Join Our Mailing List

I'm listed in Life & Lifestyle

Posted By Opening the Heart

In this, the second of four short videos Dr Laury Rappaport presents mindful exercises designed to melt stress and tension while at work. Before moving to California, Laury was a Co-Director of Spring Hill - the original home of the Opening the Heart Workshop. She continues to advise and support our work.

Posted By Opening the Heart


Not a terribly inviting title for a blog post, but let's face it, Conflict, Stress and Suffering show up in most everyone's life - sometimes on a 'full time' basis.

"CSS" and the bodily tightening and negative emotions that invariably accompany this uncomfortable condition arise from the desire for 'things to be different from how they are.'

Right now in my own life I can quickly identify four (at least) instances. 1) I wish I got to spend more one on one sharing time with my daughter. 2) I would like not to have to work during my summer vacation. 3) I would like to be wealthy enough to not to have to work during my summer vacation. 4) I want my 67 year old body to function as painlessly as my 37 year old body used to do. The list could go on.

The question arises: 'How can I let go of "CSS" and fall into a happier, more peaceful, more empathic state of being?'

The answer, of course, is to let go of the desire 'for things to be different from how they are.'

"Easier said than done!" you might reply - especially if your desire is to be free of a troubling illness, depression or addiction.

My own experience tells me that the only way to free the heart of thirsting for things to be different is to look at the heart - to allow the heart to speak its own truth. When I look closely I discover the underlying feeling of loneliness behind my wanting to spend more one on one time with my daughter. If I look closer still I discover the deep sadness of disconnectedness that has colored so many of my relationships. When I open myself more deeply to the underside of my wish for an ageless body I discover fear - fear of debilitating illness, fear of death.

The sadness and the fear are emotions I am carrying. They are heavy! Unacknowledged and unexpressed they remain a constant burden that manifests as Conflict, Stress and Suffering.

Our society contains few opportunities for the safe and welcomed flow of feelings such as sadness, fear and anger, so they remain bottled up inside, frequently leading to physical disease.

I am thankful that my life has led me to teachers (Buddha, Osho, Lau Tzu, Jesus, Dalai Lama and my Opening the Heart Workshop colleagues) who have helped me understand this process. I am also enormously grateful to have found a place at Opening the Heart where I can safely access and release the scary feelings that underpin my clinging to 'how I want things to be different.'

So, whether you are a regular reader here, or someone who is visiting for the first time, I really encourage you to take advantage of what The Opening the Heart Workshop has to offer: a safe, supportive and healing environment for letting go of "CSS."

I hope to see many of you at Kripalu next weekend.

May all beings be free of Conflict, Stress and Suffering.


Posted By Opening the Heart

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my friend Lynn Koerbel. She was my mentor as I began my service to the Opening the Heart Workshop many years ago. Today she posted this wonderful idea on her Facebook page and I thought it appropriate and helpful to pass it along to a wider audience.

"Maybe, instead of making a list of what I want or think I should do each day, I should just go through my day and at the end, make a list of everything I actually did. I would feel so accomplished! along with sidestepping feelings of guilt, stress, or pressure at what didn't happen"

So simple and so true. Thank you again Lynn!


