A friend of mine once remarked that when he is feeling most compassionate, he feels the best. Or in other words, "Nothing feels better than compassion."

I like this idea, for two reasons:

First, it suggests that compassion is something to do for our sake, rather than for someone else, or because we think it will make us into "good" people.
That is a nice twist. Just do it because it feels good.

Second, most people can relate to this, in that most of us have experienced some moments in which our heart was really open wide, where our feeling for someone else, or for other people, so dominated our consciousness that our ordinary preoccupations with self were just not so loud. So most of us have had some evidentiary proof of this proposition. Yes, compassion feels good.

And if that weren't good enough, I then stumbled upon this extraordinary article by David Hamilton, summarizing recent research suggesting that compassion may actually help you live longer. It does this by reducing inflammation (by increasing the fitness or tone of the vagus nerve).

I like the idea that scientists are discovering that love is good for us.


For several years, I have been working intermittently on writing a new version of The Heart Sutra, one of the most important texts in Zen Buddhism. I was interested in doing this primarily because the version of the sutra that I am accustomed to chanting mentions the word "pain" twice, and that bothered me. I assumed that itwas a mistranslation of dukkha (better translated as suffering or dissatisfaction) but wanted to find out more.

When my mother died suddenly, this past May, and my family planned a "participatory" funeral service on the beach, I decided that I would finish my new version and read it at that service. I found that working on this text was deeply soothing, which I now believe is its intent.  And when I read this text at the service, as we stood in a small circle around the urn that contained my mother's ashes, it felt just right. The urn was made of pink salt, and the sutra seemed particularly appropriate to that moment at which people are suffering the insubstantiability of form, the impermanence of life. 

You can download it here ... or keep reading ...

The Heart Sutra

Adapted for my mother, Florence Boroson
on the occasion of her funeral, May 30, 2011

(from the literal translation by Edward Conze)

The Lord Avalokita
(who hears the cries of the world) [i]
Looked down from on high,
And while practicing the Perfection of Wisdom,
Clearly saw that everything is empty—
Nothing solid, nothing permanent,
Nothing separate from anything else,[ii]
And in that moment, everything was okay.[iii]

Speaking to the monk, Shariputra, she put it this way: