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Posted By Opening the Heart

   So, as I understand it, Moses was at the top of the mountain for a long time. Can you imagine hanging with the Major Dude for that long? He must have had every bad karma and inclination to badness just burned out of him, wouldn't you think? Anyway, I guess the shephard was up there too long for the flock and the crowds below started to lose the vision. Doubt crept in on little camel feet. They started partying and pretty soon they naturally went to the ancient bad habit of golden calf building. Well, when Moses finally came down and saw the goings on, he was, excuse the term,, "pissed as a New York cabdriver", and he smashed the tablets to the ground right then and there and he turned around and started his march back up to the top. So, what's my point?... I always wondered about those first broken tablets. What was written on them? Was it the same ten commandments? What happened to those broken holy pieces with God's word written on them?

   The scene I imagine is George and Marge on vacation taking a hike up Mount Sinai and George looks down and calls out to Marge: "Hey Marge! Have a look at this. It looks like very old pieces of stone with maybe some writing on them." "George, all these rocks are the same. Come and see this beautiful view from here." And George's attention passes to a natural scene of wonder.

   And it makes me think, what other holy things do we pass over every day? In some Eastern traditions, it's called seeing with "Beginner's Eyes"- seeing things as if for the first time. It really is a practice of gratitude and I believe it can start anywhere you are. Don't move, don't go to a beautiful place, just close your eyes, go inside and breathe. The breath is a holy thing. Nothing in life happens without the breath. Watch as it comes in and fills the lungs and become aware of exactly when the inbreath changes to the outbreath, all the way to the end, and, again, becomes the inbreath.

   Now try using your eyes to settle on whatever is around you, something you may have seen a thousand times before. This time see it for the first time. See every detail of it so that if you closed your eyes, you could describe it to every perfect detail. Change your attention to the sense of smell. Maybe you need to approach something that has an aroma. A flower in your garden will do. Smell it as if for the first time. Let all of your awareness take it in.

   Go for a short walk and feel the miracle of legs moving your body. An appreciation of the mundane by bringing full attention to it is a kind of prayer of gratitude. Don't miss a thing. Take it all in. Pay attention. Meister Eckhart, a 14th century German mystic, said that "Coincidences happen more when I pray". When we pay attention- really pay attention- in the moment, we are, as the poet, Rumi, says "bowing down to kiss the ground".

   So what are the takeaways here? Keep the faith Sweet One- don't go building golden calves; look for the holy in the Everyday and make it a sacred practice; pay attention as well as you can to every moment you are given the gift of breath.

   With Love and Respect, Jon  


Posted By Opening the Heart

Bottling things up might be great for making preserves, but it sure doesn't work with emotions. Have you ever had the experience of leaving a meeting or a family gathering with "steam coming out of your ears," feeling as if you are about to explode? Look what happened in The Odyssey. Odysseus and his crew were having a hard time getting back to Ithaca when they came to the island of Aeolus, guardian of the winds. Aeolus  gave Odysseus a tightly sealed bag containing all the contrary winds. With only favorable winds Odysseus and his men rapidly sailed to within sight of home. Exhausted, Odysseus fell asleep at the tiller. His men, suspecting that the sealed bag contained treasure that Odysseus was witholding from them, decided to open it while he slept.

Aeolus Bag of Winds

 Out roared all the contrary winds that had been "bottled up" inside the bag and within seconds the resulting storm blew the ship way back out to sea, drowning many of the sailors.

After the wind's release

It was seven years before Odysseus finally made it home.

Isn't that the way with bottled up "contrary" emotions? Sooner or later they are triggered  and, before we know it we are thrown way off center and have succeeded only in alienating those nearest to us. It will take huge amounts of time and effort to bring ourselves back "home" to our center.

So - How not to bottle? First and foremost, when you are in an emotionally stressful situation, RECOGNIZE IT and BREATHE! Second - notice what is happening IN YOUR BODY - NOT YOUR MIND! Your mind will probably be going crazy with a mini-storm of justification or blame or judgement or "story" or indignant rebuttal: just let that be and focus on the physical feeling of being "stirred up." Try holding the physical feelings with compassion, knowing that they are natural, and that they are temporary. Recognizing and caring about the feelings in your body is the pressure release valve that will help prevent an emotional explosion. Third - as soon as you can, do what is necessary to remove yourself from the actively stimulating situation that has triggered the anger or fear. Take time out to continue being with your breath and with the ongoing physical feelings and sensations in your body. Your mind will probably keep trying to interrupt your focus with all kinds of negative thoughts about whoever else was involved and about yourself. Gently tell your mind that you need to focus on your breathing and body just now. Continue with that focus until you sense a return to emotional equilibrium.

If you have a history of "going off the deep end" this technique is going to take committment and practice, but I have found that it is an essential tool in the toolbox of emotional intelligence and mindfulness of emotions.




Posted By Opening the Heart

Two California Highway Patrol Officers were conducting speeding enforcement on I-15, just north of the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. One of the officers was using a hand held radar device to check speeding vehicles approaching the crest of a hill.  
The officers were suddenly surprised when the radar gun began reading 300 miles per hour. The officer attempted to reset the radar gun, but it would not reset and then turned off.
Just then a deafening roar over the treetops revealed that the radar had in fact locked on to a USMC F/A-18 Hornet (Northrop Grumman aircraft) which was engaged in a low flying exercise near the location.

