My Heart Echoed His Heart

If You Really Pay Attention
by Paula Underwood

When I was a little bitty kiddy, about five, my Dad began a process … anytime somebody came and said something to us, my dad would say, "You remember what he said, honey girl?” I would tell my father what the person said until I got so good at it that I could repeat verbatim even long presentations of what the person had said.

And he did this all the time.

Finally, one day there was this old gentleman, Richard Thompson. I still remember his name, he lived across the street. And every time my Dad started to mow the lawn, there came Mr. Thompson. And so I would stand out there.

Dad says, “You might come and listen to this man, honey girl. He’s pretty interesting.” And so I listened to him, and then my dad would say, “What did you hear him say?” And I would tell him.

Well, eventually I was repeating all the stories he liked to share with my dad verbatim. I knew them all by heart.

And my Dad says, “You’re getting pretty good at that. But did you hear his heart?" And I thought, what? So I went around for days with my ear to people's chest trying to hear their hearts.

Finally my Dad created another learning situation for me by asking my mother to read an article from the newspaper. He says “Well, I guess if you want to understand that article, you have to read between the lines."

I thought, "Oh, read between the lines. Hear between the words."

So the next time I listened to Mr. Thompson’s stories, I tried to listen between the words. My Dad said, “I know you know his story, but did you hear his heart?” And I said, "Yes. He is very lonely and comes and shares his memories with you again and again because he’s asking you to keep him company in his memories."

It just came out of me. In other words, my heart echoed his heart.

And when you can listen at that level, then you can hear not only the people. If you really pay attention, you can hear what the Universe is saying.

--Paula Underwood, clan mother of the Turtle clan, Iroquois nation

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posted by ashley


A Bright Welcome to This New Year

"Release painful patterns through embrace and not through struggle. We open our hearts to ourselves, each other and to the Universal Presence in which we are sustained. On the brink of this new year, we awaken to renewed choice. We seek the thoughts, images, feelings and actions that will more clearly reflect the Loving and Peaceful Heart always at the center of our being."
~ Bet Alef High Holy Day Prayer Book

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This marks the beginning of a new year and according to the Jewish calendar it is the year 5770. Rabbi Ted Falcon pointed out that this is a one-year (add the numbers up until you get to a single digit). A one-year symbolizes the beginning. We are at the beginning of a new cycle right now. What kind of a cycle do we want to create in our lives, in our communities, on this planet? What impact might we have if we actively take responsibility for how we grow into this New Year? Wouldn't it be amazing if as Rabbi Ted said, this could be the "big one year" in which we realize our oneness?

And so I ask myself: What thoughts, images, feelings and actions do I want to live this year? How will I more clearly reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of my being? How will I more clearly see and reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of your being? Of our collective being? What does it feel like for me to open my heart more fully to myself, others and the source that sustains me and us? This year, I will discover new ways to wake up, recognize and live the fullness of who I am, the depth of my yearnings, the bright vision and sense of possibility that I see.

"This is a year that needs you to be you."
~ Rabbi Ted Falcon

These are the questions I will be resting in today and for the next 9 days until Yom Kippur - meditating, listening, setting intentions, singing, dancing and dreaming what's possible into being. I will follow Rabbi Ted's instructions that it is my job right now to dream the biggest dreams and see visions as large as I can. I will do this for the sake of being an active servant to life, nourishing love, peace, healing, and wholeness in the world. This year the universe needs me to be me. Rabbi Ted invites us to ask ourselves,

"What am I being called to bring to this time?"

I think about Chris Corrigan's recent post about intention... Now is a time to cultivate action that is rooted in intention and to keep asking, "What is my life dedicated to?”

If any of these questions spark something in your heart, please listen and follow that spark!! And if you'd like to share what emerges, I'd love to hear.

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posted by ashley


What Aisle Did You Find Your Serenity In

I went for a walk with a beautiful 4 year old yesterday. She had amazing skills for approaching strangers and inviting engagement. She quickly got to where her heart wanted to be... holding a woman's hand crossing the street, petting a dog, offering a flower.

The poem below invites me to step up my efforts and attention, becoming more skilled at getting to the heart of what my being wants to communicate to another... to go right there with stranger, friend, family or self? The poem inspires me to get creative and be real. Just like this little boy who asked Obama if he could touch his hair to see if it felt like his own. What a genuine way to relate with the world. Do you want to join me in this challenge?

