Dancing Open Your Heart

I recently completed my third weekend of buddhist studies immersion and meditation instructor training with the Interdpendence Project.  This weekend was comprised of roughly twelve hours of instructing, receiving instruction or discussion on compassion and loving-kindness meditation.  A lot can touch your heart when a group of people come together and focus two and a half days on these practices.  As the weekend slowly fades in the distance of my “busy” New York life, I am left with a sense that what transpired was a dance of the heart.  It was a dance to help us all remember that even in the darkness of our worst self-aggression, glimmers of true happiness arise.  And even in the shadows of ourselves where envy, ill-will and judgement dwell, the opportunity to see the light that casts the shadow is ever greater…. 

Compassion practices take us home to the tenderness of our hearts, which is both incredibly powerful and quite jarring at times.  Practices like metta (loving-kindness) ask us to work with not only those people who inspire and support us, but also those with whom we may have conflict or challenge us in some way.  Metta doesn’t stop there.  It further looks at the ways in which we move away from the open heart, ways that we cling to or create conditions for the love we give to ourselves and others.  

So nothing about Metta is fluffy.  It is not all love and light, and that is what makes it such profound work.  One of the things I appreciate about this work, is that it very much forces us to keep it real, to look at our shadows with great gentleness and work with the things that bar us from the vast capacity of our own heart.   

Dancing is also not just fluff.  It is gritty, sexy, light, fluid, graceful, sometimes awkward, still or frenetic, intensely sad or humorous.  While remaining a serious discipline it also evokes all of the hues and saturations that color a life.  

As we sit down to open our hearts, we might contemplate our work as a dance.  We can approach it with a real sense of discipline, but we will not be surprised when it evokes tears or tightness in our throats or deep longing.  We can work with these emotions just as we work with the heart: with gentleness, openness and hopefully an occasional giggle or fit of laughter.  

For more on compassion practices, check out Sharon Salzberg, or join a course at IDP.