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Posted By Opening the Heart

     When my younger son Andre was about a year and a half old, like most toddlers he was a people magnet.  Because his heart had not yet been hurt it was always open and he constantly sought connection with others in the variety of ways that toddlers do.

     One summer afternoon he, my oldest son Alex   and I were driving in the backwoods of New Hampshire.  We were on our way home.  In those pre-GPS days I had not known the ride would last so long.  Everyone was getting hungry.  Trees lined both sides of the road ahead like silent rows of evergreen skyscrapers.  There would be no Dunkin Donuts nearby.  I felt only relief when I saw a sign for a chicken barbeque next to a small baseball field.

     We turned into the parking lot and found out that it was an event put on by a  biker’s club to raise money for the March of Dimes.  They were not clean cut like many of the bikers you see today but they were also less scary than some Hell’s Angels.  Hmmm…a woman alone in the country with two very hungry children and no food in sight.  Should I risk it? I assessed the situation and bought three tickets.

     A one-eyed, grizzled man greeted us at the entrance.  He had a gravelly voice somewhat reminiscent of Sean Connery.  As he handed me the tickets he whispered loudly, “We’re just a bunch of bad guys doin’ a good thing”.  My plan was to go in, get the chicken, eat it and get out within 15 minutes max.

     The kids and I sat down at a picnic table in the dining area and began to eat.  Around us I saw many tattoos, a fair number of scars and many hard faces.  Alex was mostly interested in eating his chicken.  But Andre was after something else entirely.  Before I knew it he had started one of his favorite toddler games.  He ran away from our table laughing as he looked at me and then went right up to someone seated nearby.  He looked into their eyes, took a piece of food off their plate, put it into his mouth smiling and then went over to someone else.  I groaned inwardly.  This didn’t look like the right crowd for even a toddler to steal from.

     Luckily I was wrong.  It was almost like Andre had a magic wand.  When he approached a table it was as if the ‘storm clouds’ hanging low in the sky parted and the sun came out – both for the person whose food he took and for everyone nearby who saw him do it.

     This experience caused me to think about my own fears and assumptions about other people. One of my mentors Neil Friedman, now deceased, was fond of saying “All of us long for love but we have been hurt by life and so we are afraid.” 

     Andre’s open heart touched that universal longing.  In his innocence he reached out in a friendly way to others whose own hurts had  set up some very effective defenses.  But behind defenses it seems that there is always the same thing - the heart that, however wounded, still longs for love and connection.

     I took a page out of Andre’s book that day.  Seeing what really lies underneath other people’s sometimes tough-looking defenses has given me the courage to reach further past my own. I'm reminded of something that 12th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, “They say there is a window that opens from heart to heart.  But if there are no walls there is no reason for fitting the window, or the latch.”

 

Come meet and work with Lindaa at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

I’ve been thinking for the last several months about an experience I had many years ago when I was in a singing group called On Wings of Song.

On Wings of Song at that time was part large choir and part band.  We performed primarily in the northeastern United States.  We sang songs of peace and unity  with a catchy rock beat.  I think it is safe to say that most of the members of “the band” as it was called, were somewhat involved in alternative culture. I at least was surprised when our first tour on the East Coast landed us in the courtyard of the Pentagon giving a midday concert.  Soup kitchens, prisons and body/mind/spirit conferences – yes.  But the Pentagon?  That was something new.

Towards the end of our concert at the Pentagon, Rodney, one of our singers,  was leading a heartfelt rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  As we sang I noticed a 5-star general listening.  Suddenly a tear escaped the corner of his eye and trickled down his cheek. 

     I was very moved by this.  After our concert I looked around at the displays in the courtyard.  There was one very big one that I noticed.  In huge letters across the top it read:  “WE BELIEVE IN PEACE and in smaller letters below it continued: “through strength. 

Something changed inside me at that moment and it has never gone back completely to where it was before.  It is something that has been reinforced over and over again these last thirty years through working at the Opening the Heart Workshop.  In Jon Berenson’s blog article he calls it “perspective.” That day my perspective changed.  That day the general and I were playing on the same team.  Yes, some of his methods of creating peace I didn’t like at all.  Perhaps he would not have liked some of my methods of trying to accomplish the same.

     But when one drops into the heart as he did, others are prompted to do the same, and that is where we find our common ground.  In the place of common ground it is easier to work together to move ahead.

     When at my best, I am in the place of common ground, moving through the world living the motto of the OTH workshop.  That motto is: “Changing the world with love one heart at a time”.  Imagine.

 

Come meet and work with Linda at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010