I Confess
by Alison Luterman

I stalked her

in the grocery store: her crown

of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,

her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,

the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,

beaming peace like the North Star.

I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find

your serenity in, do you know

how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,

excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess

some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—“

But we don’t request such things from strangers

nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

Thank you 37days for the poem and The Official WhiteHouse Photostream for the photo.

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posted by ashley


Blessing Others: A Practice for Opening the Heart

by Janice Lynne Lundy

“Blessings” is the sign-off I use in my e-mail correspondence. It was a conscious choice to do so. I was at a stage in my life when “Sincerely” was just too cold; “Love” a bit too warm for a general farewell, especially to business associates. I had to find the one that fit me the best. “Blessings” felt just right.

E-mail is but one of the many opportunities we have to bless others. Throughout the day, we have many opportunities to offer them well wishes, both verbally and non-verbally.

It’s easy to bless the people we love, harder to confer a blessing of peace and happiness upon a prickly other. More challenging yet, if someone has hurt or betrayed us. I’ve often viewed the presence of difficult others in my life as an opportunity for me to love more; to move from hardheartedness to openheartedness, from expectation-holding to letting go, from grudge-holding to forgiveness. Blessing, in fact, may be one of the most powerful practices we can use to keep our hearts open to one another.

Go Undercover

Without them even being aware of it, we can bestow our goodwill on another. Consider the people we encounter in the course of our day, people who may appear to be “invisible.” The woman who scans our groceries at the checkout counter, the groundskeeper at our condo, the janitor at our children’s school, countless others, too many to name. What if we sent a silent, “Bless You,” as we passed them by? “Bless you for your hard work.” “Bless you for doing your job so I can live more comfortably.” “Bless you for caring for my children.” And so on.

Send a “Body Blessing”

With folks to whom we are more intimately connected, we might employ another form of blessing—a “Body Blessing.” Some of us are reluctant huggers. We give quick hugs, embracing someone out of formality or expectation with no real warmth to be found in it. What if we took this body-to-body opportunity to hug a blessing into them? As we press our cheek or shoulder to theirs, we can silently offer them a blessing of health, inner peace, or joy.

Just Say It

Sometimes the direct path of blessing is best. We need to speak our blessing aloud, face-to-face. This is difficult if we have been raised in stoic families who frown upon such outward expressions. Or, perhaps we are shy about speaking our blessings to another for fear of their response. In any case, a verbal expression of well-being or gratitude may be precisely what is needed to deepen our relationship. A whisper in the ear works wonders; an eye-to-eye confession is even better. Engaging in this way brings boundless rewards, to both the giver and the receiver.

The practice of blessing is good for what ails us. It invites us to express gratitude for the presence of others in our lives. It reminds us to see and affirm their basic goodness. Blessing is so very simple. Two little words, sincerely spoken, can change how we perceive our world. “Bless you” is all it takes ...

©Janice Lynne Lundy, 2009

Janice Lynne Lundy is participating in the WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour, promoting her book, Your Truest Self.

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posted by ashley


Listen To Your Heart's Song

"Do not try to tame the heart,
but listen to its song,
and it will lead you to the place
where you most belong."

~Author Unknown

Thank you Saroeum for the quote
and Tearsandrain for the photo.

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posted by ashley


Love, Courage and Being Human

We’re so human.

Sitting in the hospital has the effect of causing me to think a lot about being human, having a body, how the body works, how we humans are connected to each other, and particularly the many, many different life experiences that we each have, the infinite possibilities that there are.

I’m in the ICU waiting room right now. Sleeping relatives, people reading, conversations, pacing,cell phones, tappering fingers at the computer, reading the newspaper, staring. What brings them all here? What is their loved one experiencing? How long have they been in ICU? Was it a planned visit like ours is or was it an emergency that brought them here?

A question passing through my head… How does each person cope?

And then I hear a laugh, and a woman somewhere on the other side of the plants says, “Ahh… you’re such an optimist!”