Back at the CHP Headquarters the Patrol Captain fired off a complaint to the USMC Base Commander.  The reply came back in true USMC style: 


Thank you for your letter.  We can now complete the file on this incident. You may be interested to know that the tactical computer in the Hornet had detected the presence of, and subsequently locked on to your hostile radar equipment and automatically sent a jamming signal back to it, which is why it shut down.

Furthermore, an Air-to-Ground missile aboard the fully armed aircraft had also automatically locked on to your equipment location.
Fortunately, the Marine Pilot flying the Hornet recognized the situation for what it was, quickly responded to the missile system alert status and was able to override the automated defense system before the missile was launched to destroy the hostile radar position.
The pilot also suggests you cover your mouths when cussing at them, since the video systems on these jets are very high tech.
Sergeant Johnson, the officer holding the radar gun, should get his dentist to check his left rear molar. It appears the filling is loose. Also, the snap is broken on his holster.
Thank you for your concern.
 Semper Fi



I have no idea if this is a true story - it doesn't matter because it perfectly illustrates another aspect of what Linda wrote about in her piece yesterday.

When our 'toes have been stepped on' ("That f***er just busted my radar gun") and we 'fire off' a knee jerk response ("I'll tell that USMC base commander just what I think of him and his plane!"), we more often than not have no clue about what is going on inside the other involved party. Perhaps a better strategy might be to take time - for a couple of deep breaths, for a pause, for being open to finding out more aboout the other involved party. Confronted by opposition Linda chose to see potential friends rather than enemies to be overcome. In the kind of situation illustrated by this 'speeding' story choosing a neutral inquiry always trumps a blasting off a hostile accusation.

Posted By Opening the Heart

Here is the first in an occasional series of self guided meditations. These meditations are good ways to calm the mind, empty mental clutter and ease stress and difficult emotions. In them we use the breath as a tool and our imagination as our guide. Each meditation involves imagining sending a complete in and out breath cycle to paticular narrowly focused parts of the body. This time we'll work with:





 head focus points

Begin by finding a comfortable seated position. Settle yourself into a place where your body can be relatively still.


Close your eyes and gradually bring your attention to your breathing. There is no need to change anything about how you are breathing.


1) Let your inner focus bring your attention to your nostrils- the place where breath enters and leaves the body. Take a breath into the space inside your nostrils and imagine a hollowness, a sense of spaciousness inside them. Notice any relaxation of tensions around the nostrils as you do this.


2) Now bring your attention to your sinus area at the bridge of your nose. Take a breath into the space inside your sinuses and imagine a hollowness, a sense of spaciousness inside them. Notice any relaxation of tensions around the sinus area as you do this.


3) Bring your attention to the part of your head immediately behind the center of your eyebrows. Send the next breath into this place and imagine a hollowness, a sense of spaciousness being created there. Notice any relaxation of tensions around this area as you do this.


4) Use your imagination to send your next breath right up into the top of your skull. Allow the breath to relax and dissipate any tensions there simply by imagining a hollow, spacious emptiness.


5) Using your imagination again, send your next breath to the extreme back of your skull. Image an empty space there, wide and tall and open.


6) There is frequently tension at the place where the skull joins the backbone. In your imagination send the next breath deeply into this area. As you breath in allow that place to be infused with airy spaciousness. As you breath out notice the letting go.


7) On to the top of the throat. Breathe a great open space there.


8) Put the tip of your tongue gently on your hard pallette just behind your front teeth. Breathe a deep breath there.


9) and 10) Take two deep, emptying breaths into your whole head, imagining a hollow, empty space.


You can take more than one breath at each of the above stages if you find that works for you. You may also repeat the sequence as often as you would like.

As you lean the sequence you might like to have one of the pictures nearby. Feel free to copy them (female head is above, male head is below.)


malehead, focal points

Posted By Opening the Heart

One of the instructions we give most frequently at the OTH Workshop™ is "Breathe!!!!".

Becoming conscious of our breathing can immediately bring us into greater awareness of our bodies - the place where our feelings live.

There are many ways to develop a practice of "breath-noticing". One of them is called Anapanasati - a technique first taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. This technique is being brilliantly presented by Gil Fronsdal at The Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California and is being made freely available at the organization's web site. Gil's guided meditations and talks are clear, easy to follow, in short very "user friendly". There are quite a few of them - but don't be intimidated, you may dive in anywhere in the series and  do not have to listen to them in the order in which they were given.

For those of us who do not live close to a meditation retreat center, AND for those of us who find it difficult to maintain a reqular practice this series is an invaluable resource.



The series is  available in Podcast format - incredibly useful for downloading to an IPod!  investigate the AudioDharma website's homepage where you will find a link to Podcasts near the bottom of the left hand side bar:


or, if you have ITunes, open ITunes Store, click on Podcasts and search for AudioDharma


Good luck - I know that many of you will find Gil's inspiring talks and gentle guided meditations as helpful as I have