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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

     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 live in Massachusetts, and this weekend find myself surrounded by a political hurricane as Martha Coakley tries to fend off the challenge of Scott Brown for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy. The Tea-Party-ers and Rudi Guliani have been in town. Barack will be here this afternoon. Its a brawl of a storm, but, unlike a natural hurricane, this one doesn't have any kind of a calm center. The TV news, the newspapers, FaceBook, the blogs, the ads and the tweets are gusting and debris is flying everywhere. Its really nasty weather!

How easy it is to get caught up in this kind of a tumult. Without notice it entrains our unexamined fears and aggressions. Our politicos and media pundits are experts in recruiting these barely buried traits. Like unsecured porch furniture in a gale our fears and angers are swept up to become dangerous weapons hurtling  out of control in all directions.

What to do?

I got to thinking about those animals that, when confronted with challenging situations, adopt behaviors of fight or flight.  I wondered: should we be getting out there and joining the fracas or should we put our collective heads under the covers and hide until its all over? And then I wondered if there might be another, alternative response - something between fight and flight, something not fueled by aggression or fear.

Its a kind of koan: 'What is the space between fight and flight?'

You have to provide your own answer. The only guidance I can give is that you examine your own fears and aggressive urges - your own aversions. What scares you? What threatens you? Who is the 'you' that is scared? Who is the 'you' that is threatened? I'm not pretending that this kind of self examination is easy. But not finding answers to questions like this is ultimately what ails our world.

Are you ready to take responsibility for securing your 'porch furniture'?


 
Posted By Opening the Heart

My friend, Rick, produced the “This I Believe” segment for our NPR radio station in Rhode Island, where I live. Each time I hear it, I ask myself “What is it that I believe?” And each time the answer comes back the same: “I believe in perspective.”

This summer I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s amazing book A Team of Rivals about Abraham Lincoln, a man of deep integrity, kindness and wisdom. He not only suffered the loss of a first love and the death of a son, but nearly lost his beloved country to a brutal civil war that went on for five years and split loving families apart. I heard a story that Lincoln, in the midst of his darkest time, asked a cabinet member to compose a thought that would, somehow, comfort all: “This, too, shall pass”. Four words that might provide perspective in good times and bad….

Forgive me, but having grown up outside of Boston and gone to Fenway Park many times with my brothers and dad, I’m what you could reasonably call a ‘home boy’, a die-hard and unrepentant, raging, avid Red Sox fan. I would grimly joke with our New York relatives about getting through the New England winters by first going to our local Providence clinic for an inoculation against resignation and hopelessness setting in before April’s Opening Day. Over 80 years of Red Sox frustration and failure to win a World Series- not since 1918, when my dad was a little boy.

Then came October 16th 2003, the night Aaron Boone of the dreaded Yankees hit a home run in the 11th inning to end any chance of the Red Sox going to the World Series. It was a new and painful low in my Red Sox fan career. I called my friend, Stan, to commiserate: “How ya doin’?” “Not too good, Jon. I’m actually thinking of ending it all.” “Stan, what if, after you die, you go to a place where they keep showing the ’86 Mets-Red Sox World series- over and over and over again?” Stan still credits me with saving his life that day.

 So why am I telling you this? Because without that Aaron Boone home run in ’03, the Red Sox four game sweep of the Yankees and eventual World Series championship in 2004 - the first in 86 years!- never would have felt so incredibly amazing! Perspective.

 For the 30 years that I have been coming back to the Opening the Heart Workshop, I realized that it was primarily because of the transformative miracle that I witness in the circle of brothers and sisters, from our first circle on Friday night to our last on Sunday. On Friday night it seems to me that many faces look anxious, self conscious, maybe hopeful. On Sunday there is a dramatically different feel to the energy in the room as I slowly scan the faces. I sometimes say that when we look into another’s eyes and see difference, we experience fear; when we look into another’s eyes and see no difference, what we experience is nothing but understanding and compassion…. Perspective.

 With Love and Respect,
 Jon