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Posted By Opening the Heart

Linda remembers this poem that she wrote at Spring Hill soon after discovering the Opening the Heart Workshop. Spring Hill in Ashby, Massachusetts was the original home of the workshop. For many years the names "Opening the Heart Workshop" and "Spring Hill" were virtually synonymous. Here is ther view she was looking at all those years ago.

Hawk ant Spring Hill

My Heart Was Born Here.

My heart was born here
in these blue-green hills.
I came to life
in these blue-green hills .
One fine day,
the sun rising in the East,
a hawk flying above the trees -
and every pair of eyes
really seeing me.
My heart was born here
in the rhythm of a chant,
the open moment of a dance...
and every time that I reached out
and took a chance.
Now you don't look so big,
and I don't feel so small.
You look like you love me
and that is all
I've wanted
my whole life through.
But why look to you?
I'll look inside my heart
which was born here
in these blue-green hills.


Posted By Opening the Heart

I am so grateful to OTH Workshop co-facilitator Donna - who has posted her own gorgeous writing on this blog - for turning me on to Maya Stein. Maya is a poet, writer, teacher, traveller and free spirit whose poems, paragraphs, extracts and adventures are guaranteed to stir the most jaded of spirits.

The following could well be dedicated advice to someone considering taking the Opening the Heart Workshop:


 "It will be all right in the end, and maybe even in the middle. You will not suffer as long as you think you will. You are not fated to be unhappy. You are not destined for failure. Remember who you are. Let me say it again. Remember who you are. Be gentle. Practice exquisite acts of self-care. You don't have to be as strong as you think you do. You don't have to be wise and certain about your path. Your frailty is beautiful, and your innocence too. Getting lost is another exercise in navigation. You can’t fix everything you touch. You won’t break everything you touch. Don’t apologize if you’re tired. Don’t second-guess your stomach. Maintain eye contact with everything, especially yourself. Fall to your knees at least once a day. Say yes at least twice. Love daringly, wholly, unapologetically. Believe in magic. Befriend your fear. Look up. Listen. The birds will tell you everything you need to know about flight. Forgive yourself your great sadness. Unlock what hurts. Make a prayer for loss. Unpen your words. Get messier than anyone thinks you should. You’ll know when you’re ready. I’ll say it again. You’ll know when you’re ready"


Maya Stein's writings can be accessed on her blog:

I hope you will find time to read more of her inspiring words.



Posted By Opening the Heart

   Have you ever been angry enough at someone to stop talking to them- forever? This was part of the legacy that I grew up with. My mother's father lived with us for as long as I could remember. And they never talked. Actually, that's not technically correct. I remember many times e.g., when I would be playing checkers with "Gramps", my mother would come into the den and she would bark "Supper!" It was a bark because it was short and sharp and not an invitation to my grandfather. What made the whole situation harder and more complicated was that Gramps and I were very close. He was a checker champion and he would never let me win. He offered me "opportunities" to increase my advantage if I were clever enough to see them. Even if I could, it didn't seem to matter because he would play me into a losing position, then reverse the board, and beat me again! He'd smile and say "Yossela, don't ever give up!"

   I don't know when they stopped talking, probably before I was born. And I don't know why. I heard different stories. I didn't think much about this until I started going to my friend Billy's house where his grandparents lived with his parents, and I noticed that they all laughed and talked with each other.

Rabbi Kushner, in one of his many books, wrote that in fully one third of the families where he made a condolence call, that there was at least one family member who was not talking to someone else-even at the time of the death of a loved one! The last piece I wrote in June ("Eleven Minutes of Disconnection") was about a young mother and her two sons sitting in a cafe, each engaged on their own "machine" who did not speak one word to one another for 11 minutes. But this lifelong holding of a grudge has seemed much more pernicious and soulless because it requires a daily commitment to hold on to the past, and to never forget and never put to rest the hurt done.

I noticed something that astonished me when my grandfather died: My mother continued to not talk to him! She continued to hold the grudge as if it had truly become a part of her. She held on to the bright coal of anger even as it burned her own hand. I assumed that the last 58 of my mother's 83 years were spent that way. That's over 30 million minutes living in misery. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about forgiving someone not deserving of forgiveness. That can sometimes take the form of condoning or enabling hurtful behavior. But Pierro Ferucci, an Italian psychologist, talks about "closing an account internally", while still holding someone accountable for their actions.

So, the legacy, my legacy: I began to see how well I had learned the lesson of holding on to hurts, closing up, withdrawing, not talking. But I had the great good luck to marry someone who helped me to change my family tradition- to offer a different legacy to my own children. "You never stop talking to family" was the new learning. I got it wrong hundreds of times before I began to get it right sometimes. As hard as it was, I listened to what my grandfather taught me: "Never give up trying". Living in the past, intentionally, is the same as not living in the present. I think that we end up living in the past (or the future), not so much because of anger but because of something much deeper: fear. I am, mindfully, intentionally, committed to breathing and living more in the present even when fear makes me want to run.

With Love and Respect, Jon


Posted By Opening the Heart

Donna Pic


The Opening the Heart Workshop has always defied description.  Yet I long to put words to my experience there, these 22 years.  I realize there are no literary shortcuts.  Here is a snapshot.

It involves remembering.  It pulls me into a powerful vortex of possibility, being in that sacred, human arena.  My brain begins firing like a sparkler, burning hot and radiant, right down to the "quick" of the stick, where we hold on.

The content of Opening the Heart is  A*L*I*V*E, sometimes a rushing river that picks up stuck energy and moves it along, depositing a person on the grassy bank, panting and released, wet, glistening, and new.  Sometimes, the experience is more like being pierced by the rays of a determined sun, illuminating places inside that have never been met with kindness, or tender companionship.  There are times when the choreography of the weekend causes old pain to burn like a forest fire, moving with speed, friction and flame to demolish the "under story," or, as I've come to think of it, the "cover story."  Who among us couldn't use the chance to peel off the habit of pretense, lift the veil, remove the mask?  You might say that Opening the Heart is like being exposed to the elements, and for that reason, change is inevitable. We surrender to the current of life, allow ourselves to be taken for a ride, giving our intelligent hearts their way with us, and in so doing, we are "moved."

Participants have often told us that they do in a single weekend, what would take years in talk therapy to accomplish.  While each person "paddling the waters" of Opening the Heart has a unique experience, we facilitators admit that we aim deep, trusting the work to take each of us to the core, to the root of what wants transformation.  We are respectfully unapologetic for our exquisite aim, and deeply trusting of what arises from wisdom of the body.  Your body!

We facilitators "hold" this process with years of experience, with a skill set that weaves together the best practices of all our combined years.  We "walk the walk" in our own lives, grateful for the effectiveness of the techniques we've inherited and honed over time.  We work from a place of genuine humility, believing in the dignity and resilient nature of  humankind.  Time and time again, we witness extraordinary courage, and the capacity we embody as a species to face the task at hand.  We are all innately brilliant at showing up for life. We can meet both triumph and tragedy at the door, with a kind curiosity, allowing life to open us from the inside out.

We aspire to be loving agents of change in our facilitation, often surprising a culture accustomed to distance and self sufficiency, with disarming warmth, and the truer hues of interconnectedness.  Leading the Opening the Heart Workshop is a privilege.  It is one of our purest joys, our most beloved, human "offering."

Ron Ortner, a magnificent contemporary artist says this:
"It is already a given that life is a failure, by which I mean that we come with an expiration date.  You should seek as though your hair is on fire, and you need water."

Why wait?  We invite you to dive in, with the spirit of the loving warrior you already are.

With heart,