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Posted By Opening the Heart

OTH is happy to support the global initiative of Playing for Change. And, of course, the music they produce is consitently uplifting and inspirational.

And while I'm posting - a biug thank you to Jon for keeping things alive and kicking here at the OTH Blog.

Enjoy,

Peter


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

So, I've been thinking a lot about wounds and all the many applications, or 'apps' as they say now, that that word has to the body and the spirit. This is just something I do - to take a word and play with it, invite it in, live with it. I do it alphabetically and, when, after months or years, I get to 'Z', I start over. It's just my offbeat mind's lifelong affair with words. Many months ago it was the word 'ice': ice that forms around the edges of a human heart when one is forgotten; ice that envelops and crushes Shakleton's ship, the Endurance, in Antarctica in 1915 and then the ice that literally carried the 28 surviving crewmen on a life and death journey of 16 months; ice in my glass that reflects a warm November sun as I sit at the little outdoor cafe downstairs from my office.

And then as I look up from my ice I see him walking, slowly, past me, again- a small man with a beard, walking with a cane in his right hand, moving his right leg forward, then dragging his left leg behind. He always carries a shopping bag hung from his right arm. His left arm looks crooked and lifeless. And he has a big pronounced wound on the side of his head running from his hairline down to his cheek. I've seen him many times walking in the square where my office is. I've actually tried to position myself to cross his path so that I could smile or say hi - but he never looks up. His head is bent down and his eyes are set 6 feet ahead of him on the ground, as if every bit of energy is focused on finishing the journey without any more distraction or challenge than he's already facing.

I make up stories about him. Stroke? Maybe the wound is from a car accident leaving him paralyzed on the left side. Why doesn't he use a motorized wheelchair? Maybe he's proud or maybe he doesn't want to lose the little mobility that remains to him. Why doesn't someone help him with his errand? Does he have a family? What a courageous man - or maybe stubborn or bitter. A wound that dramatically altered the landscape of his life - that suddenly changed the arc of his unfolding...

I have a friend, Carolyn, my age, whose son, David, died three years ago at age 25 from congenital heart defects he'd had from birth. He had graduated Princeton and had decided two years before his death that maybe the fault lines underneath him might just be stable enough to risk getting into a serious relationship with a girl. But the fault lines gave way. It was a warm sunny Ocober day at the gravesite. A lot of beautiful words, a lot of tears. Usually, some people take a shovelful of dirt and place it on the lowered coffin, and then leave. But this day, because so many people were there, everyone shoveled, until the grave was filled- and then I saw something that will stay in my memory always. Carolyn stood on the fresh gravesite, got down on her hands and knees and smoothed the ground for David's final resting place.

When I see Carolyn since then, I don't see the visible wound, but I see it's effect. There are more gray hairs, more lines in her face, a sadness that is soul deep. Her wound also effects the way she walks. Her walk is more hunched, less brave, less confident.

So as I think about wounds on this warm, sunny day, I think that there are visible wounds and there are wounds that are seen by close friends and then there are wounds that often are unseen by anyone. I think that we may never really know how another has suffered and, perhaps, all we can do is offer a little more patience and kindness to whoever may cross our path.

With Love and Respect, Jon

 

Jon

 


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

One of my patients, I"ll call her "Cathie", a heroic woman in her 50's whom I'd been seeing for a while, told me the following story last week. Cathie's daughter had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer when the daughter was a year and a half old. She was almost two when she began chemotherapy. One day Cathie took her daughter for a picnic at the beach and Cathie noticed that the strong off-shore wind began blowing clumps of her daughter's hair right off her head. When her daughter saw the look in her mother's eyes, she became frightened and started to cry, but she didn't want to leave 'pinnick'. So Cathie watched almost all of her daughter's hair blow off, as well as her eyebrows. As a tear came down each cheek, Cathie said to me "I was glad I could hold her and kiss away her tears- but I had no one to hold me".

