Monday, February 14, 2011

A Change of Heart

There is understanding . . . and there is knowing. During last week's retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli, I came to experience at a deeper level what it is to actually accept all of myself, even during those moments when unpleasantness arises. Ambition, sadness, greed, boredom, frustration, anxiety, jealousy, regret, and a whole bunch of other guests took turn to keep me company as I sat and walked with my fellow retreatants, and watched wondrous sunsets, and ate delicious vegetarian food, and hiked up Mount Madonna mountain . . . I watched the initial impulse to recoil and not like myself. And the wish for more blissful states, filled with peace, love, and happiness instead. There was a sense that this moment was wrong, and that maybe some day if I practiced hard enough, I would be rid of such hindrances.  I realized the delusion.

There was a gradual turning towards the yukiness, and a true meeting of the sensations, the thoughts, the emotions for what they were. No point in waiting for a 'better' moment any longer. No, instead, I started to really enjoy the exploration, the discovery of all that was, inside. And paradoxically, found much peace, love, and happiness . . .  

Below is a list of poems and writings* that have served as catalysts for this dramatic change of heart:

This opening to the life 
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

~ David Whyte ~

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshefl,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ Derek Walcott ~

We have no reasons to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors. If it has abysses, these abysses belong to us. If there are dangers, we must try to love them, and only if we could arrange our lives in accordance with the principle that tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us to be alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. 

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races-the - the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before your larger than any you've ever seen if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything that you do. You must  realize that something has happened to you. Life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of 
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

~ Kabir ~

and of course, The Guest-House!

This being human is a guest-house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you 
out for some delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

Back home, walking through the aisles of Home Depot with my husband, I felt once more discomfort rising, just like that, and I smiled . . . Heart moved by kind curiosity, I longed to discover what sat inside. And I rejoiced. Really.

Now, may you be well, may you be at peace, may you be happy with yourself, no matter which moment.

* All citations from Selected Poems and Readings list handed to us during the retreat.


  1. Marguerite

    You often hang a lantern on the places I need to go.

  2. And what a lovely place this is . . . :)

    I am glad.

  3. Welcome back Marguerite. Sounds like it was a very good retreat. I'm so glad.

  4. Thank you Katherine. It was, in many respects. Now, to sustain the momentum, and grant practice the place it deserves . . .

    I have been meaning to comment on your last post. Will do so soon!

  5. this gives courage to me to take another step on my path