Posted By Opening the Heart

It's finally quiet on the ward. It's the hour after lunch and the hour before group therapy when I will listen to Karen tell us about her Uncle Charlie who comes through her bedroom walls to steal her sweaters; and to Richard who has a tatoo on his neck of a snake and a rose with the words "Don't Take Me Alive"; and to Mike who believes the Judgement Day has already come and we are all already in Heaven with the Day Nurses and the Psychiatrists administering our eternal ward rooms and medications....I'm not judging, mind you, because I am painfully aware that I am far from solid ground myself. Let me start at the beginning.... A few weeks ago I faced a painful awareness that my virus-riddled and slow moving dinosaur of a PC had to be put down. Putting it down, killing it or disassembling it was not the problem. It was the terrifying thought of what I would have to go through to get a new one. So I called my friend David and he said he would go with me to Staples and hold my hand through the ordeal. He met me at the store, said he's done "the research" and had, in fact, bought "that one" last month and that it was on sale and his recommendation was that I get it too. Then it began to happen.... David and the tech support person, " Darryl", started talking to each other. The scene began to blur and they now were talking in tongues. I was looking through the long end of a telescope as they debated rams, giggle bites and voltage regulators. Then I remember pulling out my credit card, smiling and saying "thank you". David tried to help me set up the new machine but we didn't know how to connect it to the wireless printer or how to find 6 years of Quicken data or where to find my address book. Also I couldn't find where my free 4 hours of on-line training were so I called my "chief wizard" consultant who yelled at me for buying a PC and not a Mac, and then made everything work for another $240. My wife told me I should have bought a Mac. I called my friend Peter who told me I should have bought a Mac. I was disappointing everyone. I began taking tranquilizers and went back into therapy, hoping to avoid an inpatient hospitalization. I realized one day before the return policy ran out that I'd made a mistake buying this PC and I brought it back to Staples. When "Darryl" asked why I was returning it, I told him I was going to get a Mac. He smiled and said "Good move!" Have you ever been in an Apple store? There are about 11,000 gawkers and geekers in there day or night. I threw myself around the ankles of a blue-shirted young man who unclenched my desperate hands and told me he didn't work there but I should talk to a salesperson.... Anyway, I bought a computer, arranged for a "training of data transfer", signed up for "one-to-one tech support", whatever that is; purchased 3 years of "I Care" which I think is where they send you a card on your birthday. And then I went for my inpatient evaluation.... The psychiatrists tell me they are confident I can someday walk out of the hospital into a bright shining 21st century. I smile flatly and say "I hope so, Doctor". But I really believe that I never was meant to leave the 1960's. And last night, Uncle Charlie came through the walls of my ward room asking me if I wanted to buy a Kindle.

With Love and Respect, Jon


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?

Posted By Opening the Heart

I call this time of the year 'the season of left-overs'. Over the last week I have watched pounds of left-over food being crammed into plastic containers and zip-lock bags. I have seen guests assaulted by generous hosts pleading them to take home outsize portions of stuffing, roast vegetables, wilting salad and squashed dessert. I'm sure that much of the hesitantly accepted  bounty  ends up in the back of over-stuffed refrigerators, eventually going moldy and starting to smell really bad.
No, this is not a diatribe against our culture's propensity for self indulgence. Instead, it is the source of a helpful metaphor.
How it feels to be you in the present moment is largely based on the agglomerating left-overs of your life's experiences. Traces of experience that have not been fully processed and integrated linger in actual physical form and at a cellular level in our body and nervous system. Modern advances in neuroscience and technology have made it possible to map how experiences continue to modify the physical make up of the brain well into our mature years.
As they affect the growth, function and connection of neurons in the brain, unprocessed negative or traumatic experiences  become stored 'left-overs'  that radically determine how we respond to all kind of situations in our current life.
If "how it feels to be you" in your current life is mostly anxious, regularly depressed, seriously addicted, or constantly stressed,  you could benefit from checking for 'left overs'.
The good news that has emerged in the last ten or so years is that it is quite possible to 'change our brain'. What this means is that it is entirely possible to clean out the left-overs of undigested prior experience.
The Opening the Heart Workshop™ approach has long recognized  the lingering  power of the moldy leftovers of past negative experience. It is also our experience that these leftovers can be uncovered and discarded with appropriate therapeutic interventions and infusions of loving kindness. These actions can literally re-wire the brain so that new experiences do not automatically trigger ingrained reactions to past events and circumstances.
As you deal with food left-overs this holiday season take a moment to check for the sometimes not so obvious "left-overs" lurking at the back of your "inner refrigerator".

Happy Holiday Season!

Sounds True, Inc.