Cathie's family had gone away long ago. Cathie and her brothers and sisters had been sexually molested for years by an alcoholic and mentally ill father. And Cathie's husband left her shortly after the daughter's birth. Her story touched me deeply and, as my own eyes filled, I wondered what it was that so moved me. I think it's the same thing that so profoundly touches me with so many of my patients: the basic fragility of our existence, all of us.

In Naomi Shihab Nye's great poem "Kindness", she urges us to open our hearts "to the fact that everything we cherish will pass out of our lives". The author, Roger Housden, says that when we come to know this truth "as a lived experience, we shall also know a deep love and kindness", because everyone is on the same road. Someone else's pain and suffering are also our own. And when we experience that shared pain, it joins us to humanity.

So, I think the reason my own eyes filled when I heard Cathie's story was, really, that her pain was also mine- not that I had been through the same life circumstances, but that suffering is a noble truth familiar to all of us. Despite what Cathie had been through, both growing up and, then, as a young mother, she was able to be totally present for her daughter and for herself on the beach that day. And in my office, she had enough courage to allow herself to be "held" by her therapist. And me, I have the privelege to witness every day this inspiring will to live.

"Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

One must know sorrow as the other deepest thing..." Naomi Shihab Nye

 

With Love and Respect,

Jon

 

                                                                                                                        

                                                   

 

 

                                                 

 

 

 


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

I hope that you will all take 3  minutes to listen to a heart-warming story that begins:

 

 So I get off the train and I'm walking towards the stairs and this young teenager pulls out a knife. He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him here you go.He starts to leave and as he's walking away I'm like, hey, wait a minute, you forgot something.If you're gonna be robbing people for the rest of the night you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.

Listen to the end of the story here:

http://storycorps.org/listen/stories/julio-diaz/

 

 


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

(Donna's meditation on what lies under love appears here in two parts)

 

Lately I've been pondering the question,  "What is under love? "      


I read a poem tackling this question and wasn't satisfied with the answer.
 Under love, like underbrush, or the under story of a forest.  A thousand small kindnesses, which, if you are doing your job, should go unnoticed. Earthworms, or ash.  The probable company of our final resting places.  "Each other" is under love.  You under me, and me under you.  The weight we bear and can't surrender.


 Forgiveness is under love.  Sweet, absolute forgiveness for what we did, or what we couldn't do.  The one who recognizes intent, conscious and unconscious and shines a kind light on motive.  "Ahh, you were mastering the complex art of balance.  You were hell bent on surviving."  Stretched wide.  Leg moving slowly up the muscle and tension of a neighboring thigh trying to find "tree pose."  It's all about striving for balance against the pull of solar plexus and the demands of gravity.  Trying not to fall, hard.
We try not to fall.


Ahh, but back to love at the root.  Breast and milk and the word "yes."  A mother reflexively sweeping her long hair from front to back.  This gesture she has done since childhood, but now she offers her engorged nipple to the yearning rosebud of her daughter's mouth.  This baby will suck goodness from the body of her mother and swallow satisfaction.  Time and time again, swallowing whatever goodness life pours out.  Innocent and needful.  Trusting love to stay.


Under love there are no limits.  No prisons or cages, tricks or tracks.  No preconceived notions.  We make virgin footprints of pain and of pleasure.  In time, the wind blows, the sands shift, the snow drifts high.  We let go of the binding concepts of "good and bad", and "yours and mine."  And the lonely language of right and wrong. We let go of that, too. The distance between you and me.  Maybe we unbuckle our seat belts for good.  Turn off the bossy, GPS lady.  Roll the top down on the convertible, or crank the manual windows all the way down, fully open.  We notice every single detail of the ride.  Avoid the soft brown and white body of the rabbit flirting with death.  We see her wide-eyed terror and disorientation in the glow of low beams.  We feel her, the pavement beneath her panic, her feet scrambling this way and that in search of lush green cover.  The chaos and pounding of her small heart on high alert.  All this we feel in the instant which governs life, or death, or life.  And we steer accordingly.


