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Posted By Opening the Heart

The March issue of Shambala Sun magazine is devoted to "Mindful Living". In an article on The Science of Mindfulness, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D (referencing Jon Kabat Zinn's Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program) speaks of:

'the cultivation of an “approach state,” in which we move toward, rather than away from, a challenging external situation or internal mental function such as a thought, feeling, or memory. Naturally, such an approach state can be seen as the neural basis for resilience.'

I am grateful to Dan Siegel for the term "approach state" because it aptly describes one of the skills we teach at the Opening the Heart Workshop™.

Think for a moment how often in life we  deliberately or unconsciously ignore unpleasant or challenging feelings and physical sensations - how often we try to put painful memories 'behind us'. The problem with this avoidance - this refusal to approach - is that our emotional range quickly becomes restricted, unable to flex in all the ways it was designed to be capable of. In shutting down to difficult feelings we automatically diminish our capability of fully experiencing pleasant ones. Our emotional life atrophies to such an extent that when new emotional challenges arise we are unprepared and ill equipped to deal with them.

As I watch the Winter Olympics and fantasize what it would be like to ski downhill at 70 mph, I remember how foolish it would be to attempt such a thing without training my body, mind and spirit to the necessary level of strength, flexibility and resilience. It is precisely the qualities of heart-strength, heart-flexibility, heart-resilience that lie at the core of the Opening the Heart work. Difficult and challenging situations will inevitably continue to arise in all our lives. Our ability to accept and deal with the associated emotions in a skillful way is completely dependent on learning and practicing the "approach state".

So, just as those Olympic Athletes work with coaches and trainers to develop their skills,  wouldn't it be great to work with some of the world's most experienced 'coaches of the heart'?

The next heart-training opportunity is at The Opening the Heart Workshop™, March 19 - 21 at Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, MA

Posted By Opening the Heart

 (A contribution form Louise Kenny  - the organizer of our annual Opening the Heart to Grief at Avow Hospice in Naples, Florida)


The impetus for completing this writing was an encounter I had while attending a recent seminar focused on energy work such as opening chakras and seeing auras.  Such teachings I have found helpful along my own healing journey. It was at this seminar that I was reminded of my growing concerns about what has been called the “spiritual bypass”.  The spiritual bypass is that delightful and seductive path our ego finds to take us out of ourselves and into the lovely land of spiritual righteousness.
    During a break in the seminar I was expressing my concern about the devastation in Haiti. I  shared  my deep hope that the world would notice that if we all have the capacity to love effortlessly in the face of tragedy, we indeed harbor the capacity to love at any given moment.  Moments later a woman approached me and expressed the judgment: ‘But you know the Haitians just never learned to prosper….even after so much has been given to them’.  Immediately my ego flared in judgment of her!
     Before I lit off like a rocket I simply stated "there is a lot of history there"…and quietly walked away.  Later I shared with the seminar facilitator my idea: without taking a walk into and through the darker regions of ones own individual heart, one remains at risk for missing a critical spiritual point. 
       Lui Collins, folk singer and song writer wrote the verse “The only way out is through”. I first heard this as a participant in an Opening the Heart Workshop during a moment when I was encountering some deep pain in my soul. I emerged from that experience concluding that before I could transcend to greater levels of consciousness I must first fully embrace where I am and where I had been.  Our emotional hearts are not disconnected from our egos. Life’s events affect us; hurt our egos; scar our hearts. Healing these wounds requires love. Healing the wounded heart is about dissolving into the essence of our spiritual nature. As we descend into the dark regions of our heart accompanied by LOVE with the sword of Truth, we open paths to our spiritual heart. Along this newly open passageway, our actions may begin to flow increasingly from our spiritual heart.  As the spiritual light shines brighter from within us, our capacity for discernment grows as our inclination towards criticism, judgment and denial diminishes.
     While we can seek through prayer, rituals, meditation, chakras and auras for our spiritual nature it is necessary for us to consciously understand and appreciate the role of  ego in our lives. It is essential for us to see and eventually bow to the pain, the fears, the grief, the regrets, the tenderness, the hardness, the victim and the killer within. The ability to hold the sword of truth and allow it to point directly at ourselves is to genuinely grasp the spiritual point of love.
    The Opening the Heart Workshop is the only workshop I have ever taken that has granted me the gift to accept my heart’s call to encounter the light of truth. What was revealed then, and continues to be revealed to me today, goes on lovingly and gently cracking my ‘cocoon’,  liberating my spirit, urging me to be the light in the world that I was born to be.
Louise Kenny, LCSW

