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Posted By Opening the Heart
I spent this past Monday with the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a beloved southern Vermont community nestled in the lap of the Green Mountains.  60 well intentioned folks dragged themselves out of early bed and scraped crusty snow off  frosty windshields to contemplate what our town would be like if all its residents felt equally valued and empowered.
We sat earnestly together, young and old, black and white, privileged and working class and pondered this possibility.  We talked about power, who has it and who can't get it.  We tried not to get stuck in the predictable pitfalls which offered themselves up like  deep grooves in dirt roads, familiar to all Vermonters during mud season.  We didn't grasp at simplistic answers or quick fixes. We didn't blame our government or our neighbors at the table.  We sat with ourselves.  It was painful in places.  Mostly, it was an honest practice of working to understand the day to day reality of individuals who have been left out in the cold.  We grappled with racism, poverty and greed.  We looked each other in the eye, point blank and tried to breathe ourselves through challenging conversations without looking at our feet.  At the end of the day we were all still there.  We sang a simple song in three languages and four part harmony.  We ate spaghetti and salad and garlic bread and went back out to the sparkle of stars and brightly lit steeples.
 
It was at an Opening the Heart Workshop many years ago that I learned how to stay present.  I learned to look at the people in the circle, and to take them in.  I learned how to offer myself as a loving witness to another so that the innate wisdom in the person seated across from me on a cushion could find its way to the surface.  I learned to soften my face, my breath and my judgements, making room instead for what I have come to regard as the truest expression of respect.  And I learned to stay with myself emotionally during times of confusion, regret and emptiness.  I grew to understand my own inner longing to be a loving agent for change.  I understood what aspects of healing are an "inside job", and what I might share with another trusted being for support and companionship.
 

I cannot say that life has become simpler as a result of my experience at Opening the Heart.  What I can say is that I have grown into my own skin  That learning the basic practice of self-responsibility has made me both humble and brave.  There is very little that frightens me anymore.  When I open my eyes at the beginning of a new day I scan the immeasurable number of opportunities there are to bring love to the world.  And I am grateful to be out of my own way enough to see clearly.  I can choose how to spend the currency of love at any given time, trusting that no recession, no earthquake, no unfortunate election or unethical Supreme Court decision can impact the balance in my love account.  This I experience as a form of pure liberation.

 

Donna Macomber


 
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