I woke up this morning thinking about bravery, courage and love. My dad continues to astonish me with the courage that he’s showed throughout this entire experience. Coming out of major surgery, he baffled all of us with his completely lucid, spirited, curious and informative self. Really, this guy just spent four hours in surgery. He had his stomach opened and then his entire digestive system was re-organized (gallbladder removed, part of pancreas removed, part of stomach removed, bile duct removed, and a tumor removed). Everything was sewed back together in new ways and his stomach stapled shut. Now he’s asking if we took a picture of all of us in the waiting room, he's telling us about the synchronistic connections with the anesthesia doctor and making jokes with the nurses. How is that possible? How amazing is our human spirit and the ability to not just survive but to do so with the will to flourish.

I really believe that a lot of his success has to do with his bravery and courage. I would say he walked into this surgery open-heartedly. For me an open heart has trust and is available to connect with what ever is coming its way and even surrender to it. I continually see him taking in the facts, meeting what is known about how he (and his body) are experiencing life, and then being with what arises. That includes being with his fear, his nervousness, the hinting inevitable ‘what-if’s. Being with it all… and not stopping there… having the courage to push beyond what-is to hold the perspective of what could be – healing, fast recovery, his own bed, LIFE!

As I write now, it is day 3 after the surgery. He’s out of ICU. This morning he took his first walk around the nursing station. This afternoon he made three laps. One by one the tubes are coming out and at the moment his legs are dancing under his covers to the Keb Mo playing on the CD player!

He believes that so much of his progress is from his huge network of love, support and care. He is a man well loved and respected by those in his life.

And so the questions that sit with me right now… How might each of us touch that place in us that feels well loved and respected (especially loved and respected by ourselves)? What happens when we live from that center? How do we allow that to be medicine that empowers us to have courage to move towards the possibilities of what could-be that feel alive and vibrant?

And as for my dad, you can follow his journey on The P Train.

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posted by ashley


Absolutely Clear



Your loneliness so quickly.

Let it cut more


Let it ferment and season you

As few human

Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight

Has made my eyes so soft,

My voice so


My need of God



-- By Hafiz

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posted by ashley


David Whyte offers an image of soul:
“that small, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart.”

Thank you Mike for the quote
And Thomas for the heart


posted by ashley



moving along

with love in my heart

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posted by ashley


The Way WIngs Should


What will
our children do in the morning?
Will they wake with their hearts wanting to play,
the way wings

Will they have dreamed the needed flights and gathered
the strength from the planets that all men and women need to balance
the wonderful charms of
the earth

so that her power and beauty does not make us forget our own?

I know all about the ways of the heart - how it wants to be alive.

Love so needs to love
that it will endure almost anything, even abuse,
just to flicker for a moment. But the sky's mouth is kind,
its song will never hurt you, for I
sing those words.

What will our children do in the morning
if they do not see us

~ Rumi ~

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posted by ashley


Courage and Willingness to Die and Be Born

Caitlin Frost doesn’t yet have her own webl, but she is filled with and shares in her daily life a tremendous amount of insight, experience, inquiry and love. This comment she left at the Living With an Open Heart thread is too powerful of a teaching, a potent expression of practice, to leave in the comments… so I’m reposting it here.

I’m particularly drawn to her point that living with an open heart involves “holding the courage and willingness to constantly die and be born”… and when this practice embraces clarity, “the energy stays in the system, feeds it and provides the strength to support the vulnerability.” To live with an open heart, it is essential to stay connected to energy sources that support vulnerability. Vulnerability can become quite destructive if not supported… and is exceptionally powerful when held in its essence.

Take it away, Caitlin:
Hi Ashley, I am exploring similar terrain at the moment. I have been doing a lot of meditation and Byron Katie work this past month and opening up lots of interesting and vulnerable places in myself. Feeling raw and also amazed and full of strength possibility. Like I am dying and being born at the same time - over and over again. I really think that clarity is the key - I can live with an Open Heart much more peacefully and powerfully when I am really clear - it is like a slightly (and crucially) different kind of vulnerability that retains much more life force and curiosity than the combined "amazing moments with leaky, fearful and confused energies mixed in" I have mostly experienced around vulnerability in my life. Open - close - open - close...

