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Posted By Opening the Heart

It was a Saturday morning at an Opening the Heart workshop just as participants were entering the room from breakfast. Friday night had been a beautiful and poignant beginning of the weekend journey at Kripalu and very few of the participants had ever been to this magical place before. So, as participants came into the workshop space Saturday morning, most began to find their way to a backjack in the circle. One woman, though, came over to me and said "Jon, I'd like to tell you an interesting story". I sat down and listened.

She told me that she'd never been to Kripalu before and when she came into the cafeteria hall for breakfast, she paused and just looked around to "take in the scene". She said she was "taken aback" to notice how solemn and unfriendly the whole atmosphere was. "Here were 250 people sitting in one space and I didn't see one person talking to anyone else! It was so depressing and unwelcoming!" She told me that as she continued to look around, she noticed the signs indicating two separate food lines for "vegetarian" and "nonvegetarian", and then she saw the sign that said "Breakfast is a silent meal".

She smiled as she continued to explain to me that when she saw that sign, she took in a deep breath of appreciation and gratitude. She told me that it was so beautiful to witness the whole room in a silent honoring of the invitation to stop the normal social distractions, to go inside and become more mindful of the practice of eating a beautifully prepared, healthy meal. She said that she noticed some people sitting with a smile or with their eyes closed, chewing food prepared and presented with love. Her eyes twinkled as she said "It was so awesome to take this in. The whole room was like one silent, holy prayer!"

Some weeks ago a favorite patient in my office began the session by telling me a story of what happened to her as she ended her day at a stressful and unhappy job. She walked out of the building into the parking lot. As she approached her car, she saw something under the windshield of her car. "I was so angry. At first, I thought it was a parking ticket. As I got closer, I saw that it was not a ticket, but a handwritten note". She said she noticed a fleeting feeling of relief that it wasn't a ticket, but then she saw the relief give way to a deep annoyance that someone would disrespect her private property and have the nerve to write her "some insulting note about parking five inches over the parking lane stripe!'

She took the note from the windshield and noticed the two words written there: "Hey you!" She felt her body tighten, and, as she unfolded it, she read the rest of the message: "You are here to evolve your consciousness and to learn how to grow more love in your life. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should". She told me that she read it again, took a deep breath and smiled. "My whole day, actually, my whole week changed and I took the challenge seriously of going through each day choosing to be a little kinder and more loving to whomever I met".

What struck me about both of these stories was that nothing externally had changed at all. But what made all the difference was the internal change of how these two women chose to see the external circumstances of their lives. Aldous Huxley once wrote that "It is not the external circumstances of our lives that matter. It is our attitude about those circumstances that makes all the difference". I thought, once again, that a lot of amazing things happen when we slow down, breathe and pay attention.

With Love and Respect, Jon


Posted By Opening the Heart

In this, the second of four short videos Dr Laury Rappaport presents mindful exercises designed to melt stress and tension while at work. Before moving to California, Laury was a Co-Director of Spring Hill - the original home of the Opening the Heart Workshop. She continues to advise and support our work.

Posted By Opening the Heart

Its time to re-visit a comment that I posted on the Lead Change Group Website a couple of years ago because the point I was making then is still very relevant today.

Here is the comment and a replyEmotional Intelligence
OTH - Confidentiality - Safety

The exchange above demonstrates why it is important that tried and tested workshops like OTH continue to provide safe and confidential situations where individuals can risk exploring their emotions. Most participants at OTH arrive as individuals or related couples with the security of knowing that they will not be under the watchful eyes of their daytime colleagues as they work through experiential exercises.

Business Owners and Managers Take Note

The emotional intelligence of your employees is an important factor in creating a happy and productive workforce. Wouldn't it be a better investment to encourage and support employes in attending well established workshops like OTH?

What do you think?

As and employee or employer, what experiences have you had of trying Emotional Intelligence Workshops in the workplace? Join the discussion. Your comments are very welcome.

With love and respect,


Posted By Opening the Heart

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We work a lot with feelings at the Opening the Heart Workshop because many people are flummoxed by them.

