Joan Halifax is a medical anthropologist, Buddhist priest, and president of Upaya, a Buddhist study and retreat center in Santa Fe. This 56-page book is the 1995 Wit Lecture given at Harvard Divinity School. Halifax, who was functionally blind for two years as a child, has kept her eyes wide open in experiences with the Dogon people in Africa, the Huichol Indians of Mexico, and Tibetan Buddhists. She has worked with folklorist Alan Lomax, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, mythologist Joseph Campbell, and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.

"Love and death are the great gifts that are given to us," Rainer Maria Rilke observed. "Mostly they are passed on unopened." Not by Joan Halifax. She shares how primitive peoples have taught her about simplicity and what dying people have shown her about our connections with all beings. Halifax's engaged Buddhism means taking practice and altars into the street. In the process she cultivates an open heart. Now Halifax not only takes refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha but in each being's gift for awakening, in the truth that one discovers in mindful noticing, and in the great community of all beings.