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Posted By Opening the Heart

This April I helped to chaperone my son Andre's Boy Scout Troop on a four day visit to Washiongton DC.
I had visited Washington several times before but had not been to any of the war memorials. The World War II Memorial.has a huge rectangular pool of water with fountains at its very center.  Beyond one end of the pool there is an area which pays homage to the Pacific theater of the war.  Beyond the other end is a like area which pays homage to the Atlantic theater.
Several years ago I had the privilege of attending my Uncle Keith’s military funeral where he was honored for his service in WWII in North Africa where he fought against Rommel.  He came to mind. I also thought about his younger brother, my Uncle Don who is still living, who went off to serve in WWII as well.  Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and my mother and father met and married while in the U.S. Airforce.   
As I sat at the memorial I began to be filled with a reverent feeling. It soon blossomed into a feeling of awe as I recognized the gift of their service to me – their granddaughter, niece and child.  It was  a gift born of great love that humbles in its power. I draw inspiration from many sources but at this time a verse came to me from my childhood.  It is from the Bible and says, “Greater love hath no one than to lay down their life for their friend.”
There is no doubt about it.  I have been very deeply loved.
Even so, I reflected, most parents and family members would lay down their lives if necessary to save the life of their child. But what about the others?  The others who did not know me?
My mind flashes back to a send-off at our district’s National Guard armory late last fall. Our local National Guard unit had been called into active duty overseas.  My son Andre’s Boy Scout troop and our family stood honoring the soldiers at their deployment ceremony in order to give them a warm and loving good-bye. Some of those soldiers would not return. Some of the others would return but they would be wounded or scarred in different ways.
 It is only now – in this very moment in my life as I sit in the WWII Memorial – that I am even just barely able to perceive the size of the gift that has been given to me.
Politics are swept aside as I rest in this awareness.  Some other mother, some other family has given to me, a stranger, their deepest treasure – their son or daughter’s life. Some person I have never met is willing to die for my family and I so that we can continue to live in the way in which we believe.
What is one to do in the face of such an unfathomable gift?  My mind is not able to grasp the vastness of this depth of sacrifice and so it becomes quiet.
Out of the silence comes understanding. This kind of love must give rise to more love. When one has been loved deeply and well the only way to honor that gift is to love others in that same way.
To all of the soldiers past and present who have served their country: an inadequate but heartfelt thank you.  May we all choose to live and love others in a way which begins to honor the unthinkable sacrifices you have made.

Posted By Opening the Heart

Coincidental with our approaching Opening the Heart to Grief Workshop, a dear friend and long time Opening the Heart Workshop colleague - Justin Freed - recently introduced me to Claudine Bing.

Claudine is a well known and respected Boston artist who has published a book documenting her mother’s death and the subsequent journey through grief to healing.


I am left here all alone

An accomplished colorist, Claudine skillfully and thoughtfully manipulates her color choices to express a range of feelings from the dark confusion of loss through the gradual process of regaining the world and its restorative hues and finding her mother’s spirit within herself. Throughout the book, pictures and text fit seamlessly together, beautifully complementing each other as they develop a narrative of the journey of grief.


Claudine Bing Image


Some more images and information about ordering the book can be seen at:


I will bring a copy with me to the workshop.

Posted By Opening the Heart

It is ironic that the launching entry of this new blog should be about loss.

Neil Friedman, one of the mvp contributors to the ongoing life of The Opening the Heart Workshop, died of heart disease just over a month ago. Also ironic is that that someone who's whole working life had been dedicated to helping others  open their hearts should have struggled so long and bravely with this particular illness.

    Neil grew up in Philadelphia and New York and studied at Brandeis and Harvard. During the turbulent sixties he was in the South working with the Freedom Riders registering black voters. He came to Spring Hill, the original hime of The Opening the Heart Workshop in 1982. In the introduction to his book 'A Rememberance', Neil writes:

Neil Friedman

(Photo by Joan Klagsbrun)

'Spring Hill and Opening The Heart are the finest experiences of my life. I came into them in 1982 at an ebb tide in the ocean of my existence, became a staff member and then co-director and stayed connected until Spring Hill was sold seventeen years later. I learned how to love at Spring Hill.'


Neil was a true 'man of heart'. In addition to being a brilliant psychotherapist and workshop leader he was a prolific author, a leader of the Focusing community, a devoted father, a loyal friend and a fiercely committed sports fan. He amazed his doctors by the determination with which he faced his long illness but those of us who were his friends would have expected no less from one with such a love of life. Dear Neil :

May the long time sun shine upon you

All love surround you

And the true light within you

Guide you way home.