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

Under love there is voice.  And eyes which cannot hide, which never lie.  Sometimes our best efforts at loving are murky, but during pain, or change, or toe curling joy, there is this voice that advocates for "a love round on the house," that wants each one of us to step in this river, to taste that mouth, a perfectly seasoned fork full of food, a lemony, minty iced drink that slides down smoothly.  To be held through the dark night into the light of day. To know the heart of the universe is a loving one, wanting that all our angst be met with an open, soft palm on the exact place that hurts. Our desires met, and then some.  Our questions not answered, exactly, but respectfully regarded and understood for the cacaphony of emotions they reveal.  We are left to sort on our lonely own.


Which brings me to this.


Under love, there is lonliness.  The separation of skin.  That I am contained over here in mine, and you, over there, in yours.  How it feels to sign off, or say "goodbye" outloud, and mindful that it could be the last time.  To pull reluctantly away from a body you want to hold onto, perhaps forever.  To feel the undeniable "I want you..." and let go at the same time. To have without holding.  To love, without having.


Under love is lonliness, and the times we wonder in the privacy of our own landscapes, where we are likely to end.  A coffin.  A grave.  An ocean.  A decorative, or simple urn. In my case, flung over a sturdy branch, belly down.  Food for the winged ones.  Out of sight from children because I would never want to frighten them.  Fire, my back up plan,

because it is the element in which I am most at home.  I prefer a branch with a view, and the comfort of anticipating sun on my skin.  Fresh air.  Peepers, and star light.  Letting it all go...me, you, and the myth of separation.


Truth is, I have always been with you.  I will always be with you.  I am with you right now, in this moment.  Here.  My hand rests here.  My heart rests here. Sharing your tea, your joy, your temporary sorrow.  You will forget sometimes.  I will, too.  That's alright.  We came here not to feign courage like stoic gods and goddesses. We came to take the human ride.  So give me your soft palm.  Let me hold it awhile.  We will practise remembering.


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

     When my younger son Andre was about a year and a half old, like most toddlers he was a people magnet.  Because his heart had not yet been hurt it was always open and he constantly sought connection with others in the variety of ways that toddlers do.

     One summer afternoon he, my oldest son Alex   and I were driving in the backwoods of New Hampshire.  We were on our way home.  In those pre-GPS days I had not known the ride would last so long.  Everyone was getting hungry.  Trees lined both sides of the road ahead like silent rows of evergreen skyscrapers.  There would be no Dunkin Donuts nearby.  I felt only relief when I saw a sign for a chicken barbeque next to a small baseball field.

     We turned into the parking lot and found out that it was an event put on by a  biker’s club to raise money for the March of Dimes.  They were not clean cut like many of the bikers you see today but they were also less scary than some Hell’s Angels.  Hmmm…a woman alone in the country with two very hungry children and no food in sight.  Should I risk it? I assessed the situation and bought three tickets.

     A one-eyed, grizzled man greeted us at the entrance.  He had a gravelly voice somewhat reminiscent of Sean Connery.  As he handed me the tickets he whispered loudly, “We’re just a bunch of bad guys doin’ a good thing”.  My plan was to go in, get the chicken, eat it and get out within 15 minutes max.

     The kids and I sat down at a picnic table in the dining area and began to eat.  Around us I saw many tattoos, a fair number of scars and many hard faces.  Alex was mostly interested in eating his chicken.  But Andre was after something else entirely.  Before I knew it he had started one of his favorite toddler games.  He ran away from our table laughing as he looked at me and then went right up to someone seated nearby.  He looked into their eyes, took a piece of food off their plate, put it into his mouth smiling and then went over to someone else.  I groaned inwardly.  This didn’t look like the right crowd for even a toddler to steal from.

     Luckily I was wrong.  It was almost like Andre had a magic wand.  When he approached a table it was as if the ‘storm clouds’ hanging low in the sky parted and the sun came out – both for the person whose food he took and for everyone nearby who saw him do it.

