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Posted By Opening the Heart

Over the next four weeks we would like to offer four short classes on heart-centered stress reduction taught by Laury Rappaport, PH.D., MFT, integrative psychotherapist at the Institute for Health & Healing. For many years Laury was Co-Director of Spring Hill - the original home of the Opening the Heart Workshop. Laury continues to be a valued friend and mentor to the current Opening the Heart leaders. Each of the classes include two guided exercises that will help you practice the teachings that are presented.

Posted By Opening the Heart

Wellesley Winter Trees

My own daily practice is Taking in the Good as detailed in an earlier posting to this blog.

The practice is a wonderful way of feeding the soul, and it can be done pretty much anywhere at any time.

I am very fortunate - and grateful - to live in beautiful surroundings, so my regular practice of Taking in the Good often happens on my daily walk. The photograph above was taken this morning on the grounds of Wellesley College. Before taking the picture, I simply stood for a minute or two, breathed in the scene in front of me, and just noticed how it affected "my insides." While doing so, I held the intention of staying focused on the inner felt-sense prompted by the scene.

The practice is so simple - and so effective. The "scene" doesn't need to be a scene! Taking in the Good can take place in response to the aroma of coffee in a coffee shop, the sound of happy children in a playground, the feel of a warm winter sun on your face. Anything that you respond to positively can be the stimulous. The important part is actually noticing the positive event, recognizing it as positive, taking the few moments needed to 'breathe it in', and then inhabiting your inner response.

We would love to hear your stories of how you Take in the Good. Maybe you have suggestions that others have not yet explored.

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.