"Come Home to Your Heart"
|I Have a Dream|
|Thank You Deepak and Hilda|
|The Heart Is Where Home Is|
|Let Peace Begin|
|Forgive Them, Father|
|Beating Heart Meditation|
|Joy to the World|
|I Am Therefore I Love|
I have a dream. And I had a dream. Let me tell you about the "had" first.
In late January, I dreamt I was flying/hovering/gliding inside the Grand Canyon in a sort of futuristic helicopter, like a glass bubble. I could see in every direction -- even below me. I was completely engulfed in the grandeur. It was totally mind-boggling and exhilarating, and I awakened feeling both excited and frustrated. Frustrated that despite having been geographically close on several occasions, I'd never had the time to get there, and excited about finally going. I knew it would be soon.
On March 1st, I flew to Phoenix and joined my dear friend, Joanie, who was already in the southwest visiting our mutual friends, Jennifer and Andy and Jen's mother, Florence. Their most kind and generous hospitality embraced us on either side of our sojourn to the Canyon. Thank you, beautiful people.
The drive through the red rock country, especially Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, was as spectacular as I'd remembered it, and within a half hour of reaching our destination, Joanie and I were walking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!
It was a brilliantly clear, cold day and we hiked along the, sometimes quite precarious, path for about four hours into the setting sun. I had come equipped with notepad and pen, and tape recorder with empty cassette prepared to record all the inspiration that would surely come to me at this awesome world-wonder. And the only words that came that day and the entire next day were: "Oh my God. Oh, my God." Every few feet, every time I'd look away for a moment and then back at the Canyon again, it was different.
The sunlight bathing the walls is slightly different -- the colors subtly change; the shapes reconfigure. "Oh my God." I'm practically weeping in joy and overwhelm. There are no words to describe this.
The day we had to leave, Joanie insisted we stop on the way out of the park at the Kaibab Trail, where she and Jen and Andy had descended to the Canyon floor a few years before. Being that it was off season and quite chilly, we were completely alone and I stood mesmerized for about 30 minutes. I didn't ever want to leave. (Thinking about it now, it reminds me of when I saw Michelangelo's David in Florence. My sense is I'd still be standing there if I hadn't had a plane to catch.)
As I stood alone in the magnificence, I began to feel that the profound peace and stillness I was experiencing was unceasingly being poured forth into the ethers from the very bowels of the Canyon -- from every nook and cranny, from every rock face, from every craggy little plant, from every 80 foot tree growing out of sheer rock! It felt like this most sacred place was a gigantic prayer bowl constantly breathing peace into the atmosphere of our Planet. "Oh, my God."
Which brings me to the dream I'm "having." This is a waking dream. My Peace dream.
Long before the Canyon "call," I had a very moving experience in the theatre one evening,. I became acutely aware of the enormous energy that's generated in live performance. In the midst of this epiphany I got how totally wonderful and valuable it would be to dedicate this stupendous power to World Peace. And to that end, I've been contacting everyone I can think of in theatre and the arts in NYC with this proposal:
The powerful energy that's created in live performance is undeniable. I propose that this energy, generated hundreds of times a week in theatres all over the city, be dedicated to World Peace.
It would simply be a matter of having a sign back stage (and perhaps in the lobby) in all our theatres stating: This Performance Is Dedicated To World Peace, in addition to including this statement in the pre-show, "turn off your beepers" announcement.
That's it! Nothing else to do. This would give every performance another dimension and a focus of deep caring and compassion. We can't even begin to imagine the positive repercussions that could result from this subtle, recurring message.
I see this being implemented in our Broadway and Off- Broadway theatres, at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, in Stadiums and ultimately all over our country and the world. Why not? With violence escalating at a dizzying pace, we must start giving Peace some major PR. And with the eyes of the world on NYC since 9/11, this is surely the place to begin. It would serve as yet another expression of, and tribute to, the generous and indomitable spirit of both our great city and the theatre community. It's also a natural tie-in to the "I Love New York" campaign.
It's April, 2002 and our world is writhing in anguish. And as I strive to make This Performance Is Dedicated to World Peace a happening in the Big Apple, I'm sharing it in The New Sun hoping that the concept will catch on and start popping up all over the country -- performances/gatherings in community theatres, universities, high schools -- wherever this powerful focus of energy is created -- all being dedicated to World Peace. I repeat: Why not?
Let us decide that we've had enough of the horror. Let us, please, not sit back and passively accept that for at least the next 20 years our world will be at war, and our beloved country will be relentlessly building more and more sophisticated instruments of destruction. What an aberrant use of our divine creative energy. We know that violence begets violence. How could this possibly be the answer?
Shifting the consciousness in our world is the answer. Shifting the focus of our minds and hearts, which influences the actions we take, to peace and love and beauty and brotherhood is the answer. Shortly after 9/11, Ryan Kelly of the NYC Ballet wrote: "I'm trying to breathe peace more than ever this year - like rain forests that oxygenate the earth, peace- breathers might pacify the planet ..." Let us all become peace-breathers and dedicate our very breath and all the energies that we create in communion with each other to World Peace. The world needs us. If the Grand Canyon can do it, so can we.
