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Posted By Opening the Heart

Many of you have benefitted from the wonderful intern / trainees and assistant staff that we bring into our program. All of them travel to the workshop and offer their time as an act of service and compassion. We like to cover their out of pocket expenses, but at the same time want to keep the cost of attending a workshop as low as is reasonably possible.

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Posted By Opening the Heart

   For me, Passover is all about family and friends, usually about 20-25 of them, seated around our table which is laid out with my grandparents silverware, dishes, wine glasses, Ruthi's famous brisket, Aunt Lois' Passover bagels, many different spring vegetables, my own homemade chicken soup and ten different desserts including a flourless chocolate birthday cake for our daughter, Abby. Everything that we eat or drink and eat and drink from is brought up from the basement and cupboards for this special time of rebirth and rededication in early spring.

   I lead the seder and try to make it a fun and soulful time. We're told that the most important part of the seder is the retelling of the story of the Jews' going out from slavery in Egypt, to freedom. And we are asked, in the re-telling to make it a "personal journey"- as if you, today, were going from slavery to freedom.

   Each year I would struggle with this sacred obligation to "make it personal". How really do you do that? How do you "imagine" if you've never really been a slave, beaten, held down, oppressed? Part of the tradition in our home was that each year I would put a question under each plate, inviting people to share "How it would feel to be free of a dominant obsession?" Or what might we give away and never really miss? While we sometimes had interesting discussions, I never felt that I really helped anyone experience the going out in a deep, personal way.

   This year, instead of putting different questions under each dinnerplate, I put the same question under each plate:

             "We ask you to remember a time in your life when you felt truly at peace,

              surrounded by love, calm, clear-headed, in the present moment. It may have

              been a time shared with others, or a time in a beautiful natural setting or

              just a time of great happiness and joy.... Really take a moment, close your

              eyes and remember that time..... Now please share "What is it that allows

              us to 'be' that place even when there may be distracting thoughts or cir-

              cumstances in our lives?'"

   Analee, a dear friend, said that her peaceful moment was a row at sunset with egrets and osprey soaring. Her eyes filled up as she told us that this occurred just a few months after her father died. She explained that what allowed her to be "in that" peaceful place was her intention that, before the row, she would create a place of serenity by clearing out the scull of all negative thoughts,

   When she shared this, I got what it meant to make the "going out" from Egypt a personal journey: going from slavery to freedom is coming to the present moment with intention- consciously ending the 'R and R' (review and regret) about the past, or stopping the anxiety about the future. Analee created a peaceful row at sunset with her intention to be in touch with the moment. Thank you, Dear Friend, for teaching me the meaning of freedom.

   With Love and Respect, Jon




Posted By Opening the Heart

I am currently reading Jonah Leher's latest book: Proust Was a Neuroscientist. I am finding it amazingly readable, informative and entertaining. The book description published by Amazon says all you need to know in advance:




"In this technology-driven age, it’s tempting to believe that science can solve every mystery. After all, science has cured countless diseases and even sent humans into space. But as Jonah Lehrer argues in this sparkling debut, science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first.
Taking a group of artists — a painter, a poet, a chef, a composer, and a handful of novelists — Lehrer shows how each one discovered an essential truth about the mind that science is only now rediscovering. We learn, for example, how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot discovered the brain’s malleability; how the French chef Escoffier discovered umami (the fifth taste); how Cézanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Gertrude Stein exposed the deep structure of language — a full half-century before the work of Noam Chomsky and other linguists. It’s the ultimate tale of art trumping science.
More broadly, Lehrer shows that there’s a cost to reducing everything to atoms and acronyms and genes. Measurement is not the same as understanding, and art knows this better than science does. An ingenious blend of biography, criticism, and first-rate science writing, Proust Was a Neuroscientist urges science and art to listen more closely to each other, for willing minds can combine the best of both, to brilliant effect."

Should you decide to go with my recommendation and purchase the book from Amazon, please do so by clicking the link above. The OTH Workshop receives a small remittance from Amazon for every item purchased through our sites. This is put into our scholarship fund. Check out our other recommended purchases by navigating down the left side-bar. Thank you,


small peter




Posted By Opening the Heart

red rose

We recently received a beautiful letter from F.M., an 80+ year old man who attended our one-day Opening the Heart to Grief at Avow Hospice in Naples, Florida.

F.M. lost his wife of fifty years in June 2011, and, in moving through the deep grief at her passing, he also began to have flashbacks to a cluster of deaths, including that of his brother, that occurred in his close family when he was a young teenager.

F.M. writes:

.....every time I tried to relate to my brother J's death I could not speak without a total breakdown. This on top of the grief at my wife's passing that left me with a tremendous guilt as I felt that there was much more I could have done for her. I felt this guilt even after being a care-giver for the past ten years.

I signed up for this seminar not knowing what to expect - only thing I was sure of was that I knew I had a deep hurt and a wounded heart. We all made a promise not to relate what happens (to others) during the day, but we can tell of our own experiences. To cut to the chase, I went in a wounded soul and came out of the day with a heart that was on its way to become vibrant and alive. I can speak freely about my brother's death without reservations and felt that I spoke spiritually with P. (F.M.'s wife) to the point that I do not have any guilt feelings whatsoever.

I'll let you in on a secret. During the day I felt as though my heart was presented with a rose that was about to bloom. This rose was from my wife as it began blooming and petals began falling, my grief was falling with each petal. What is left is a beautiful red rose burning inside my heart that is a token of my wife's love. Because of this Seminar I now have the strength to face each day alive and well. Sure, there may very well be more tears but they will be cleansing tears of happiness for the fifty years my wife and I shared together.

This relief I feel could not have blossomed this quickly without this Seminar.

Respectfully yours,



Thank you F.M. for your beautiful letter. We hope that your life continues to bring healing and an abiding, positive connection with the memory of those you have lost.


Posted By Opening the Heart

A great example of how the world could be if people from different cultures cooperate, contribute and co-create. Let's take this lesson and apply it over and over in our own communities - in art, in politics, in service and in life. Thank you Playing for Change as you continue to inspire us by your ongoing example of cultural harmony.