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Posted By Opening the Heart

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach PhD is a superb book. Its recent appearance in my life is one of the delightfully synchronistic events that have begun to accumulate since the beginning my dance with prostate cancer. It jumped off the shelf at my local Barnes and Noble just after I learned of my rising PSA level. “This looks appropriate,” I thought.  Some of the chapter headings spoke directly to me:


The Trance of Unworthiness


Coming Home to Our Body ("Feelings live in the body" is one of the mantras of the  Opening the Heart Workshop™)


Opening Our Heart in the Face of Fear 


The title and these chapter headings were more than enough reason for me to purchase the book. I have not been disappointed. This is the clearest, most helpful guide of how to come back into full connection with our center that I have ever read. It is a brilliant synthesis of Buddhist meditation practice and contemporary psychotherapy.

Over the last weeks the book has been my bedtime and breakfast reading. I have re-read some of the chapters several times - each time allowing the meaning to sink deeper. If there is one book that will support me through my treatment - this is it! I fully recommend it to anyone facing any kind of ‘acceptance challenge’, whether it be self acceptance, acceptance of a disturbing life circumstance, acceptance of a difficult relationship or acceptance of the current state of the world.

Buy it or borrow it soon!

Posted By Opening the Heart

As some of you may have intuited from my Loving Kindness blog entry of June 10th,  I am currently awakening to the presence of cancerous cells in my prostate. As part of my own care and as a way to process some of he feeling states that  will inevitably arise i have decided that i need to write about this experience. However - this blog is not the place for that. Instead I have created a separate blog called Dancing with Prostate Cancer.


I don't warm to the term "fighting cancer" - it seems too aggressive to me. I prefer the analogy of 'dancing' and here's why. In ballroom dancing either partner can be taking the lead, shaping the course of the dance, but in the end neither partner is in complete control. Each one is to a great extent dependant on the cooperation of the other. There is give and take, movement and response, action and reaction. i expect that to be the way with this particular cancer.


Pushing the analogy further - there are forms of dancing which involve many partners. My support network will be my other partners in this dance. Of course there will be my close group of family and friends, but there will also be my adjunct network of healing arts professionals - acupuncturist, chiropractor, herbalist etc. Other partners in the dance will be the huge amount of information and study to be gleaned from all kinds of sources, and the many healing practices (meditation, tai chi, visualization, nutrition etc) to which I have access.


One more connection with dance. At the end of The Opening the Heart Workshop™
Linda teaches the Action Step process. Each conscious step is designed to move you forward in the dance of life.  i now have the opportunity of crafting some steps of my own in Dancing with Prostate Cancer



Posted By Opening the Heart

Yes, I know that the title sounds really daunting and technical but I absolutely needed to alert you to this fascinating and engaging talk about the increasing scientific evidence supporting meditation as a key component of an emotionally healthy lifestyle.


Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation

Enhancing '
emotional awareness and psychological flexibility' and inducing 'well-being and emotional balance' *(see below in Abstract) have always been core goals of The Opening the Heart Workshop™ I am absolutely convinced that a regular, supported meditation practice is an important tool in maintaining and extending the positive effects of the workshop.


I particularly recommend this video fo those who like to see the scientific evidence for the benefits of various forms of 'spiritual' practice.



Mindfulness meditation, one type of meditation technique, has been shown to enhance emotional awareness and psychological flexibility as well as induce well-being and emotional balance. Scientists have also begun to examine how meditation may influence brain functions. This talk examines the effect of mindfulness meditation practice on the brain systems in which psychological functions such as attention, emotional reactivity, emotion regulation, and self-view are instantiated. We will also discuss how different forms of meditation practices are being studied using neuroscientific technologies and are being integrated into clinical practice to address symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Speaker: Philippe Goldin
Philippe is a research scientist and heads the Clinically Applied Affective Neuroscience group in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University. He spent 6 years in India and Nepal studying various languages, Buddhist philosophy and debate at Namgyal Monastery and the Dialectic Monastic Institute, and serving as an interpreter for various Tibetan Buddhist lamas. He then returned to the U.S. to complete a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University. His NIH-funded clinical research focuses on (a) functional neuroimaging investigations of cognitive-affective mechanisms in adults with anxiety disorders, (b) comparing the effects of mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy on brain-behavior correlates of emotional reactivity and regulation, and (c) training children in family and elementary school settings in mindfulness skills to reduce anxiety and enhance compassion, self-esteem and quality of family interactions.

Posted By Opening the Heart

Many participants coming to the Opening the Heart Workshop™ ask the question:

'What was the music you were playing when we were coming in?'

More often than not it was a recording by Deva Premal.


Deva Premal's music creates an open hearted space that feels completely safe, warm, inviting and deep. Her interpretations of ancient Hindu chants are respectful of tradition while being very accessible to the modern ear.


In the first video Deva Premal talks about and sings the Gyatri Mantra in an intimate, informal setting with a group of teenage students. She shares some of her own story and the particular significance that the Gyatri Manta has played in her life. The audio quality of the recording is not that great at the beginning but inproves when the chant begins. I love experiencing the connection that Premal engenders with this group of young people.


The second video is of the Gyatri Mantra performed in a more formal setting with a larger audience.


Enjoy these videos and check out Deva Premal's website for more information. 

Posted By Opening the Heart

The purpose of this occasional series is to point you toward some of the inspiring talks freely available on the web. These recommended talks have been chosen because in one way or another they relate to or amplify teachings, practices and meditations that we present in The Opening the Heart Workshop™. Our hope is that these recommendations will encourage you to continue and develop your practice of Opening the Heart.