Having very closely experienced death and birth in recent years - it struck me very clearly that they share a powerful and connected energy - a sense of power or life force moving. In a way living with an Open Heart feels for me like holding the courage and willingness to constantly die and be born. Without the clarity - it just feels like dying, and the energy feels like it is draining out of the system. With the clarity it feels like the birth is connected, follows quickly, and so the energy stays in the system, feeds it and provides the strength to support the vulnerability.

In my martial arts training I am also playing with these energies of openness and vulnerability in the physical realm. Experimenting with the energy of emotional vulnerability in my responses to physical vulnerability. What it feels like to hold my energy and body solid and open as someone comes flying through the air at me.
Noticing that it is my own sense of groundedness and clarity of thought that makes it possible for me to stay fully present for the experience, and stay open to the experience whether I block or jump out of the way. If I can trust my clarity - I can stay open to it, curious and available to act.
This leads me to wondering, how do you (whoever you are that is interested in looking into this question) recognize clarity? A related question emerged and was explored in the last online meditation which was, How do you recognize deep knowing?

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posted by ashley


Living With an Open Heart

I’m procrastinating. I’m scared. One more bite of toast. One more reason why I’m not comfortable at this table… one more excuse to keep me from going into what is present in me in this moment.

Today I must write. Trails of life-lived and life-living are insisting to be formed into words, to be woven into some form of expression. This morning I’m driving to a coffee shop to honor this call, experiencing the fullness of feeling inside of me… listening.

I hear an NPR clip on the radio about Iraq… and how it has become such a rarity there and a noted blessing for someone to die of natural causes… for people to have the luxury of saying good bye before a loved one passes. The tears ever-presently close to the surface swell in my eyes. Feeling and thinking tossling under the covers… emotions? grief? fortune? blessings? the world? suffering? why? what to do?

. . . love . . .

I always return to love. My car feels like it’s filled with inhabitants… so much inside this little space… feeling… driving… a truck parked along the road turns on, the tail lights catching my eye… a bumper sticker of the word LOVE on the window. The ‘O’ is a grenade. I shudder… and wonder… feel the silent tossling under the covers, the whirlpool of thinking-feeling-stimulation that has no form but inhabits huge amounts of space.

In this coffee shop now, I hold back the tears while simultaneously sort of forcing them forth. Marveling.

Yesterday I rambled through the arboretum with a dear companion, an old friend and a new friend, the same person. My heart raw and vulnerable, wide open and actively reaching for protection and comfort. The trees provided support, a mothering presence.

When we stopped in an area where the trees were scarce, more scattered, I felt my heart throbbing, yearning, wanting. It was like a fresh wound exposed to the elements, the wind blowing on the tender opening… I moved closer to the trees, closer to the warmth and support, the knowing forces of thriving existence… grounded, rooted, connected. I found a center where I could rest… and be… open to what is happening in this moment…showing up for this opportunity to be alive… as it is… as I am… as we are... right now.

Chris wrote recently about
“a fierce commitment to defending the territory of the open heart and a fierce commitment to training in the practice of wielding love, for communities, people, ideals, possibilities and whatever else.”
I found myself wanting to hear Christy teach from a 5-element perspective about the paricardium, the heart protector… and how it might relate to protecting and defending the heart while also inviting love into heart-space… that essence of heart that is bigger than our individual hearts. This brings to mind past writing on this topic by me and Christy.

It’s hard work living with an open heart! (my heart wells, tears swell writing that) And I rebel against the phrase ‘hard work.’ It is a deep practice, one which requires a huge amount of conscious effort and attention.

As we grow and develop, we experience life. In honor of living, we develop means of surviving. Few of us unfold in an enlightened bubble where the environment we encounter perfectly meets our needs and mirrors our essence. We are brilliant at adapting to what we experience, shaping our being and becoming to accommodate those unmet needs, organizing and re-organizing our interior worlds in creative and life-preserving formations. We are witty in the ways in which we latch onto the images we see in mirrors held up to us, whether they match our essence or not, we can cling fiercely to the labels, perceptions, conceptions… descriptions of who we’re seen to be, who we see ourselves to be… and scripts which we internalize as who we believe we are… stories which help us feel solid and grounded, inhabited by an identity that we can rest in… believe in… survive as.

Tears return again as I rest in feeling, listening for the shape of words to emerge. The theme… vulnerability. Living with an open heart is a practice of returning again and again to a vulnerable state… confronting the edges of survival that have served so reverently… and must now be softened… eased open into a fuller experience of what is happening now.

