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Posted By Opening the Heart

Posted By Opening the Heart

Twigs as Spiders


In my childhood home there was one room I was afraid to enter on my own.  This was because of the picture that hung on the wall.  It was a framed watercolor painting of a woodland scene.  In the center of the painting were the bare twigs and branches of a hazel bush.  To my childhood eyes the bush seemed to be a large and scary spider. My parent’s attempts at reassurance - ” It's only a painting!” –
“There's no need to be frightened!” - were not effective, and the picture was eventually removed.  When I next saw the painting I was in my 20s, and, although I could perceive how I mistook some twigs and branches for a spider, it was clear to me that the artist was portraying a beautiful, if stark woodland scene.

I recalled these memories as I took my morning walk through early winter woods today, and I thought about how frequently in life I have mistaken something ultimately beautiful and beneficial for something frightening that needed to be avoided or approached with great trepidation.  A case in point was my first Opening the Heart Workshop.

The prospect of attending a workshop where I would be invited to reveal myself to myself – and to others - was scary. I was ashamed of the baggage I was carrying and I didn’t want to look at my own “issues” let alone allow others a glimpse inside that dark place. Being real would mean showing up “warts and all.” It was a prospect just as frightening as entering that room from my childhood.

What finally got me moving was the realization that slinking around in my comfort zone was actually not comfortable. Comfort is not the same as equanimity, and what I really needed in an apparently fearful situation was the ability to see and face it with an open heart and mind, without pre-judgment and without the automatic imagined prospect of suffering – in short, with equanimity.

This realization, and the support of close friends was enough to get me to my first workshop. There I discovered that the thing I had feared – ownership and acknowledgement of my so-called “negative” emotions – was a challenge shared with everyone else present – including the workshop faculty. Instead of finding myself in a court of rejection, blame and accusation I found myself in a community of love and complete acceptance.

Just as my fear of the scary spider picture transformed into appreciation of a beautiful painting, the anticipatory trepidation about the workshop experience turned into appreciation, gratitude and a sense of deep fulfillment. So, if fear is preventing you from living the life you would like, I encourage you to bring sensory clarity to the inner discomforts of the “comfort-zone,” to face your fears with an attitude of “Bring It On!” and move towards the freedom that lies beyond your personal scary spiders. Perhaps we’ll see you at an Opening the Heart Workshop one day.