Today's recommendation is 'Feeling feelings'


This very personal talk be Kevin Griffin addresses the issue of working with feelings and the body during meditation. Information about Kevin  - and more of his talks and guided meditations - are available at his website

Posted By Opening the Heart

Ever since we began presenting the OTH Workshop™ at Kripalu and Omega we have invited prospective participants to let us know what issues in their lives prompted them to choose this particular workshop. Their response to this invitation was entirely optional.


Over 90% of the respondents reported that one of the following five reasons had been the main motivating factor in their choice. Numbers were quite evenly divided among the reasons that were offered.


    * They were dealing with grief and loss.

    * They were feeling emotionally and/or spiritually stuck.

    * They were feeling the need to 'change their lives'.

    * They were dealing with histories of abuse and/or emotional abandonment.

    * They were wanting to discover and express a greater authenticity.


If you are someone considering taking the workshop and are not quite sure if it is the right fit for you, please feel free to pose questions in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them on this blog. Your question could also help others to make their decision.


Alternatively, if you have a question requiring a confidential answer, send us an e-mail at:


Posted By Opening the Heart

We have great delight in announcing that  Dr Laury Rappaport will be joining the Opening the Heart faculty for part of our five day training workshop at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck NY this August 3rd - 8th:


Workshop Link:



Laury Rappaport

Laury Rappaport

Laury, who is currently Associate Professor in the Art Therapy Psychology Department at Notre Dame de Namur University, California,  has a 30 year long connection with Opening the Heart. She was Co-Director of Spring Hill, the home of the original Opening the Heart Workshop™ and ran many of the staff trainings that were presented there.  She is an extraordinarily gifted therapist, teacher, workshop leader and presenter. You can read more about her at her website:


Her book: 'Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy' is due for publication this September

Posted By Opening the Heart

I am the luckiest of men in having friends who pour loving kindness in my direction!


On Monday I had a hospital appointment for a somewhat invasive diagnostic proceedure. It was my first time undergoing this proceedure and the information I was able to gather in advance about potential discomfort varied dramatically from 'no big deal' to 'ouch!!!' Under these circumstances, in spite of all effort to 'stay in the moment', my mind visited every conceivable state of apprehension. I found myself to be more anxious about the proceedure than about the results of the diagnosis. My imagination had me pinned down, writhing in pain unable to escape the torture.  I was exactly the opposite of the tough, resilient courageous male promulgated by the stereotype; I was in short - a wimp!


Just one of the blessings of my life is having male friends with whom I can freely and easily share what is happening 'on the inside'. I talked with Jon (Berenson - a co-facilitator of the OTH Workshop) and immediately, without hesitation he said, 'I'll be there. When is it?'


I was (and still am) blown away by the immediacy  of his kindness. There were no ifs, ands or buts. No matter that he lives more than 40 miles away. No matter that the appointment happened  to be at 8.30am in Downtown Boston MA- the other side of a very nasty Monday morning commute from Providence RI. No matter the absurd cost of gas to make the trip. No matter any of the many and varied 'considerations'  I might have pondered before making such an offer. The gift he gave was  unreserved and instantaneous.


As luck would have it the traffic on Monday was backed up along the (misnamed) South East Expressway and Jon called from the road to let me know that he was delayed. But it didn't matter. As I sat in the doctor's waiting room Jon's kindness was already there with me, giving me the support I needed and calming my anxiety.


Of course, the actual proceedure I had been dreading so much turned out to be painless. It was all over in less than 15 minutes. The anxiety I had been generating for over a week had been a complete waste of energy. I had allowed fear of the unknown to create a whole panoply of negative images.


I told Jon that I felt embarassed that I had wasted his time.


I wasn't getting it! Coming to support and help me was a pleasure for him: not a chore but something to be savored and enjoyed.  Loving Kindness is Jon's way. I am blessed by his friendship and so so grateful for his presence in my life.


Together we went for a late breakfast and laughed.


It is my sincere hope that the next time a friend calls for my support I will be able to offer it in the way Jon offered his to me. And if I can't that I will be forgiving of myself!


Jon sometimes incorporates a Loving Kindness meditation into the Opening the Heart Workshop. It is my hope to have a recording of his version available on this blog very soon.

Posted By Opening the Heart

One of the instructions we give most frequently at the OTH Workshop™ is "Breathe!!!!".

Becoming conscious of our breathing can immediately bring us into greater awareness of our bodies - the place where our feelings live.

There are many ways to develop a practice of "breath-noticing". One of them is called Anapanasati - a technique first taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. This technique is being brilliantly presented by Gil Fronsdal at The Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California and is being made freely available at the organization's web site. Gil's guided meditations and talks are clear, easy to follow, in short very "user friendly". There are quite a few of them - but don't be intimidated, you may dive in anywhere in the series and  do not have to listen to them in the order in which they were given.

For those of us who do not live close to a meditation retreat center, AND for those of us who find it difficult to maintain a reqular practice this series is an invaluable resource.



The series is  available in Podcast format - incredibly useful for downloading to an IPod!  investigate the AudioDharma website's homepage where you will find a link to Podcasts near the bottom of the left hand side bar:


or, if you have ITunes, open ITunes Store, click on Podcasts and search for AudioDharma


Good luck - I know that many of you will find Gil's inspiring talks and gentle guided meditations as helpful as I have

Posted By Opening the Heart

Check out this video and remember your experience at Opening the Heart