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Posted By Opening the Heart

   If you've never been to an Opening the Heart workshop before, I'd like to, very briefly, describe what it's like. Over the course of a weekend, a group, usually of strangers, come together to make what we call a "descent"- to face buried demons, hurts, wounds and to give them a proper, peaceful and honorable burial: to be done with them. No, I agree: why would anyone actually choose to do this? Doesn't a kayak trip or a Vermont B+B sound more appealing? I agree.

   But I want to tell you that there is also something transformational and exhilarating about going to one's own edge, taking this kind of a risk to be seen without the mask or your best hair- to really allow yourself to look into another's eyes and see no difference in a setting that is constructed to be very safe and loving. So, usually, not always, on a Sunday, right after the workshop ends, there is a powerful feeling of openness, compassion and love.

   Well, after the last workshop, as people were hugging and saying good bye, I happened to notice one participant, sitting against the wall crying quietly. I slowly came over, gave her some kleenex and just sat with her. I didn't say a word. When she could finally breathe and speak, she looked into my eyes and said "I don't ever want to leave this place". I breathed. More tears came. She tried a smile and asked "Do I have to leave?" I held her hands and waited a long while before saying "Yes". I looked into her eyes again and said "It's important that you go back and take with you what you found here". She just looked at me, held my hands tight and would not let go....

   For over 20 years, from about 1976 to 1998, we did the workshop at our own special place called Spring Hill in Ashby, Massachusetts. It was an idyllic place in a beautiful, hand-built rustic barn overlooking a forest and hills. We often talked about the "magic" that we believed was held in the pine board walls, vaulted ceilings and warm, purple wall to wall rug. It really did feel like just being in that place was calming and serene, a kind of coming home, even before the workshop would begin. When Spring Hill closed, many of us on staff really did believe that the "magic" would be impossible to re-create anywhere else. We were wrong....

   As I looked into "Carol's" eyes, I told her that I did not want her to confuse the "miracle" with the inner transformation she had experience that weekend. I think that she had come to believe that the "miracle" occurred because of the beauty and peacefulness of Kripalu or Omega- the music of the workshop, the kindness of staff, the great and healthy food served, sometimes in blissful silence. I told her that the real miracle occurred because of the awesome power of taking a risk to be real and present with buried pain. The miracle was the inner transformation- the incredible perspective that comes when one is able to really see from the summit. Why would anyone actually choose to come to Kripalu or Omega, to step out of the ordinary and into something extaordinary like making a descent? And why, after rising from the descent to come to the summit, would one wish to ever leave that place?

   The poet Kabir said "Are you looking for me? I'm in the next seat, in the next breath". Yes, I know, it's a bit of a cliche, but, nonetheless true: the miracle of the transformation was always inside us, not in the circumstances of Spring Hill, or the songs, or the staff, or the food or the natural beauty. Always inside us. So I told Carol that I also wished for her to never have to leave "this place", but to be really brave in not waiting for the "place" to align with our expectations, but to actively take steps to get back in touch with the greatness that is always a breath away.

   With Love and Respect, Jon

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