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Posted By Opening the Heart

Michael Mezernich is a neuroscientist who developed Posit Science which is a San Francisco company, one of the first companies ten years ago to enter the new field of brain fitness. Here's what he said: "When you're young and you see something surprising, your eyes are attracted to it. You're bright-eyed, literally." For older people in their 60's and 70's, their peripheral vision is three-quarters as panoramic as that of a twenty year old. Here's what amazed me: he said "We want to train your eyes to be more childlike.... We can take a person of any age and restore their sparkiness."

The light that went on immediately in my head is the thought that what he's really talking about is learning to look at things with "beginner's eyes". This is the phrase that meditators and behavioral researchers use in re: to helping people develop mindfulness practices. Just take a moment wherever you are and look at something inside or outside a room. Really, just look at it and breathe and then, keep looking at it and breathing. Just "be with" it, contemplate it. Be, in the present moment, with it and see it as if for the very first time, letting everything you "know" about it drop away: its function, its history, its meaning in your life. Just let it be and let yourself be, with it....

If you've started to read this new paragraph, stop. Go back to the object you've been contemplating and stay with it for ten minutes (approximate the time, don't keep checking your watch!)....

Okay, so the main point I want to make is about prayer. For many years I have had a daily prayer life: before each meal, when I enter my therapy office and when I leave it, when I feel grateful, when I see a wonder or a miracle for the first time, when I am graced with serenity.

My dear friend, Peter, gave me a book for my birthday called Help. Thanks. Wow by Ann Lamott: the three essential prayer. Her challenge is to make prayer real, authentic. So I began to look at my own prayer practice. I took inventory: Gratitude, yup, check; lift our suffering, check; watch over and protect loved ones, got it. I began to see that my prayer life had aged. It was not authentic or real, it had become a rote practice.

I knew I needed to get back to being real, in the moment, to feeling the yearning for connection with whatever you may want to call a higher power or God. My belief is that real prayer, with heart, the juicy prayer, is the authentic ache and yearning for connection. For me, it's not a conversation with God. It's the yearning or the "call" that actually is the response, or echo, of our prayer.

So I began my new prayer practice with a question: How am I feeling inside? Really, how am I feeling? Rather than check off the usual boxes, I was determined to be more honest with whatever was true for me in that moment: raw anger, outrage, grief, elation, relief, peacefulness- to really bring it gently into my embrace and awareness and just be with it, give voice to it, as much as possible, without judgment. In other words, to see it with new, honest, beginner's eyes. This practice has made me, I believe, more real, more whole, more able to see with a wider panorama the beautiful, translucent whole of the life I've been given.

   With Love and Respect, Jon



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