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Posted By Opening the Heart

Donna Pic


The Opening the Heart Workshop has always defied description.  Yet I long to put words to my experience there, these 22 years.  I realize there are no literary shortcuts.  Here is a snapshot.

It involves remembering.  It pulls me into a powerful vortex of possibility, being in that sacred, human arena.  My brain begins firing like a sparkler, burning hot and radiant, right down to the "quick" of the stick, where we hold on.

The content of Opening the Heart is  A*L*I*V*E, sometimes a rushing river that picks up stuck energy and moves it along, depositing a person on the grassy bank, panting and released, wet, glistening, and new.  Sometimes, the experience is more like being pierced by the rays of a determined sun, illuminating places inside that have never been met with kindness, or tender companionship.  There are times when the choreography of the weekend causes old pain to burn like a forest fire, moving with speed, friction and flame to demolish the "under story," or, as I've come to think of it, the "cover story."  Who among us couldn't use the chance to peel off the habit of pretense, lift the veil, remove the mask?  You might say that Opening the Heart is like being exposed to the elements, and for that reason, change is inevitable. We surrender to the current of life, allow ourselves to be taken for a ride, giving our intelligent hearts their way with us, and in so doing, we are "moved."

Participants have often told us that they do in a single weekend, what would take years in talk therapy to accomplish.  While each person "paddling the waters" of Opening the Heart has a unique experience, we facilitators admit that we aim deep, trusting the work to take each of us to the core, to the root of what wants transformation.  We are respectfully unapologetic for our exquisite aim, and deeply trusting of what arises from wisdom of the body.  Your body!

We facilitators "hold" this process with years of experience, with a skill set that weaves together the best practices of all our combined years.  We "walk the walk" in our own lives, grateful for the effectiveness of the techniques we've inherited and honed over time.  We work from a place of genuine humility, believing in the dignity and resilient nature of  humankind.  Time and time again, we witness extraordinary courage, and the capacity we embody as a species to face the task at hand.  We are all innately brilliant at showing up for life. We can meet both triumph and tragedy at the door, with a kind curiosity, allowing life to open us from the inside out.

We aspire to be loving agents of change in our facilitation, often surprising a culture accustomed to distance and self sufficiency, with disarming warmth, and the truer hues of interconnectedness.  Leading the Opening the Heart Workshop is a privilege.  It is one of our purest joys, our most beloved, human "offering."

Ron Ortner, a magnificent contemporary artist says this:
"It is already a given that life is a failure, by which I mean that we come with an expiration date.  You should seek as though your hair is on fire, and you need water."

Why wait?  We invite you to dive in, with the spirit of the loving warrior you already are.

With heart,


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.