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Posted By Opening the Heart

Photo: Mike Berenson

Whenever I go go Kriplalu to help lead an Opening the Heart workshop, I usually settle things in my room, check out the workshop space, get an iced drink in the cafeteria and then wander around the building a bit to take in the peaceful vibration of this retreat center that's so familiar to me. But I always find myself transfixed on the stairway landing looking at one inspiring saying framed on the wall. It's always the same for me: it's as if an invisible net emerges from the words and holds me still while the words penetrate the heart: "Be Kind- For everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

My mind fast forwards several hours to what I will likely share with the circle of participants at the end of the Friday night session: "The reason I come back to this workshop over and over again is to see the transformation in the circle from Friday night to Sunday." My belief is that when we look around that circle at the start of the workshop and we see difference as we look into another's eyes, what we experience is separation. And as the weekend unfolds, and the descent begins and the masks are bravely removed, increasingly, when we look into those same eyes, we see no difference and what we experience is only compassion.

Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi poet, describes this experience in his "Wonderful Game" and the game "goes like this: We hold hands and look into each other's eyes and scan each other's face. Then I say 'Now tell me a difference you see between us'. And you might respond "Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine.' And I would say 'Yes, my dear, almost ten times'. But let's keep playing. Let's go deeper, Go deeper.... For if we do... even God will not be able to tell us apart."

There's a story about a father who takes his two young sons to a very crowded waiting room of a busy pediatric group practice and the young boys are running around the waiting room, unresponsive to the father's efforts to control them. Some of the other patients become annoyed and, eventually, one woman said to the father "Can't you control your own sons!?" The father looked at her sadly and said "I'm so sorry. Their mother died yesterday and I have not known how to console them".

When we're able to go deeper and see beneath the surface forms that people show in order to make it through a day; if we are ever priveleged to know the great battle of people who are buying stamps in front of us at the post office or selling us a pair of pants at the department store- if we are ever able to really know how many times they have been brought to their knees and resurrected themselves- if we really had a lived experience of the journey of loss and pain of the brother or sister standing next to us on the bus, then all we would experience would be kindness and understanding. With Love and Respect, Jon


Posted By Opening the Heart

We are past the Solstice and in just a couple of days it will be 2012.

As we get to this time of year I am reminded of a thought that used to occur to me when I was a teenager. It went something like "Wow, in 2000 I'll be 56 years old. That is so old." Well here we are 12 years beyond that - and I'll leave it to the mathematically inclined to work out my current age.

A couple of postings ago I was writing about "taking in the good" - taking time to be in the present moment for the good things in life. it's the beautiful practice of just stopping, breathing in, and really noticing our inner response to whatever we find beautiful or whatever moves us. For me I find that such moments easily turn into Haiku moments. Not that I spend time then and there thinking about a Haiku - that would definitely interrupt being completely present in the moment - but later, as I revisit one of those instants in my mind. William Wordsworth spoke of this process as "emotion recollected in tranquillity."

Here are a couple of Haiku from the last few days.


Gilded Tree


december's dawn light

winter branches gilded with



through frozen branches

scurrying wisps of gray cloud

but only one sky


Have a blessed happy and prosperous New Year.



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Posted By Opening the Heart

As mentioned in a recent post, I have been reading Rick Hanson's 'Buddha's Brain,' and was reminded of a teaching that Osho gave over twenty years ago.


"Archimedes used to say, 'If I can find a silent still point in the universe, I can revolutionize the whole world.' But he never found it because he was always looking outside. And that silent still point is within you; it has never moved. The earth moves, the sun moves, the stars move, now everything is whirling; but something within you is always absolutely still, and eternally still.

"But to see it, to feel it, you have to get rid of your thoughts. If you don't get rid of your thoughts, those thoughts will not allow you to see yourself. They keep you engaged, occupied. And it is easy to disperse them. Just try the simple thing that I am insisting on continually: do whatever you are doing, just go on watching your thoughts. If you miss, no harm; whenever you remember again, start watching. You will miss many times. Slowly, slowly you will miss less. Soon there will be big gaps when you will be aware and there will be no thoughts. In those gaps you will see the silent, still point; and certainly if you have found it, you can revolutionize the whole world.

"The people who have brought evolution to the world are those few people who have found their center. They are the people who have changed humanity for better, and they are needed now more than ever....."


What Osho speaks about here is the essence of the practice of mindfulness and of presence. I have no doubts that the greater the number of individuals who aspire to follow this teaching, the greater the chance of positive change in this troubled world.


From Opening the Heart Workshop we wish all of our readers a safe, happy holiday season and a Mindful New Year


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Posted By Opening the Heart

Charles River, Elm Bank

" I am tremendously blissful!" was one of the often repeated statements of my spiritual teacher Osho.
"Yeah…. right," sneered my skeptical mind — even though I felt great love and respect for him. I just didn't get how it could be possible to live in a constant blissful state.
Recently I've been reading Rick Hanson's wonderful "Buddha's Brain, The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom." It is a remarkable affirmation and celebration of the correspondences between Buddha's teachings and the discoveries of modern neuroscience. Chapter 4, "Taking in the Good" has proved to be the key to opening the door of blissfulness.
My daily walks were already positive experiences for body and spirit. The sense of aliveness engendered by robust walking addresses one of my essential needs. If I don't exercise, my systems rapidly come to resemble stagnant pools collecting all kinds of old rubbish, as opposed to clear flowing streams.
I am fortunate to live in a town with lots of open space and great walking trails. However, until reading Hanson's book, I was missing an opportunity that my daily walks offered. Hanson makes the point that, when if comes to negative experiences our brains are like Velcro, but when it comes to positive experiences, our brains are like Teflon. We have a predisposed tendency to hang on to and remember negative stuff and to quickly forget about — or not even notice — the positive. So — he writes — "Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them — open up to them and let them affect you……….Savor the experience…………Make it last by staying with it for 5, 10, 20 seconds". When we are mindfully aware of positive experiences the neurons in our brain fire in a distinct pattern. The longer or more frequently we engage with the positive the more durably the neurons are wired together.
I don't know how many walks I have taken with some "shoulda, woulda, coulda" issue churning away in my brain, completely oblivious to my surroundings, but, after reading Hanson, I made a conscious decision to follow his advice.
What I can tell you is that it works! My walks take me along routes that are packed with "opportunities for positive response." Not necessarily beautiful scenery or a captivating flower — though these are certainly positive experiences — but also a well crafted building detail, the playfulness of a puppy, the gurgle of rainwater falling into a catch-basin, the starkness of winter trees silhouetted against the setting sun, the smile of a stranger on the path. I discovered that I was deluged with these opportunities, and that, if I stayed conscious of my positive response to these stimuli, I could easily access a taste of the blissful state that Osho was referring to.
Of course, I'm still working on "having it stick." Too easily I fall out of the state and into the familiar, everyday mind churning. But the more I practice, the more "wired" the state of blissfulness seems to be getting. I really encourage you to try it! Oh yes, if you're planning to purchase Rick Hanson's book, please purchase it through the link in our blog. Just scroll down the left hand side bar. The small kickback we receive from Amazon goes into our Opening the Heart Scholarship Fund.

Wishing you many blissful experiences of 'taking in the good.'


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