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Posted By Opening the Heart

I call this time of the year 'the season of left-overs'. Over the last week I have watched pounds of left-over food being crammed into plastic containers and zip-lock bags. I have seen guests assaulted by generous hosts pleading them to take home outsize portions of stuffing, roast vegetables, wilting salad and squashed dessert. I'm sure that much of the hesitantly accepted  bounty  ends up in the back of over-stuffed refrigerators, eventually going moldy and starting to smell really bad.
No, this is not a diatribe against our culture's propensity for self indulgence. Instead, it is the source of a helpful metaphor.
How it feels to be you in the present moment is largely based on the agglomerating left-overs of your life's experiences. Traces of experience that have not been fully processed and integrated linger in actual physical form and at a cellular level in our body and nervous system. Modern advances in neuroscience and technology have made it possible to map how experiences continue to modify the physical make up of the brain well into our mature years.
As they affect the growth, function and connection of neurons in the brain, unprocessed negative or traumatic experiences  become stored 'left-overs'  that radically determine how we respond to all kind of situations in our current life.
If "how it feels to be you" in your current life is mostly anxious, regularly depressed, seriously addicted, or constantly stressed,  you could benefit from checking for 'left overs'.
The good news that has emerged in the last ten or so years is that it is quite possible to 'change our brain'. What this means is that it is entirely possible to clean out the left-overs of undigested prior experience.
The Opening the Heart Workshop™ approach has long recognized  the lingering  power of the moldy leftovers of past negative experience. It is also our experience that these leftovers can be uncovered and discarded with appropriate therapeutic interventions and infusions of loving kindness. These actions can literally re-wire the brain so that new experiences do not automatically trigger ingrained reactions to past events and circumstances.
As you deal with food left-overs this holiday season take a moment to check for the sometimes not so obvious "left-overs" lurking at the back of your "inner refrigerator".

Happy Holiday Season!

Sounds True, Inc.

Posted By Opening the Heart

So, I've been thinking a lot about wounds and all the many applications, or 'apps' as they say now, that that word has to the body and the spirit. This is just something I do - to take a word and play with it, invite it in, live with it. I do it alphabetically and, when, after months or years, I get to 'Z', I start over. It's just my offbeat mind's lifelong affair with words. Many months ago it was the word 'ice': ice that forms around the edges of a human heart when one is forgotten; ice that envelops and crushes Shakleton's ship, the Endurance, in Antarctica in 1915 and then the ice that literally carried the 28 surviving crewmen on a life and death journey of 16 months; ice in my glass that reflects a warm November sun as I sit at the little outdoor cafe downstairs from my office.

And then as I look up from my ice I see him walking, slowly, past me, again- a small man with a beard, walking with a cane in his right hand, moving his right leg forward, then dragging his left leg behind. He always carries a shopping bag hung from his right arm. His left arm looks crooked and lifeless. And he has a big pronounced wound on the side of his head running from his hairline down to his cheek. I've seen him many times walking in the square where my office is. I've actually tried to position myself to cross his path so that I could smile or say hi - but he never looks up. His head is bent down and his eyes are set 6 feet ahead of him on the ground, as if every bit of energy is focused on finishing the journey without any more distraction or challenge than he's already facing.

I make up stories about him. Stroke? Maybe the wound is from a car accident leaving him paralyzed on the left side. Why doesn't he use a motorized wheelchair? Maybe he's proud or maybe he doesn't want to lose the little mobility that remains to him. Why doesn't someone help him with his errand? Does he have a family? What a courageous man - or maybe stubborn or bitter. A wound that dramatically altered the landscape of his life - that suddenly changed the arc of his unfolding...

I have a friend, Carolyn, my age, whose son, David, died three years ago at age 25 from congenital heart defects he'd had from birth. He had graduated Princeton and had decided two years before his death that maybe the fault lines underneath him might just be stable enough to risk getting into a serious relationship with a girl. But the fault lines gave way. It was a warm sunny Ocober day at the gravesite. A lot of beautiful words, a lot of tears. Usually, some people take a shovelful of dirt and place it on the lowered coffin, and then leave. But this day, because so many people were there, everyone shoveled, until the grave was filled- and then I saw something that will stay in my memory always. Carolyn stood on the fresh gravesite, got down on her hands and knees and smoothed the ground for David's final resting place.

When I see Carolyn since then, I don't see the visible wound, but I see it's effect. There are more gray hairs, more lines in her face, a sadness that is soul deep. Her wound also effects the way she walks. Her walk is more hunched, less brave, less confident.

So as I think about wounds on this warm, sunny day, I think that there are visible wounds and there are wounds that are seen by close friends and then there are wounds that often are unseen by anyone. I think that we may never really know how another has suffered and, perhaps, all we can do is offer a little more patience and kindness to whoever may cross our path.

With Love and Respect, Jon




Posted By Opening the Heart

A recent workshop participant describes her experience of the Opening the Hear Workshop™ on her blog: Viola Speaks. I invite you to read her courageous and forthright posting.  Although her experience is personal and individual, I recognize her initial reservations and her ultimate realizations as things she shares with many participants who come to Opening the Heart carrying a heavy burden of tragedy.

Posted By Opening the Heart


We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

housed as they are in the same body.