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When the Heart Opens May 29, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Nobly love.

“‘So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’”


– King Solomon’s request in Melachim I / 1 Kings 3:9 (NIV)

As I mentioned in some of the practices this week and in the last “9 Days” video, we live in an ever-changing past. Maybe if we thought about it that way, more often, we would live more fully in the present. Maybe we would live more open-hearted lives. Maybe we would even pay attention to how things are changing, every time we inhale, every time we exhale.

By “things,” I mean everything: we change, the world changes, our words change, our expectations change…. Or, at least that’s the way we often perceive it and discuss it. However, when we pay attention, we start to notice that very little is changing. We may even notice that we are like the person in the giant bamboo story, who headed into a new season with the same old problems, the same old wishes and desires. The story is a reminder to dig deeper – or, at least, to look beneath the surface. When we do that – when we look beneath the surface, personally and in society – we start to notice that for things to change on the outside, they have to first change on the inside.

Perhaps you are tired of hearing that every policy change begins with a change in society. Perhaps you are one of those people (or politicians) who thinks your time is better spent on changing policy and that it’s a waste of time to focus on changing hearts and minds. Perhaps you haven’t really given much thought to how change has happened in the past or how it might happen in the future. But, just for a moment, I want you to think about it.

Think about how unjust laws are broken by people whose hearts and minds will not allow them to stay silent in the face of great horror. Think about how the most basic of laws never get passed when people’s hearts are hard and their minds are narrow. Think about how the siddhis (or powers) “unique to being human” are more connected to the heart than to currency. Think about King Solomon, who did not ask for wealth and power when he was told he could have anything.

Consider the courage it takes to do and say the things people are telling you are dangerous – or not your place – to say and do. Yes, it really comes down to courage. Perhaps our problem, though, is that our understanding of courage has “changed” and so, therefore, we don’t actually know what it means or from where it comes. Perhaps we are too busy calling someone a coward, which is the exact opposite of having courage, to recognize their fearlessness or the placement of our own “tail.”

“We shall listen, not lecture; learn, not threaten. We will enhance our safety by earning the respect of others and showing respect for them”


– quoted from the “A New Vision” – 2008 Democratic Party Presidential Nominee Acceptance Address by Ted Sorenson (written for The Washington Monthly as “the speech of his dreams”)

For the record, the word “courage” comes to the English language from the Latin, by way of Old French and Middle English, meaning “to live with the whole heart.” In Middle English, it was associated with “speaking one’s mind” – which could, of course, have fatal consequences when speaking truth to power in a feudal society. Going back to Old French, at least to the 14th century,  it is associated with discernment and knowing the inner workings of one’s own heart – which was viewed as “the seat of emotions.”

The word “coward” follows the same etymological path – coming to English from the Latin, by way of old French and Middle English – and was related to the image of an animal with their “tail” between their legs. Think about how this is the exact (physical) opposite of being open-hearted.

Now, go deeper still. How do you embody the original meaning of “courage?” What does it mean to physically look like a “coward?” The physical practice gives us an opportunity to do this, to embody these attributes and to consider what comes up for us physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. Our time on the mat, allows us to consider how we want to show up off the mat. You could even think of today’s practice as a portrait – or, a profile. Keep in mind, however, that there is more to opening your heart than simply bending over backwards.

“For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.


So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause–united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”


– quoted from a speech President John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver to the Texas Democratic State Committee in Austin, Texas, in the evening, on November 22, 1963


The following is an excerpt from a June 2021 post related to Yoga Sutra 3.22.

May 29th is the anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy. Born in 1917, President Kennedy is credited with writing Profiles in Courage while recovering from back surgery during his tenure as a United States Senator. He even won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, despite the fact that the book was not included in a list of finalists. The short book features profiles of eight United States Senators who spoke up for what they believed to be right, even though their actions, words, and deeds were not necessarily popular with their constituents and/or party. They spoke for what they believed to be right even when they found themselves under attack and without a position. Heart openers and the idea behind the book are usually my focus on President Kennedy’s birthday, and might even seem to be a good point of entry for Yoga Sūtra 3.22 – except for that really inconvenient part of the story people don’t often mention.

At the beginning of 1953, Ted Sorenson became the chief legislative aide to the then-freshman Senator John F. Kennedy. Eventually, he would become President Kennedy’s special counselor, adviser, and primary speechwriter. Along with Georgetown University professor Jules Davids, he was initially (and publicly) recognized as someone who aided the Senator in writing Profiles in Courage. He even received some remuneration for his “research” and assistance. These days, however, many historians acknowledge that while the idea was Kennedy, the final product was almost all Sorenson. Likewise, a poem featured in the miniseries 11.22.63 is almost always credited to Stephen King, who wrote the book of the same name – even though the poem does not appear in the book. The original poem was, in fact, written by Bridget Carpenter and then edited by Stephen King as he reviewed her script.

It is nice to get credit where credit is due, but these examples are also a good reminder that we all have a voice – even if we are using sign language, even if we are using a computer – we have a way to be “heard,” to share the power of our words. So remember, you have been invited in and honor what you have to say, and honor what those around you are saying.

“We did not ask for this room or this music. We were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces to the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. We have been given life to deny death. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.”


– a poem by Bridget Carpenter and Stephen King, featured in the miniseries 11.22.63

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 29th) at 2:30 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Sunday’s is available on YouTube and Spotify.


Click here to read the 11/22 post.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

### Big Fat Heart ###


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