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Posted By Opening the Heart


 "I am an orphan, on God's highway...

I have no mother, no father, no sister, no brother.

I am an orphan girl,"           Emmylou Harris

 I have been seeing "Richard" in my practice for a little over a year. (I have his permission to tell this story knowing I made name and significant circumstance changes to protect confidentiality). He came to see me because he wanted to be a better husband and father and teacher of his 6th grade science class. He knew that, in spite of best intentions, he failed miserably again and again to live up to his own wish to be more patient, loving, and kind to the people in his life he cared most about. He was pretty harsh in his own self judgements about his failures. I knew that his father, an alcoholic who had repeatedly beaten Richard, had died about 10 years ago. His mother had never been able to consistently hold him, protect him, love him when he was growing up. She was now in a nursing home, losing her cognitive focus and, at times, confusing Richard with his brother.

 During our session last week, Richard started right off saying he wanted to talk about Carol, his first real love, his freshman year of college. He recalled, with saddened voice, "how hard I fell" and how the deep love he felt was never returned. He broke eye contact and said it was like an ache, a yearning to be held - "not hugged but enfolded" by her. He said "It feels like the longing of a little boy". And, as his eyes filled up, I realized that this was the first time he had ever expressed deep feeling in a session....

He became very quiet for several minutes. Then he said "I can't believe I didn't start by telling you about my mother - she's dying". I waited, then said "Two deep rivers of grief coming together as one". And tears came slowly down each cheek. Then he enfolded himself in his own arms and I suggested that watching his mother die might also mean that any fantasy of being held and loved - enfolded - might also be dying. As he embraced himself, and cried, he asked, oh so softly, "Would you hold me?"

I held him and he sobbed and asked how he could have ever given something he never received. I agreed with his wisdom and his courage in facing his broken heart. Making the descent to the broken heart is the beginning of healing.

Then we talked. I told him that there was only ever one person who really knew exactly how he needed to be "enfolded", loved: not Carol, not his mother, not even his father, but Richard himself. And I was in awe of that simple brilliant self-enfolding as the beginning of learning to bring kindness to his own Great Beating Heart. It was the beginning of wisdom and being able to be kind and loving to others in his life.

With Love and Respect, Jon



Posted By Opening the Heart

    Baz Luhrman is a 50 year old Australian director, producer and screenwriter. The films he's probably best known for are Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and Australia. "Sunscreen" was originally written by a Chicago Tribune columnist, Mary Schmich in 1997. Baz Luhrman used it on his 1998 album "Something for Everybody".

    I can easily imagine someone reading it at a college commencement as some advice to youth. I found it very poignant and wise. I hope you like it.   

With Love and Respect, Jon 



Posted By Opening the Heart

Naomi Shihab Nye from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

What an amazing tool the 'cloiud' is! Today I stumbled upon this video of Naomi Shihab Nye reading two of her own poems, including Jon's all-time favorite - Kindness


Posted By Opening the Heart

HazMat Sign

You've almost certainly seen these signs on the back of trucks heading down the highway. They are there to warn the public and emergency personnel about the presence of hazardous materials should some kind of accident or misfortune cause the thin skin of the container to be punctured.

Following one of those trucks the other day I witnessed a classic occurrence of what we have come to call "road rage." A driver entering the highway from a ramp failed to yield to traffic in the right hand lane resulting in some dangerous lane switching, blaring horns and raised middle fingers. I was a little way behind the melee but close enough to experience the immediate rush of adrenaline, elevated heart rate and instant body-temperature increase.

As I drove on down the road, settling my breathing back to normal, it occurred to me that perhaps we should all wear tee-shirts with one of these signs on our backs. We all have huge reserves of emotional energy. Emotion (E - motion) is energy-in-motion. When emotional energy has been blocked - for whatever reason - we have a lot in common with those hazardous materials trucks. The slightest thing can 'set us off.'

Of course, its perfectly normal to experience a fully fledged "fight or flight" response when faced with real danger. On a cosmic scale we are only evolutionary  microseconds away from the Jurassic era when "kill or be killed" was a necessary approach to survival, so the flood of adrenalin that primes our bodies and minds to face a threat is inevitable.


No, the kind of situation I am referring to here is the one where our reaction to a perceived threat is both unexpected and out of all proportion to the stimulus. A colleague or partner says something that we disagree with and suddenly we find ourselves yelling angrily, lashing out verbally or storming out and slamming the door. Even if we don't manifest these behaviors on the surface we can alternatively find ourselves internally steamed up and perhaps fantasizing the same behaviors. Afterwards we might have thoughts such as "I could have knocked his head off!" or "I should've kicked her butt."

The causes of these out of proportion reactions are many and varied, and, over the years at Opening the Heart we have helped many workshop participants get to the bottom of their own particular "hair trigger."  So, if you feel that perhaps you could  be wearing a tee shirt with a HazMat sign on it, maybe its time to seriously consider attending one of our upcoming workshop presentations:

At Kripalu, Stockbridge MA June 15 - 17 2012

or at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck NY July 13 - 15 2012

We can help you to avoid future hazardous material explosions.

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