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Posted By Opening the Heart

Someone recently asked why they should even consider experiencing an Opening the Heart Workshop™. Here's the list I gave them to consider:


You're living life with a 'safety first' approach.

You want to be more 'whole hearted' in your relationships.

You tend to substitute a fantasy life for the real thing.

You wish you were able to be more spontaneous.

You spend a lot of time being anxious.

You'd love to live life more gracefully.

You live a constricted existence.

You'd like to be more genuine in your interactions with others.

There's a compulsive or desperate quality to your actions.

You'd love your responses to others and to situations to be more appropriate.

Real fulfillment is absent from your life.

You long for clarity of expression.

You'd love to be more gratedul and less grouchy.

You'd like to feel that you had more choices.

You live in the past or future rather than the present.

Your responses don't match the situation.

You are hesitant or tentative in your interactions with others.

You are inhibited in living up to your potential.

You'd love to be more 'present'.


We're very confident that the workshop can help any of the above conditions. If you haven't done so already you might like to investigate further at The Opening the Heart Workshop™


Posted By Opening the Heart

Midsummer eve the air was rich and thick with life. The sultry smell of honeysuckle infused our yard while fireflies danced like blinking polkadots on the dark blue fabric of night.  Night birds sang in the trees and  bullfrogs answered  from the pond in a subtle but discernible underlying rhythm.

midsummer night creatures
Midsummer night took me back to another time in my life when I attended college in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The air there was also heavy and sweet but the smells and sounds were those of a tropical island.Honeysuckle was replaced by the smell of ripe bananas on the tree and the constant sounds of small frogs called coqui interpenetrated rainforest nights.

In spite of transportation, the island was then culturally quite different from the Puerto Rican subcultures found in U.S. cites. Puerto Rico itself at that time was still in the process of moving away from it’s agrarian past into a more industrialized future.  However it had not lost touch with its roots. The extended family reigned supreme and despite the island’s inevitable and unique problems, the culture was full of heart.

I saw heart on the city buses when I rode across from someone with a birth defect or handicap.  No one seemed to pay it any mind unless the person needed help and then it was given. I saw heart in the delight taken in children, in the respect towards elders and the in the aged cared for at home. I saw heart when bank tellers or other professionals looked into my eyes and connected with me – not rare or special events but simply as a matter of course.

I remember “The General”. He was a fixture in Old San Juan when I was in school.  He would stand in the traffic-tangled main plaza at rush hour every day in full military regalia directing traffic. Although he likely had mental health challenges he was not arrested or put away somewhere. He was a beloved part of the community. It seems no one would think to interfere with him. He belonged, had found his niche and was giving to others in his own way.

Contrast this with my own trip to Costa Rica earlier this year as a medical advocate for a friend seeking treatment out of the country.  While in Costa Rica her handicap was met everywhere with extreme kindness and compassion. Once we got on the airplane bound for Boston the story changed.  She could not walk up the aisle on the airplane very fast because of her disability, I was slow because of the amount of medical equipment I was carrying.  Instead of kindness we were looked at with impatience, anger and even hostility. Not one person asked if we needed any help.

My midsummer night’s dream is for the courage to be kind. Courage means to take heart, and the source of the courage to be kind comes from the heart.  My midsummer night’s dream is that all who are vulnerable because of infirmity, age, perceived difference, bad circumstance or other condition are met with kindness every day and that because of misfortune no one feels isolated or ostracized or left out of the circle.

I look at the homeless on our streets and at the many people who are put in institutions because perhaps no one knows quite what to do with them and I see ample opportunities for my own kindness to grow.

My midsummer night’s dream is, (to paraphrase Kate Wolfe’s song)  "love will make a circle that holds us all inside where strangers are as family and loneliness can’t hide.”

We do this quite well in the Opening the Heart workshop.  My midsummer night’s dream is that we are able to do this every day.

Posted By Opening the Heart

From the first time I heard the phrase “making the descent” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes Women Who Run With The Wolves), I loved it and knew what it meant. It’s not easy to keep your heart open when facing our own wound, our own imperfections, our own humanity. I realized when I heard those words, that “making the descent” is what many people have been doing for over 30 years when they come to the Opening the Heart workshop. Making the descent is not something that we do in our ordinary lives. It takes an extraordinary act of faith and courage to go down into something or, as Clarissa says, to begin to understand something and to “untangle the knot”. But I do know something: when we do this extraordinary thing of making the descent, of facing our own shadows or demons, we become a knowing soul, and, as Clarissa explains, a knowing soul is someone who has the patience to learn deep love over time.

There’s an Innuit story that I tell at the beginning of the workshop. It’s from Clarissa’s book and I tell it because it’s about making the descent: One morning a lone fisherman goes into uncharted waters and casts his line, hoping that maybe this time he will catch “the big one”, the one that will change his life. Instead, he snags Skeleton Woman, an ugly tangle of bones, and he pulls her up from the depths where she has been waiting for him. When he sees what he has caught, he’s horrified and repulsed. He tries to throw her back but she’s gotten tangled in his line, so he panics and tries to paddle back to his hut, but Skeleton Woman seems to chase him as she dangles from his line. When he reaches home, he carries Skeleton Woman and his tangled gear inside and places her by the fire while he sits, trembling and shaken.  But he does not run. And as he sits staring at this unbeautiful pile of bones, something begins to happen. There is a shift inside him - a stirring, a kind of longing. And his heart begins to break. It doesn’t break down- it breaks open- and he cries one tear. Clarissa explains that to anyone of heart, a tear is a cry to come closer. So he cries the tear and closer she comes. Without the tear, she would have remained a pile of bones and, without the tear, he never would have wakened to love.
He decides to untangle the knot, to make the descent. When he decides to see the ugliness, not as something to run from, but as hidden treasure, he starts to become the knowing soul, the “quintessential lover”. And as he begins to untangle and to face his own wound, he chants these beautiful words: “What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die in me in order for me to love? Of what use is the power of the not beautiful to me today? What life am I afraid to give birth to? And if not now- when?”
Clarissa tells us that in love everything becomes picked apart. But to love means to stay with, even when every cell says “run”. Even though he was expecting the “big one”, the fisherman does not run when faced with his own gruesome tangle of ugly bones. He stays, makes the descent, faces his own fear and comes to see hidden treasure, and in doing that he awakens to love.
Naomi Shihab Nye, in her poem “Kindness” tells us that before we can know kindness as the deepest thing inside, “we must know sorrow as the other deepest thing”. For over 30 years, I have watched in awe as courageous men and women came to Opening the Heart to make an extraordinary descent. They do the deep soul work of clearing the vessel, of letting die what needs to die so that they can awaken to a new kind of compassion for self and others. To be a witness to this transformation is why I will continue to come back.


With Love and Respect, Jon