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Posted By Opening the Heart

    Very soon I'll be going back to Kripalu to help lead an Opening the Heart Workshop again. This workshop is the last weekend before the winter solstice (December 14-16). I think of this time in November and December as "The Dark Run"- a time of decreased natural light, a time of turning inward, of watching, waiting and contemplation- a time to prepare for the increased light to come back to us.

    I have often referred to the contrast in the "energy" of a Friday night at Kripalu compared to Sunday morning. Friday night, as I look around at our first circle of the workshop, I often see doubt, fear, excitement, apprehension as I look into people's faces. By Sunday morning, the transformation is very dramatic. The energy in the room is lighter, peaceful, less heavy, and in people's faces I see no hiding, only compassion and kindness.

    I find myself asking what exactly is it than enables this striking transformation to happen in about 40 hours with a group of strangers. It is true that there is a warm and welcoming atmosphere at Kripalu. It is true that the leaders of the workshop are experienced and the safety and love they help to create is sincere and real. It is true that the music helps gather us in together. But this still doesn't answer, for me, what it is that helps bring about such dramatic change so quickly.

    There is a prayer that I love that goes something like this:

      With all my heart have I gone out to seek You,

      And in going out, found You coming toward me.

    I think the deeper answer about what causes such deep change at a workshop lies in this prayer: that it is not the singing or the welcoming or the building that, in themselves, transforms. Not really. I believe it is the yearning for wholeness that each participant brings, hesitantly, cautiously, with trembling heart, into the workshop on Friday. What we have, I think, at every workshop is a kind of biased sample. These are the brothers and sisters who have come because they yearn- they want serenity, they long to see kindness in a stranger's eyes. It is in the risk of "going out", of longing, of yearning that one hears the "echo", the answer that we are not alone. The key to the dramatic change is that when we enter that workshop space, we have all suffered and we yearn to be known, seen and embraced with our past suffering: we are willing to take a chance to connect with our deeper self.

    It is the suffering that leads to the yearning, which leads to the risk to do something out of the ordinary- like coming to an experiential workshop in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts with a roomful of people we've never seen before. It is easy, I think, to confuse the change agent and to give credit to "the workshop" or to the leaders or to "the place", but I think, truly, the real agent of change is carried into the workshop by each brave, trembling heart that dares to step into the extraordinary.

    Just as the time of increased light at the start of the winter solstice would not be so yearned for without the Dark Run, so the opening of the heart would not be so powerful without the dark night of the soul that precedes it. In this time of increased light in the world, we wish you peacefulness of heart and we wish for each of us to come to the knowledge of our true selves. We are not alone- ever.

           With Love and Respect, Jon


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