Feelings can range in intensity from cataclysmic to dormant depending on all kinds of outer and inner conditions and circulmstances. Dealing with them (or the lack of them) requires insight and practice, particularly when we find that one emotion on the surface can often mask another one at a deeper level. Unexpressed feelings can be as problematic as undigested food, but our culture has created some barriers about "freedom of expression." This is precisely why OTH is a valuable resource as a place where emotions of every sort can be explored and safely expressed without criticism and negative judgement.

But what about when you are not at an OTH Workshop?

I was delighted to find this rather good "WikiHow" as I was exploring the web today. It offers an interesting technique for "taking your feeling temperature." The only thing I would add is a mantra that we use frequently at the workshop:

"""Feelings live in the Body, Not in the Head"""

So, when the WikiHow instructions ask you to 'Take a deep breath in, Hold, and as you do this, ask yourself "What am I feeling now?"  I would encourage you to notice what is happening in your belly, your chest and your throat.

Here's a helpful list of feelings you can use with the WikiHow

Hoping you will find these resources useful.

With Love and Respect,



Posted By Opening the Heart

Posted By Opening the Heart

Over the next four weeks we would like to offer four short classes on heart-centered stress reduction taught by Laury Rappaport, PH.D., MFT, integrative psychotherapist at the Institute for Health & Healing. For many years Laury was Co-Director of Spring Hill - the original home of the Opening the Heart Workshop. Laury continues to be a valued friend and mentor to the current Opening the Heart leaders. Each of the classes include two guided exercises that will help you practice the teachings that are presented.

Posted By Opening the Heart

When I think of the experience that derives from participation in an Opening the Heart workshop, I think of what people say in the final sharing circle at the end of the weekend. Many times, with tears in their eyes, they speak about feeling joy, coming alive, feeling unrestrained love for others. Often they will say the workshop was the most powerful experience they'd ever had. What has been even more poignant is when someone, years later, comes over to me, hugs me and says that the workshop "changed my life".

This, of course, does not happen to every participant, but it does happen consistently enough over 36 years that it leaves me wondering exactly what has happened in one short weekend that caused such profound change for so many. I think about the loving, safe environment that allows people to go deep and release years of pain and suffering, depression, deep loss, even fear of death. There is the heart-opening experience of sharing that lonely grief with others, and realizing that we all have carried these wounds. I think about the skilled, experienced leaders who know the landscape of emotional healing and the transformative journey from fear to love. I think about how music, itself, and singing or chanting are, I think, a part of what wakes us up.

I had written a while ago about the power of miracles, or what my mentor, Abraham Maslow, called peak experiences. He said these experiences are not just extremely life-affirming events that break open the heart, but they are, themselves, life-changing experiences. One cannot walk away from a miracle and expect to be the same again. So all the components I mention above are a part of what changes us, but also, what changes in us is perspective. We see with Beginner's Eyes.

In 2006 a man named Roland Griffiths published a study in "Psychpharmacology" titled "Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance". Because he had a track record as a serious and meticulous researcher, others became interested in re-opening the research on psychedelics that was shut down in 1970. In the past 20 years, well-designed double blind studies at NYU, Johns Hopkins, UCLA and the College of London have started to look at how these molecules could effect addictions like smoking and alcoholism; anxiety and depression; and cancer and end of life experience. The goal of many of these studies was to "make the direct experience of the sacred more available to more people". (I think this quote could have been used as the OTH logo).

In 2010 a 54 year old television news editor, Patrick Bettes, was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He was going through heavy chemotherapy and was scared of losing  everything he loved, as well as facing his own death. He was accepted to an NYU clinical trial of psychedelics. Because he was a journalist, he wrote about his day-long trial. Initially, he wrote that he felt intense fear and anxiety. (I think about our first circle on Friday night at OTH). Soon he was crying and having a "rebirthing" experience. Midway through his trip he remembered saying "OK, we can all punch out now. I get it". He wrote that he realized that love was the only purpose of life. He said he was being told on his trip that his cancer was "no big deal". He wrote "Oh God, it all makes sense now, so simple and beautiful".

Patrick lived for anorther 17 months. His wife said that during those months, he was able to live in the present, to be joyful, enjoy a sandwich and to be more serene and at peace. She reported that he had told her he had seen "the face of God", and that he had been the happiest he had ever been in his life.

With Love and Respect, Jon