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Posted By Opening the Heart

Photo: Mike Berenson

Whenever I go go Kriplalu to help lead an Opening the Heart workshop, I usually settle things in my room, check out the workshop space, get an iced drink in the cafeteria and then wander around the building a bit to take in the peaceful vibration of this retreat center that's so familiar to me. But I always find myself transfixed on the stairway landing looking at one inspiring saying framed on the wall. It's always the same for me: it's as if an invisible net emerges from the words and holds me still while the words penetrate the heart: "Be Kind- For everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

My mind fast forwards several hours to what I will likely share with the circle of participants at the end of the Friday night session: "The reason I come back to this workshop over and over again is to see the transformation in the circle from Friday night to Sunday." My belief is that when we look around that circle at the start of the workshop and we see difference as we look into another's eyes, what we experience is separation. And as the weekend unfolds, and the descent begins and the masks are bravely removed, increasingly, when we look into those same eyes, we see no difference and what we experience is only compassion.

Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi poet, describes this experience in his "Wonderful Game" and the game "goes like this: We hold hands and look into each other's eyes and scan each other's face. Then I say 'Now tell me a difference you see between us'. And you might respond "Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine.' And I would say 'Yes, my dear, almost ten times'. But let's keep playing. Let's go deeper, Go deeper.... For if we do... even God will not be able to tell us apart."

There's a story about a father who takes his two young sons to a very crowded waiting room of a busy pediatric group practice and the young boys are running around the waiting room, unresponsive to the father's efforts to control them. Some of the other patients become annoyed and, eventually, one woman said to the father "Can't you control your own sons!?" The father looked at her sadly and said "I'm so sorry. Their mother died yesterday and I have not known how to console them".

When we're able to go deeper and see beneath the surface forms that people show in order to make it through a day; if we are ever priveleged to know the great battle of people who are buying stamps in front of us at the post office or selling us a pair of pants at the department store- if we are ever able to really know how many times they have been brought to their knees and resurrected themselves- if we really had a lived experience of the journey of loss and pain of the brother or sister standing next to us on the bus, then all we would experience would be kindness and understanding. With Love and Respect, Jon