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Posted By Opening the Heart

As a child growing up in England I heard the expression "What the dickens?" used frequently. For years I was under the mis-apprehension that it obviously had something to do with the famous novelist whose 200th birthday was celebrated this week. Not so! The works 'dickens' is, in fact, a euphemism for 'devil' and it can be found in this sense in the works of Shakespeare. The whole phrase 'what the dickens?' is an antiquated version of the 'WTF?' that is extensively used in social media communications these days.
The mis-apprehension of a connection with Charles Dickens is a perfect example of how our minds can leap to apply our own, often unshakeable blanket of meaning and interpretation over reality. Meandering through life we pick up erroneous ideas and definitions, and then proceed to apply them in generic and inappropriate situations.

In 'David Copperfield' - Chapter 2, titled 'I Observe,' Dickens writes:


"I believe the power of observation in very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may with greater propriety be said not to have lost the faculty, than to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity for being pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from their childhood."




Seeing 'with the eyes of a child' is a familiar way of describing what Dickens is talking about here. The Zen tradition speaks of 'beginner's mind,' implying a mind that is uncluttered and unclouded with pre-conceptions, open to seeing things 'as they are.'  In the Christian Gospels Jesus asserts that it is essential to become "as a little child" to "enter the Kingdom." The wisdom traditions of the world  agree that preserving or finding a way back to the innocent clear-seeing nature of early childhood is a pre-requisite of real spiritual development. Growing up in the world inevitably overlays our innocence with layers and layers of socialization and, while some of the results of this are useful and necessary to survival, there is much indoctrination of belief systems and conventions that get in the way of clear perception.
As part of an ongoing search for ways to return to seeing 'with the eyes of a child'  I have begun working a practice stemming from Rick Hanson's wonderful book Buddha's Brain. The practice is called 'Taking in the Good' and my adapted version is described in detail in an earlier post to this blog. In brief, as a regular part of every day set aside time for a 'Taking in the Good' walk. As you walk, keep your eyes open for things that please you. Immediately you notice something, pause, breathe and be with the inner felt sense of the moment of pleasurable connection. Try to avoid labeling, comparison, criticism, skepticism. Stay with the pure connection for 10, 20, 30 seconds. Don't be in a rush. After, offer a silent acknowledgement of gratitude for the experience. Walk on until another thing that pleases you catches your attention. Repeat the sequence as often as you like.
For those who have become disconnected from 'beginner's mind', exercises like these are helpful. Modern research in neuroscience has demonstrated that neural networks can be repaired and restored by regular use of these kind of practices.  The "freshness, gentleness, and capacity for being pleased" Charles Dickens writes of are certainly qualities that I want to maximize in life. I'm working on it.



Posted By Opening the Heart


Not a terribly inviting title for a blog post, but let's face it, Conflict, Stress and Suffering show up in most everyone's life - sometimes on a 'full time' basis.

"CSS" and the bodily tightening and negative emotions that invariably accompany this uncomfortable condition arise from the desire for 'things to be different from how they are.'

Right now in my own life I can quickly identify four (at least) instances. 1) I wish I got to spend more one on one sharing time with my daughter. 2) I would like not to have to work during my summer vacation. 3) I would like to be wealthy enough to not to have to work during my summer vacation. 4) I want my 67 year old body to function as painlessly as my 37 year old body used to do. The list could go on.

The question arises: 'How can I let go of "CSS" and fall into a happier, more peaceful, more empathic state of being?'

The answer, of course, is to let go of the desire 'for things to be different from how they are.'

"Easier said than done!" you might reply - especially if your desire is to be free of a troubling illness, depression or addiction.

My own experience tells me that the only way to free the heart of thirsting for things to be different is to look at the heart - to allow the heart to speak its own truth. When I look closely I discover the underlying feeling of loneliness behind my wanting to spend more one on one time with my daughter. If I look closer still I discover the deep sadness of disconnectedness that has colored so many of my relationships. When I open myself more deeply to the underside of my wish for an ageless body I discover fear - fear of debilitating illness, fear of death.

The sadness and the fear are emotions I am carrying. They are heavy! Unacknowledged and unexpressed they remain a constant burden that manifests as Conflict, Stress and Suffering.

Our society contains few opportunities for the safe and welcomed flow of feelings such as sadness, fear and anger, so they remain bottled up inside, frequently leading to physical disease.

I am thankful that my life has led me to teachers (Buddha, Osho, Lau Tzu, Jesus, Dalai Lama and my Opening the Heart Workshop colleagues) who have helped me understand this process. I am also enormously grateful to have found a place at Opening the Heart where I can safely access and release the scary feelings that underpin my clinging to 'how I want things to be different.'

So, whether you are a regular reader here, or someone who is visiting for the first time, I really encourage you to take advantage of what The Opening the Heart Workshop has to offer: a safe, supportive and healing environment for letting go of "CSS."

I hope to see many of you at Kripalu next weekend.

May all beings be free of Conflict, Stress and Suffering.


Posted By Opening the Heart

"The kingdom of heaven is within" - Jesus of Nazareth

"The coin lost in the river is found in the river" - Zen Koan

"The real journey must take place within the wastes of one's homeland - the soul" - traditional Sufi saying.

"Know thyself" - Socrates

" A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unolcked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push" - Wittgenstein

Five different  traditions: one message! What the modern (and, apparently the ancient) world is seeking is not 'out there'. It's not in capital or in capitals. Not in Wall Street or Main Street. Not in consumerism.  Not in Diet Coke or Supersize burgers. Not in booze. Not in drugs - legal or otherwise. Not in my job or my 'vocation'. Not in my family or social life. Not in movies or tv or Wii. Not in books or blogs - even this one!

So - where is 'it'?

To find what I am seeking I have to turn round and look 'inside'. I actually have to do something other than thinking and planning and reacting and 'habit-ing'. I have to make the effort to take the inward jouney to find out who I am! Who I am is not the 'who' I have been told to be, taught to be, trained to be. Who I am is not the person I have practiced being for my whole life. Not the 'personality' that biography and 'culture' has moulded.

Most of the time, like most of us caught up in our lives, I forget this simple truth.  I spend so much of my time being busy or being exhausted and wanting to 'shut down'. I'm so swept up in the whirl of day-to-day acivity, where can I possibly find the time and energy for 'looking inside'? It takes a decision, a personal commitment and support from others! In my case I have committed to meditate every day and I am blessed in the support of my fellow OTH Workshop buddies.

This doesn't mean that I have stopped looking 'out there' for answers. It seems like it could take a lifetime to completely break the habits of a lifetime. But I find that if I maintain my commitment to 'returning home' and spend time with the moment to moment experience of presence, my awareness of the unsatisfactory nature of seeking 'out there' is greatly enhanced.

So "Just Do It'! Find the way that's right for you to take the inner journey. Try to find a way that doesn't rely on the GPS of a set belief system. When Gautama sat down under th Bodhi Tree he wasn't 'a Buddhist'. When Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness he wasn't 'a Christian'. They found their way on their own. "A belief system becomes a barrier for your eyes so you cannot see the truth. Only the search for truth and the experience of truth - not a belief - is capable of healing your wounds and making you a whole being." (Osho)

No map exists for your journey so all you can do is step into the unknown with your eyes wide open willing to accept whatever you find. Just Do It!


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