Posted By Opening the Heart

Truth "must be warm, moist, incarnated, -- have been breathed on at least. A man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.”


How is the truth of my heart today? Warm and generous? Flowing like water? Am I "in my body", in-carnated, connected? Am I feeling all the truth that life has to offer?


Just checking.............. How about you?


Come into allighment with the truth of your heart at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010

Posted By Opening the Heart

If you are not already familiar with the music of Deva Premal you are in for a wonderful relaxing treat. We play her recordings a lot in The Opening the Heart Workshop because her chants create a healing ambience that supports the work of participants.

Donna, Linda, Jon and I are delighted to be attending her live concert at the Somerville Theatre when she visits New England this April. In the meantime here is a taster. I suggest taking a break from whatever you're doing, taking a few cleansing breaths, closing your eyes and sinking into the sounds. (The slide show of beautiful spring flowers looks good too at this time of year in the wintery north-east - even if the transitions are a little too fast) Relax and enjoy!


Yemaya Assessu - Deva Premal


Perhaps you'll be moved to participate in the upcoming Opening the Heart Workshop, this March 19 - 21 at Kripalu Insitute, Stockbridge, MA

Posted By Opening the Heart

Part One of this Article is here


I wonder about the unlearning.  Can't really go back and re-work the script.  I wasn't loved for coloring outside the lines, talking back or trespassing. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  And what does that teach me about intimacy?

In Japan I climbed a tall fence and skinny-dipped in a private pool at midnight on my 23rd birthday.  The risk was exhilarating.  I didn't want to tango with the Japanese Criminal Justice system as much as I wanted to cool my young birthday body down and dive into spontaneity with my feisty friend, Leah.

At work I drink strong coffee from a bossy mug.  It says, "Well behaved women seldom make history."  I know that.  It also says, "Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere."
This, it seems to me, is a no-brainer.

At 50, I want to go everywhere.  To say "yes" and "no" from my belly.  To look beneath appearances to the very essence of a thing.  To make or write something and then lose it under my passenger seat, or suck it up in the car wash vacuum cleaner hose.  To lose my way and learn the familiar curves of a back road.  I've always cooked without a recipe.  It has never come naturally to me to measure things, or balance my checkbook.

Mostly, it is the middle of things I try to see into, the place where all facets converge.  The way flavors combine and textures.  The grain of a wood counter top.  The palm of a hand that wants to open.  In the middle of so much, I am still learning to break my crayons, peel off the paper, use instruments sideways, let the colors make love and merge.  Blend with my fingers, make mistakes, wipe my hands on my pants.  Come home filthy and freer.

"You do not have to be simply have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." (Mary Oliver)

My soft animal sends a soft prayer outwards - to have no secrets from herself, to have more mud on the pads of her paws.



Come meet and work with Donna at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010

Posted By Opening the Heart

I love sparkle and sometimes I love symmetry. Symmetry can annoy me in its tendency toward predictable order.  I am messier than that.  I like to be surprised by the unevenness of things.  Haircuts that have long parts and short parts.  Lawns that are mowed by sensitive people who can't bear to plow down patches of buttercups and Indian paint brushes.  You can tell a great deal about a person by what they leave standing.

I like wacky, unpredictable evidence of tenderness. Not the big, showy, center staged acts of kindness, but the kid sister to those actions.  People who move through the world brave enough to not be all put together.  Somehow, I think of those folks as having more surface area to travel in relationship.