     This experience caused me to think about my own fears and assumptions about other people. One of my mentors Neil Friedman, now deceased, was fond of saying “All of us long for love but we have been hurt by life and so we are afraid.” 

     Andre’s open heart touched that universal longing.  In his innocence he reached out in a friendly way to others whose own hurts had  set up some very effective defenses.  But behind defenses it seems that there is always the same thing - the heart that, however wounded, still longs for love and connection.

     I took a page out of Andre’s book that day.  Seeing what really lies underneath other people’s sometimes tough-looking defenses has given me the courage to reach further past my own. I'm reminded of something that 12th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, “They say there is a window that opens from heart to heart.  But if there are no walls there is no reason for fitting the window, or the latch.”

 

Come meet and work with Lindaa at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

At The Opening the Heart Workshop we are all profoundly saddened by the disaster in Haiti. We send heartfelt condolences to all who havebeen affected by this trajedy.

We would like to encourage all our friends to clear a little time to close your eyes, take some deep, cleansing breaths, let go of personal preoccupations and focus on sending loving kindness and compassion to all beings affected by the calamity.

We expect that many of you will have already contributed in some way to the relief effort. Some may still be overwhelmed by the enormity of the need. In either case spend some moments reflecting how you might be able to further help  and then move to action.

Here are links to some trusted relief donation sites:

American Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders

Oxfam America

UNICEF

 

Thank you

 


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

Setting out on a new decade we would like to share with you some of the inspiring poetry and music that we love. Songs and poems like this one by the Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye are woven into the fabric of the Opening the Heart Workshop™, helping to create a safe container for deep inner work.

 

 

KINDNESS

 

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

 

                   Naomi Shihab Nye


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

The Opening the Heart workshop has been home to me for the past 18 years.  I found it at a time in my life when change was happening in me, ready or not.  I was falling in love and it felt like it might do me in.  I had built an emotional fortress around my heart that was sturdy and effective. This fortress was in response to sustaining a number of major losses all in a row. I felt like I couldn't come up for air before another loss knocked the wind out of me. My fortress was an attempt to protect me from the unknown, and from the unbearable pain of losing yet another loved one. No one could get past my inner protection without permission and I liked it that way. I felt safe in my self-sufficiency and misunderstood it as independence.  At my first Opening the Heart workshop in 1990 one of the facilitators said these words to me:  "The heart is a package deal.  When it closes, it stops the flow. When your heart is closed, you are closed to all of life. Nothing can come in, and nothing can get out." Something in me stirred.  I felt busted. My cover was about to be blown from the inside out.  My fear was palpable, and right on the other side of that was the longing for and the possibility of deep connection with the beautiful, human souls an arm's reach away from me.  My heart made up its own mind, and my soft, human body followed. Out tumbled so many tears, so many years of holding in, holding on. I hadn't met myself in that place.  It was new to me to lower the drawbridge and let love in.

There are no words to express how I move through the world today.  My heart is open most of the time.  I am so in love with life, and that doesn't mean there is no suffering.  What has changed is that I am beautifully met in all facets of living and loving, and when it happens, in loss.  The lonely places in me that thirsted have been rained on with human kindness. I am full of gratitude.
And I am privileged to be a part of creating the Opening the Heart experience for others - privileged to be able to participate in such a masterful, loving and emotionally intelligent creation.

This week I decided to take flying lessons.  Since childhood, I have been mesmerized by Amelia Earhart.  I think her courageousness was like a magnet for my young, Leo heart.

Remember dreaming as a child that you could fly?  Me too!
You can!  All you need to do, in order to fly, is to be willing to be lifted.

With love,

Donna

 

Thank you Donna for this inspiring story.

Come meet Donna, Linda, Jon and Peter at the next Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu in Stockbridge Massachusetts, March 2010

 

and check the OTH Website for a full description of our workshop.