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Posted By Opening the Heart

 "From a distance you look like my friend, Even though we are at war..."


Photo: Mike Berenson

On Friday night January 15th, I flew from my little airport in Warwick, Rhode Island to Orlando, Florida where I would catch a connecting flight into Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast in southwest Florida. The next day we would be presenting the Opening the Heart Workshop to Avow Hospice in Naples. Since we are invited to do this workshop by a compassionate soul at Avow named Louise Kinney once each year, I am familiar with the routine, the embarking, the runway takeoff, the landing, the airport waiting. But on this night, as we approached the Florida coast on the Atlantic side, I was thinking about all the participants who would be sitting in the opening circle of the workshop in just a few short hours. I was thinking about their journeys, the arc of their lives, the deep losses that they live with every day. And then something quite mysterious and wonderful happened.

As the plane banked southwest, I no longer saw the endless black of the Atlantic Ocean but a dramatic change of scene as the Florida coast spread out into view, flying right over Daytona Beach. The gold and silver lights below were really beautiful and I imagined the world turned upside down and instead of looking down, I was now looking up at the Daytona Constellation, the Deltona Nebula, the twinkling lights of Winter Springs, or the Dolphin Star, and, finally, the great expanse of thousands of stars in the Orlando Constellation...

The beauty of it took my breath away. As we began to descend, the stars transformed into street lights and the shooting stars into highway cars. When we hit the runway and taxied to a stop, the cabin lights came on and the cell phones rang and the voices of individual lives morphed from the magical, dark, silent space ship ride: "Dad, we just landed." "Yeah, Carl, the meeting went well. When can you be here?" "Mommy, I'm tired". As i marched out of the plane with my carry- on, I was aware of the process of marching in the parade as opposed to what I was doing just minutes before- watching the parade.

And I thought again of the hospice participants at the workshop in the morning: sitting in the Opening Circle, perhaps feeling scared or excited, looking into other eyes around the circle, and quite possibly experiencing Difference in those eyes, and, therefore, feeling separation. And then I thought about the end of the workshop when, so many times, I've seen open, fearless eyes looking around the circle and seeing No Difference, and feeling compassion and acceptance. From a distance, things do look different. The change in perspective, I think, is just part of the parade, except for the very few saints who live in that timeless place and always see with new, fearless eyes. But even living in that space for a few moments changes things. The poet Kabir said he lived in that space for twelve seconds and it made him a disciple for life.

With Love and Respect, Jon


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