In drawing class last week my teacher talked about creating art and putting it away. "You don't want it to become too precious," he warned with a contemplative mouth and somewhat serious brow. "Don't want to attach to it in a way that you care too much what happens to your creation."  He had us draw huge, uninhibited circles.  "Let it go off the page," he instigated.

My shoulders began to play, and my mouth softened.  I licked my lips like I used to as a small kid when I was concentrating.  I traded my stubby black rectangular piece of charcoal for a pointy one in burnt sienna.  I stopped thinking about the moment when we would hold our pictures up for viewing.  My circles went crazy, intersecting and dissecting, interrupting and neighboring one another.  Something in my heart felt round and urgent and, perhaps, untangled.  I felt the places in relationship where I want to go off the page.  I can't tell you my exact thoughts, but the sky was coming into my body through the warm portals of my nostrils and I wanted to cry.  I could feel the learned places of obedience still residing in my internal organs, some in my pancreas and some in the warm cavern beneath my ribs.  My spine went mad as I wrote charcoal loops on the huge art table all covered with newsprint.

On break, I wiped my chalky hands on my favorite gray pants.  I drank Swiss Miss with miniature marshmallows and felt honest.  When I went to the bathroom I glanced at myself in the mirror and didn't smile.  I don't want to live precious, draw precious, write precious.  I want the risky, reckless, real thing.

Continued here



Come meet and work with Donna at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010


Posted By Opening the Heart

     When my younger son Andre was about a year and a half old, like most toddlers he was a people magnet.  Because his heart had not yet been hurt it was always open and he constantly sought connection with others in the variety of ways that toddlers do.

     One summer afternoon he, my oldest son Alex   and I were driving in the backwoods of New Hampshire.  We were on our way home.  In those pre-GPS days I had not known the ride would last so long.  Everyone was getting hungry.  Trees lined both sides of the road ahead like silent rows of evergreen skyscrapers.  There would be no Dunkin Donuts nearby.  I felt only relief when I saw a sign for a chicken barbeque next to a small baseball field.

     We turned into the parking lot and found out that it was an event put on by a  biker’s club to raise money for the March of Dimes.  They were not clean cut like many of the bikers you see today but they were also less scary than some Hell’s Angels.  Hmmm…a woman alone in the country with two very hungry children and no food in sight.  Should I risk it? I assessed the situation and bought three tickets.

     A one-eyed, grizzled man greeted us at the entrance.  He had a gravelly voice somewhat reminiscent of Sean Connery.  As he handed me the tickets he whispered loudly, “We’re just a bunch of bad guys doin’ a good thing”.  My plan was to go in, get the chicken, eat it and get out within 15 minutes max.

     The kids and I sat down at a picnic table in the dining area and began to eat.  Around us I saw many tattoos, a fair number of scars and many hard faces.  Alex was mostly interested in eating his chicken.  But Andre was after something else entirely.  Before I knew it he had started one of his favorite toddler games.  He ran away from our table laughing as he looked at me and then went right up to someone seated nearby.  He looked into their eyes, took a piece of food off their plate, put it into his mouth smiling and then went over to someone else.  I groaned inwardly.  This didn’t look like the right crowd for even a toddler to steal from.

     Luckily I was wrong.  It was almost like Andre had a magic wand.  When he approached a table it was as if the ‘storm clouds’ hanging low in the sky parted and the sun came out – both for the person whose food he took and for everyone nearby who saw him do it.

     This experience caused me to think about my own fears and assumptions about other people. One of my mentors Neil Friedman, now deceased, was fond of saying “All of us long for love but we have been hurt by life and so we are afraid.” 

     Andre’s open heart touched that universal longing.  In his innocence he reached out in a friendly way to others whose own hurts had  set up some very effective defenses.  But behind defenses it seems that there is always the same thing - the heart that, however wounded, still longs for love and connection.

     I took a page out of Andre’s book that day.  Seeing what really lies underneath other people’s sometimes tough-looking defenses has given me the courage to reach further past my own. I'm reminded of something that 12th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, “They say there is a window that opens from heart to heart.  But if there are no walls there is no reason for fitting the window, or the latch.”


Come meet and work with Lindaa at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010