In: People

Submitted By julierive
Words 3995
Pages 16
One bitter night, in the rough end of New Haven,

the heartful dodger by any standards, but it hit Ferraro like an uppercut. He was unable to continue the beating. That exchange on a wintry night in 1982 is one that Ferraro continues to relive. But these days, as the Teacher Training Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project, it’s Ferraro who is looking into angry young eyes until he finds a glimpse of compassion. Based in Oakland, California, the MBA Project is a nonprofit organization that uses mindfulness and emotionalintelligence exercises to equip disadvantaged and underserved youth with the tools to make better decisions and to consider more skillful options than violence, self-harm, drugs, and crime. “All my work revolves around the same conversation,” says Ferraro. “What is freedom beyond conditions? Beyond this school, this prison, this hood, whatever your conditions are. Do your conditions lead inevitably to suffering? No, they don’t. Only a being’s perspective leads to suffering. Two people in the exact same situation, according to their outlook and expectations, can have completely different experiences. Turn that around, and any conditions can be a vehicle for bondage—or freedom and awakening. And that’s fucking deep, man.” Going back to his story about the homeless man, Ferraro says, “I didn’t know what compassion meant when I was fifteen. But I knew that that homeless guy had seen my heart. And that was scary. I’d learned early on that this heart of mine was not a

A charismatic ex-con lures at-risk kids away from violence. By Alix Sharkey Photographs by Douglas Adesko

Connecticut, fifteen-year-old Vinny Ferraro and his friends were hanging out as usual by the projects, near the corner where Ferraro sold drugs—mostly coke, but also heroin, hash, and LSD. His father, a junkie and career criminal, had schooled Ferraro in the trade. “You’re the…...

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