The importance of silence is acknowledged and honored in all of the great spiritual traditions. It is an art and a practice that leads to personal transformation: this has been manifested in the lives of countless mystics in monasteries and hermits sitting in stillness in mountain caves. When they return from silence, these souls reveal a peace that passes all human understanding and an energy that seems to be super-human.

Christina Feldman has been teaching meditation since 1974 and is the author of many books, including Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World. In this beautifully designed paperback that includes 230 four color photographs and a contemporary design, she explores the breadth and depths of the spiritual practice of silence. In "First Encounters," she defines this hard to pin down art; in "The Way," she presents methods of creating our own sanctuaries of stillness and moments of pause during the day; in "Fruits of Silence," she discusses the benefits of self-knowledge, inner peace, inner strength and fresh perspectives that are the result of a disciplined practice, and in "The Silence Within," Feldman marvels at the undiscovered territory that lies within this journey into stillness.

Feldman is very spiritually perceptive. For example, she writes: "Profound stillness is not just the territory of the ancient mystics and sages. There are times when each of us needs to seclude ourselves and turn our attention within. We may not be drawn to the cloisters of a monastic cell or to a mountain cave, but we can learn the art of creating sacred spaces, times of listening, and moments of pause. This is where we rediscover ourselves, renew ourselves, and find the balance and wisdom to reenter our life with a heart filled with compassion and balance. Heeding the invitation of silence, we discover profound psychological and spiritual realities, and understand that we are part of the lineage of silence that transcends the barriers of time and tradition."

Where other writers on silence have passed over its shadow dimensions, Feldman does not. She points out how the enforced silence of the elderly, homosexuals, women, children, and dissidents is a heavy burden to bear. And as we all know, isolation has been a way to torture prisoners for centuries.

Mahatma Gandhi showed us that silence could be filled with remarkable power and creativity. Anyone who has taken a vow of silence for a few days each year knows how enlightening and healing this practice can be. Or as Feldman puts it near the end of the book, " Silence is joy, a celebration of life, and the home of revelation — the deeper understandings that restore us to wholeness and freedom."