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Posted By Opening the Heart

from Annie
This wonderful woodblock image is by Annie Bissett, an artist living in Northampton, MA.

Annie is a dear friend whom I met at The Opening the Heart Workshop during its residence at Spring Hill in Ashby MA. She was one of the talented musician/facilitators who led the workshop at that time. I love the image because, for me, it symbolizes the freedom and celebration of letting go. Over the years it is a feeling that the safety of the Opening the Heart Workshop has made possible for countless participants. Seasoned participants of the workshop will no doubt recognize her from this photo taken at Spring Hill "in the '90s."


.annie back in the day  Of course she is just as vibrant today Annie today

I encourage all our readers to make time to visit Annie's website where you can view many beautiful prints that she has created. I know that you will enjoy your visit.


On another note, our Opening the Heart Workshop at Kripalu is coming up on June 15 - 17. If you have been following our blog but have not yet experienced the workshop, perhaps now is the time!



Picture Credits: Annie Bissett, Nina Cullen


Posted By Opening the Heart

   John Fox, the author of this poem, is a Certfied Poetry Therapist. No, I admit it, I didn't know there was such a thing either. But in California all kinds of new things are still happening. John teaches at the University of California Santa Cruz. He has led writing workshops at Harvard Medical School, Esalen Institute and at Omega. He is the founder of the Institute of Poetic Medicine in Palo Alto and he believes passionately in the power of poetry to heal.... So do I.

   This poem made me think of the Opening the Heart Workshop.

            With Love and Respect, Jon     Jon

                                             DEEP LISTENING


                 When someone deeply listens to you,

                  It is like holding out a dented cup you had since childhood

                  And watching it fill up with cold fresh water.

                  When it balances on top of the brim,

                  You are understood.

                  When it overflows and touches your skin,

                  You are loved.

                  When someone deeply listens to you,

                  The room where you stay

                  Starts a new life

                  And the place where you wrote

                  Your first poem

                  Begins to glow in your mind's eye.

                  It is as if gold has been discovered!

                  When someone deeply listens to you,

                  It is as if your bare feet are on the earth

                  And a beloved land that seemed distant

                  Is now at home within you.         - John Fox     

Posted By Opening the Heart

   I'm about to become a grandfather for the first time at the end of the summer. My daughter, Abby, asked me what I wanted the baby to call me when he/she began to speak. I thought of all the deep, meaningful connections from my past and I said "Yazstremski" (after the great Red Sox left fielder of the 60's). Without breaking stride, as only my daughter can, she said "Too many syllables". Realizing the wisdom there, we settled on "Grumpy".

   But becoming a grandfather led me to think about what lessons I could pass on or teach this new being of light. Well, I went back again to meaningful lessons in the past that I had received. The lesson I remember most from my dear father was what he would always say when he wanted to offer a helping hand through a dark moment. He would say "Life is short". I thought that was meaningful, but, really, I had no idea what he was talking about. When I was young, growing up, life wasn't really short. It was very long- it was forever, really. But as I grew up and became an elder, I came to understand what his words meant. As I experienced dark, scary things (like my dad dying), I came to know that life is really very short. His lesson was an invitation to stay in the present and embrace the preciousness of life in every breath.

   "Life is short". We've all heard those words and we endorse the wisdom of them, but it's only when life shows us its ragged, hard edge that we really know those words at a heart, visceral level. So many times I had come up short in holding the truth of this teaching.

   On April 18th I had a prostate biopsy. For two months I tried to sit with the uncertainty of what this might mean. Because I did not want Abby to be distracted from her preganancy, only two other people knew about the biopsy: my wife, Ruthi and my dear friend, Peter, who had been through radiation treatment for prostate cancer four years earlier. As I lived through the waiting, I tried to breathe and stay in the moment, but many times I fell short of being able to do this. It was so much easier to rehearse and to drift into the future of "what ifs". My dad's lesson, "Life is short" brought me some comfort and helped bring me to a place of perspective.

   When the doctor called me on April 25th, I realized that the only words I had not rehearsed, the only words I was not prepared for were "Everything came out great, Jon. All the biopsy samples were benign".... The truth is, I think it's really hard for any of us to stay in the present moment for very long. We all fall short again and again. There's always something fascinating going on that lures us back into marching in the parade....

   So, at times, life is so very short. It really does seem like yesterday that my own beautiful daughter was homebirthed into my trembling hands. And now I'm thinking about words I might pass on to my first grandchild.... "Life is short" seems just perfect.

   With Love and Respect, Jon              Jon