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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

Posted By Opening the Heart

Question from an OTH Facebook Page follower:
How does one live one's life after the feelings are flushed through the body, so that they don't accumulate in the body in the future?

Linda's Response:
Thank you for asking this question. I don't have the definitive answer to this, but I can tell you what I know so far. When you say "after the feelings are flushed through the body", two distinct groups of feelings come to mind. The first group consists of the more recent feelings one has had. The second group contain what I think of as more "historical" or stored feelings from unresolved pain or trauma that happened awhile ago.
Sometimes a weekend or two of an experience like Opening the Heart can be enough to "flush" more current hurts from the system and then one wants to stay current with processing life's new hurts as they occur. However I have found that even if one does this, if the backlog of past trauma is still stored, it can get in the way even if one is right on top of processing current hurts. The reason is because of course, it is easy for all the the past "material" to constantly get triggered.

So, the first answer for me in terms of staying current and clear is that it helps to take care of any past, stored trauma. This can take some real sustained emotional work over time, and a real commitment. Once one has gotten to the point where the past hurts feel like they no longer have the same kind of pull or "charge", then it is easier to stay current. In terms of staying current this is what I have seen be helpful.
1. Make a commitment to keep one's heart open. This means making a decision to slow down the pace of one's life so that one has time to feel their feelings, every single day. Feelings live in the body but tension makes it harder to feel them. A relaxed body and mind makes it easier.
2. Once one begins living more with an open heart and feeling more, one will get hurt more. We of course build up all that armor for a reason - it protects a bit from intense emotion! So, since the open heart will be feeling more hurt more often, simply as a part of life, in order to stay clear one would have to spend more time on a daily basis working through these hurts. This would mean taking a break, sitting with oneself and releasing that hurt or figuring out what needs to be done in order to move through the hurt. Since many hurts happen in relation to other people, often once one has discovered that one feels hurt, some kind of kind but assertive communication needs to occur for things to be set right. This usually means boning up on relationship communication skills. One favorite of mine that has never failed me in the past 35 years is called the "Whole Message Model". You can find it online. Along with this step I have found goes a commitment to doing whatever you can to heal the situation that has caused the hurt, if at all possible. This might require letting go of pride, accepting responsibility for one's own part in the proceeding, apologizing, etc.
3. The last part is to then rededicate oneself to returning to the open-hearted state. I've learned a lot from watching how children do that. Something that is also very effective for me is any kind of music that has that effect on me. To be an adult and live in an open-hearted way with one's feelings mostly in a clear state is a real spiritual path. It takes a lot of commitment and focus, and requires time set aside on a regular basis to practice it. However the rewards are phenomenal. Not only can one accomplish those goals more often, but as the emotional/mental state clears then somehow one's life starts to improve by a kind of osmosis. Somehow there arise less and less opportunities for hurt. Open-hearts seem to attract other open-hearts and even at times more positive life circumstances.
Thanks again for asking this deep question. Good luck with this process. Let us know how it goes.