation, etc.; or remain remotely detached as a witness to it all.

Once you understand that true compassion is the blending of the open heart and the quiet mind, it is still difficult to find the balance.

Most often we start out doing these things sequentially. We open our hearts and get lost in the melodramas, then we meditate and regain our quiet center by pulling back in from so much openness.

Then we once again open and get sucked back into the dance. So it goes cycle after cycle. It takes a good while to get the balance.

For at first the discriminative awareness part of the cycle makes you feel rather like a cold fish. You feel as if you have lost your tenderness and caring. And yet each time you open again to the tender emotions, you get lost in the drama and see your predicament: if you really want to help others who are suffering, you just have to develop the balance between heart and mind such that you remain soft and flowing yet simultaneously clear and spacious.

You have to stay right on the edge of that balance. It seems impossible, but you do it. At first, when you achieve this balance, it is self-consciously maintained. Ultimately, however, you merely become the statement of the amalgam of the open heart and quiet mind. Then there is no more struggle; it's just the way you are.'

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