Listening to and being guided by heart’s resonance, foundations crumble, certainty and knowing break down, new feelings and sensations pierce experiences, change scraping the walls of habit, uncertainty paralyzing open static responses. Revealed, exposed, broken open and vulnerable… shaky? uncertain? scared? worried? calm? aligned? connected? fierce?

So Chris asks: “What is dangerous to the territory of the open heart?”

I notice how dangerously vulnerable an open heart is without awareness and discernment...and perhaps without clarity. Revealed to the elements, unprotected and ignorant to what-is, the defenseless heart is available to connect with anything. This is dangerous.

As I try to articulate this danger, I return to the word LOVE with the O as a grenade. We can connect with an essential experience (love) that contains a grenade, that shares its love through violence and destruction. We also can shape our experiencing to connect with love that contains a circle, a renewing cycle honoring death and rebirth, an evolving returning, an embrace of essence. In this moment my experience is that awareness, clarity, discernment and connection with loving essence empowers the open heart. (These words still feel weak in articulating... but perhaps tickle open the essence around which I'm trying to speak. Please feel free to inquire about or grow this thought further.)

Thomas stands in emotion sharing on this topic,
“I feel such sadness and rage at how fucking hard this all is. And then I feel the beauty of all these radiant souls working in the mystery as agents of change and discover a profound longing to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart.”
I think that taking a stand to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart means accepting the reality that symbolic grenades are always nearby… change is hard… love hurts… and with discernment and clarity, honesty and acceptance, we can align with beauty, we can listen to the wisdom of our hearts, we can follow guidance, resting in and being directed by the fierce power of love... not a violent love, an embracing love.

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Fire picture and mandala from Thomas Arthur, Trees from Nat Lockwood

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posted by ashley


Holy Wholes, Including the Holes!

I feel whole.

Included in that is a void, a hole... missing that which has been lost, that which is changing. Missing not in a longing way, just in a recognizing a groove that is paved and was once vibrantly filled... and now is near empty... the same rushing current no longer fills its chamber. It still pulses with the energy that filled it's strong and delicate walls. It echoes with fragrant vibes of beauty and memory... and in this moment, it feels kind of like a ghost, a lucid dream.

Stepping back, expanding beyond (and still including) that sacred chamber, I feel the whole that is emerging now. I see with my visioning eye how that electric life force energy is diffusing into new places, spaces, chambers of embraces. The energy does not yet have form. There is not yet a new channel for it to rush along. It's in the bardo, dangling in between.

My personal heart breathes a little shallow. My soul opens brightly.

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posted by ashley


Happy Heart Day

I'm all about celebrating the heart... so happy heart day to you!

Since there is no way that I could give a tangible token of my love to all 250 students
that I work with, I decided to turn myself into a valentine day card.
My front seen above and the back below.

And this is the blog version of my valentine to you!

And here's a picture of me in a Kindergarten class!

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posted by ashley


Paper Towel Purse

A purse made out of paper towels was left in my office mailbox. No name, just a precious gift from a child. It wasn't necessary to receive recognition for making the gift. It was given with a pure heart. I have purchased a shadow box for the purse and will proudly display the purse in my office with the following poem. For those of you who have been blessed to see a child's heart:

Anonymous giver, follower of heart,
Treasure of imagination, creativity untaught,
Soul is your voice, voice is your soul,
Healing hands work as inner light unfolds,
Dancer of wonder, spirit pure light,
Silent love prints, heaven on earth's delight.


Oh Patti!
How precious,scrumptious,simply divine is your poem! I must have read it 5 times. Why is it that kids can simply melt me away and take me to a place where i feel wonderfully safe! where i can join my heart with theirs!

thank you! sweet patti!
with love,maria


i join maria in praise and delight of your poem... i had no idea you were such a poet. i know you have a poet's soul, it's so beautiful to see it expressed in words.

it makes me wonder about the many ways and opportunities that we have to anonymously give... all that we can give... anyone want to share an anonymous way of giving that tempts your soul? makes me think of corrigan and his daughter and the rocks they scatter about through their lives... are you out there, chris?

much love to you, patti, and gratitude for sharing here.


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posted by Patti

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