Join Our Mailing List

I'm listed in Life & Lifestyle

Posted By Opening the Heart

We are past the Solstice and in just a couple of days it will be 2012.

As we get to this time of year I am reminded of a thought that used to occur to me when I was a teenager. It went something like "Wow, in 2000 I'll be 56 years old. That is so old." Well here we are 12 years beyond that - and I'll leave it to the mathematically inclined to work out my current age.

A couple of postings ago I was writing about "taking in the good" - taking time to be in the present moment for the good things in life. it's the beautiful practice of just stopping, breathing in, and really noticing our inner response to whatever we find beautiful or whatever moves us. For me I find that such moments easily turn into Haiku moments. Not that I spend time then and there thinking about a Haiku - that would definitely interrupt being completely present in the moment - but later, as I revisit one of those instants in my mind. William Wordsworth spoke of this process as "emotion recollected in tranquillity."

Here are a couple of Haiku from the last few days.


Gilded Tree


december's dawn light

winter branches gilded with



through frozen branches

scurrying wisps of gray cloud

but only one sky


Have a blessed happy and prosperous New Year.



small peter






Posted By Opening the Heart

Someone recently asked why they should even consider experiencing an Opening the Heart Workshop™. Here's the list I gave them to consider:


You're living life with a 'safety first' approach.

You want to be more 'whole hearted' in your relationships.

You tend to substitute a fantasy life for the real thing.

You wish you were able to be more spontaneous.

You spend a lot of time being anxious.

You'd love to live life more gracefully.

You live a constricted existence.

You'd like to be more genuine in your interactions with others.

There's a compulsive or desperate quality to your actions.

You'd love your responses to others and to situations to be more appropriate.

Real fulfillment is absent from your life.

You long for clarity of expression.

You'd love to be more gratedul and less grouchy.

You'd like to feel that you had more choices.

You live in the past or future rather than the present.

Your responses don't match the situation.

You are hesitant or tentative in your interactions with others.

You are inhibited in living up to your potential.

You'd love to be more 'present'.


We're very confident that the workshop can help any of the above conditions. If you haven't done so already you might like to investigate further at The Opening the Heart Workshop™


Posted By Opening the Heart

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side
At once began to bawl
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"


The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

 John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)


This ancient Indian story becomes particularly meaningful when applied to the process of self examination. Just how partial is our understanding of ourselves? How moulded by prevailing culture, science and pop-psychology are the stories our minds weave about the 'self' and our lives?

Looking back to my childhood in England I can laugh in embarrassment at the various notions I imbibed from my family, friends, schools and popular culture. Exposure to alternative world views has taught me how impossibly racist, sexist, jingoist, chauvinist, homophobic, fear-based and just plain wrong those notions were. With hindsite it is easy to see that just about all my perceptions of who I was in the world were way off base.

Hitch-hiking around Europe in the 60s, living in an ashram in India for three years in the 70s, becoming an immigrant to the US in the 80s were all salutary experiences that opened my eyes and busted many of the myths I was carrying about myself and my relationship to the world. But there's no doubt that new myths crept in along the way.
A quarter century later  the 'elephant' story prompts me to wonder what misunderstandings, distortions and failures to see the big picture I am currently indulging.

I remember spending a meditation intensive in India in 1977 sitting opposite a partner and responding to the suggestion: "Tell me who you are!" It took me a long time to get beyond the 'bio', the family, the career, the closely held beliefs. In essence these were just parts of the elephant - and even patching them all together produced only a piecemeal collage. What was being sought was something much deeper and more complete - something amorphous but much closer to truth.

The challenge then and now is to recognize and move beyond the narrow lens crafted by (unreliable) personal experience and 'culture'. It requires continually reminding ourselves that we are usually only experiencing a fraction of our whole being. Try this experiment: set your timer to beep every hour today - when you hear it ask yourself 'who am I right now? and spend just one minute meditating the answer.

Posted By Opening the Heart
I spent this past Monday with the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a beloved southern Vermont community nestled in the lap of the Green Mountains.  60 well intentioned folks dragged themselves out of early bed and scraped crusty snow off  frosty windshields to contemplate what our town would be like if all its residents felt equally valued and empowered.
We sat earnestly together, young and old, black and white, privileged and working class and pondered this possibility.  We talked about power, who has it and who can't get it.  We tried not to get stuck in the predictable pitfalls which offered themselves up like  deep grooves in dirt roads, familiar to all Vermonters during mud season.  We didn't grasp at simplistic answers or quick fixes. We didn't blame our government or our neighbors at the table.  We sat with ourselves.  It was painful in places.  Mostly, it was an honest practice of working to understand the day to day reality of individuals who have been left out in the cold.  We grappled with racism, poverty and greed.  We looked each other in the eye, point blank and tried to breathe ourselves through challenging conversations without looking at our feet.  At the end of the day we were all still there.  We sang a simple song in three languages and four part harmony.  We ate spaghetti and salad and garlic bread and went back out to the sparkle of stars and brightly lit steeples.
It was at an Opening the Heart Workshop many years ago that I learned how to stay present.  I learned to look at the people in the circle, and to take them in.  I learned how to offer myself as a loving witness to another so that the innate wisdom in the person seated across from me on a cushion could find its way to the surface.  I learned to soften my face, my breath and my judgements, making room instead for what I have come to regard as the truest expression of respect.  And I learned to stay with myself emotionally during times of confusion, regret and emptiness.  I grew to understand my own inner longing to be a loving agent for change.  I understood what aspects of healing are an "inside job", and what I might share with another trusted being for support and companionship.

I cannot say that life has become simpler as a result of my experience at Opening the Heart.  What I can say is that I have grown into my own skin  That learning the basic practice of self-responsibility has made me both humble and brave.  There is very little that frightens me anymore.  When I open my eyes at the beginning of a new day I scan the immeasurable number of opportunities there are to bring love to the world.  And I am grateful to be out of my own way enough to see clearly.  I can choose how to spend the currency of love at any given time, trusting that no recession, no earthquake, no unfortunate election or unethical Supreme Court decision can impact the balance in my love account.  This I experience as a form of pure liberation.


Donna Macomber