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Posted By Opening the Heart

Turning Leaves


As we enter Fall in New England there are going to be many visually stunning scenes to enjoy in nature. But in these days of ubiquitous cell-phone cameras I become dismayed that it seems the majority of 'leaf-peepers' automatically reach for their cell phones to 'capture the moment.'

I was impressed at a recent concert I attended that the show began with a statement from each band member requesting that the audience "use their eyes as the camera and their ears as the recording device." The band (King Crimson) knew full well that no recording on a cell phone could possibly capture the sounds they were playing and that no 'snap' or cell phone video could fully encompass the experience of actually being present.

Presence - being fully aware in this very moment - actually nourishes us. In fact it can literally build and heal the neuronal network of our brains. Being in nature during a New England fall is a wonderful chance to experience presence. In brief, the simple practice involves a) being alert for when a pleasing vista unfolds before us, b) pausing in our often relentless urge to move on to the next thing, c) setting aside, as best we can, potenetial distractions, and, d) opening all our senses to imbibe the beauty of what lies before us - as if you were slowly sipping a delicious drink through a straw.

A more comprehensive description can be found in Dr Rick Hanson's teachings on "Taking in the Good".  The practice can be extended to 'taking in the good' of any positive event that happens in your life, but the opportunity offered by fall colors can be a great starting point.


Is the opportunity to re-charge your life at the OPENING THE HEART WORKSHOP at Omega Institute in Rhinebech NY.

The OTH Faculty

We will be there on Columbus Day Weekend October 10 - 12. The faculty and the rest of our staff look forward to welcoming you.

If you are not already familiar with our work you can read all about what we do at The Opening the Heart Workshop website.


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

Charles River, Elm Bank

" I am tremendously blissful!" was one of the often repeated statements of my spiritual teacher Osho.
"Yeah…. right," sneered my skeptical mind — even though I felt great love and respect for him. I just didn't get how it could be possible to live in a constant blissful state.
Recently I've been reading Rick Hanson's wonderful "Buddha's Brain, The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom." It is a remarkable affirmation and celebration of the correspondences between Buddha's teachings and the discoveries of modern neuroscience. Chapter 4, "Taking in the Good" has proved to be the key to opening the door of blissfulness.
My daily walks were already positive experiences for body and spirit. The sense of aliveness engendered by robust walking addresses one of my essential needs. If I don't exercise, my systems rapidly come to resemble stagnant pools collecting all kinds of old rubbish, as opposed to clear flowing streams.
I am fortunate to live in a town with lots of open space and great walking trails. However, until reading Hanson's book, I was missing an opportunity that my daily walks offered. Hanson makes the point that, when if comes to negative experiences our brains are like Velcro, but when it comes to positive experiences, our brains are like Teflon. We have a predisposed tendency to hang on to and remember negative stuff and to quickly forget about — or not even notice — the positive. So — he writes — "Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them — open up to them and let them affect you……….Savor the experience…………Make it last by staying with it for 5, 10, 20 seconds". When we are mindfully aware of positive experiences the neurons in our brain fire in a distinct pattern. The longer or more frequently we engage with the positive the more durably the neurons are wired together.
I don't know how many walks I have taken with some "shoulda, woulda, coulda" issue churning away in my brain, completely oblivious to my surroundings, but, after reading Hanson, I made a conscious decision to follow his advice.
What I can tell you is that it works! My walks take me along routes that are packed with "opportunities for positive response." Not necessarily beautiful scenery or a captivating flower — though these are certainly positive experiences — but also a well crafted building detail, the playfulness of a puppy, the gurgle of rainwater falling into a catch-basin, the starkness of winter trees silhouetted against the setting sun, the smile of a stranger on the path. I discovered that I was deluged with these opportunities, and that, if I stayed conscious of my positive response to these stimuli, I could easily access a taste of the blissful state that Osho was referring to.
Of course, I'm still working on "having it stick." Too easily I fall out of the state and into the familiar, everyday mind churning. But the more I practice, the more "wired" the state of blissfulness seems to be getting. I really encourage you to try it! Oh yes, if you're planning to purchase Rick Hanson's book, please purchase it through the link in our blog. Just scroll down the left hand side bar. The small kickback we receive from Amazon goes into our Opening the Heart Scholarship Fund.

Wishing you many blissful experiences of 'taking in the good.'


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