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Posted By Opening the Heart

Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that allows the wheel to function.

We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.

We fashion wood for a house,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes it livable.

We work with the substantial,

but the emptiness is what we use.


Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11
(translated by J. H. McDonald)


Lao Tzu poetically describes the necessity of a cleared out inner space. Consider for a moment how much unnecessary junk you carry around in the form of over tense muscles, unresolved grievances, stress, worry, anxiety, disatisfaction, aversion and the like. In the last twenty years, neuroscience has found convincing evidence that the weight of these burdens alters the physical structure of the brain. Long term or repetitive "burden carrying" reinforces the  physical changes as we habituate to the presence of the weight. Once the habit of "burden carrying" is ingrained it becomes more challenging to eradicate. Each time a new life challenge comes along we repeat our habitual reactions and the burdens keep piling up, filling the space inside us that is essential for creative and loving engagement with the world.

So how can we begin the process of leaving some of these burdens behind?

Relief from burdens is a central theme of many spiritual practices and, in the modern world, of psychotherapy. Prayer, meditation, yoga, vision quest, retreat, and therapy are just a few of the places that people have turned towards for help. The common thread of these approaches is awareness. The first step is to become aware of the fact that we are carrying heavy baggage. The second step is to start sorting through it - much in the same way as we sort our kitchen recycling into different bins. The third step involves sitting in the presence of each of the burdens and using body/heart/mind awareness to fully experience the ground swell of emotions and memories that surround them. Once this step is taken, it becomes possible to leave the weight of the burden behind.

Finding safe and supportive places to do this work is vital. Having been both a participant in and a leader of the OTH Workshop for many years I strongly believe that it is one of those places. Over the years I have witnessed hundreds of people open up to themselves in this safe, nourishing, spiritual (but non denominational) container. These people have found ways to acknowledge and let go of their burdens and open their hearts to new directions and possibilities.

It is with joy and gratitude that I anticipate this weekend's  workshop at Kripalu. Might we see you there?