In 1963, in his legendary I Have A Dream speech, Martin Luther King said: "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." Oh, Yes! Thank you, Dr. King.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
I was sitting on a commercial set waiting for the next shot when another actor sat down and started talking to me about metaphysics. I was completely enthralled. At the end of the day he encouraged me to attend Hilda Charleton's meditation class which was held every Thursday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. That very week, I walked into this exquisite edifice and felt, even before I sat down among the hundreds of people there, that I was going to find joy here. I felt a sigh of relief flow through my entire system, as if I'd finally "come home."
Hilda's religion was love, and her teachings were grounded in the ancient spiritual concepts of the East. All is Spirit -- there is no "matter" -- everything in the Universe is energy. Our bodies, as dense as they may seem, are whirling atoms of energy, our cells responding constantly to our thoughts. Dark, negative thoughts -- anger, jealousy, fear, etc. -- impede the natural harmonious flow in our bodies creating a lack of ease; dis-ease. Choosing to hang out with positive thoughts, regardless of the current circumstances, keeps the energy moving. Our state of being is not as dependent on what is happening in our lives, as it is on our perceptions and thoughts about those happenings. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "We are what we think about all day long."
It thrills me that respected members of our scientific community are now giving us the same picture of the Universe as did the ancient spiritual Masters. Everything is energy -- pulsating energy. And it's my experience that our conscious awareness of this universal energy, unceasingly moving through our bodies, in conjunction with the effect that our thinking has upon this energy, can save our lives. It did mine. (Thank you, Hilda. Thank you, Dr. Chopra.)
Recently on 60 Minutes, when Ed Bradley greeted Dr. Andrew Weill's explanation of the body/mind connection with a skepticism bordering on disdain, I was simultaneously shocked, saddened and filled with gratitude. I realized that I don't believe in the body/mind connection. I know it.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
In all of my work, I encourage, invite, and cajole people to come home to their hearts -- to the love in their hearts. Ultimately, I feel it's the most valuable journey one will ever take.
no accident to me that in the romance languages the word for heart is
cor, core, coeur, and that Webster's definitions of the English word
"core" include: In the framework of my orientation, this leads me
to conclude that the very core of us is our heart, the inmost -- the
most important part. So as a paradigm shift from the adage "Home is
where the heart is," I hereby offer, "The heart is where home is."
It seems to me that until our life is aligned with our heart, we're
a house divided against itself.
In the framework of my orientation, this leads me to conclude that the very core of us is our heart, the inmost -- the most important part. So as a paradigm shift from the adage "Home is where the heart is," I hereby offer, "The heart is where home is." It seems to me that until our life is aligned with our heart, we're a house divided against itself.
Strictly from a physical point of view, the incessant beating of our heart plays an inestimable role in the overall well-being of the body. And clearly, it's where we feel the experience of love -- romantic love, mother love, the bond we feel for a beloved pet. Now, to my great delight, research scientists at The Institute of Heart Math in Boulder Creek, CA, are telling us that the heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field produced by the body. Moreover, this field becomes even more coherent as the individual shifts to a loving or caring state. This data corroborates what metaphysicians have been telling us forever.
The physical heart is housed in an energy center referred to as the heart center. This center is considered our gateway to spirit and to the most powerful and creative energy in the Universe: Love . It's here that we connect with our Source. This is home.
Several years ago at a Dr. Brugh Joy lecture I received an exquisite gift. His theme that evening had been expanding our awareness of the heart energy. At one point, he had us sitting with our right hand on our heart center (the very center of the chest cavity), feeling the subtle variances in the energies of love there. Slowly, one at a time, he had us tune into Compassion. Tenderness. Gratitude. Joy. Each elicited a slightly different feeling. The next morning I was recapturing this glorious meditation process, and prompted, I'm sure, by this familiar "pledge" pose, these words came to me: "I pledge allegiance to the love in my heart -- to the wonder of wonders within me -- and to the divinity in all life -- One God, One Truth, One Love -- Now and forevermore."* I was so moved by the simplicity of this statement, I repeated it to myself several times and before I entered into my daily routine, wrote it down.
It's my contention that this pledge is what we're up to now. What could possibly be more worthy of our allegiance than love and the deep caring and compassion that love engenders? It will save our lives; it will heal our planet. We sing "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" and my prayer is for us to finally embody that phrase -- to truly claim our connectedness to all of life through the spirit of love that beats our hearts, and breathes us, and moves the tides, and blooms the flowers. It's all the same energy -- the essential energy of the Universe. God, The Force, The Source, Spirit -- whatever we wish to call it. It's time we make a covenant with that intrinsic part of ourselves.
The Indian master, Sri Nisargardatta Maharaj says: "If we are serious about the sufferings of mankind, we must perfect the only means of help we have, ourselves." In this tiny village of a world we inhabit, all of creation is beckoning us to be a blessing to each other and to our earthly home each day -- to pledge our allegiance first and foremost to Love, the Love in our own hearts. Love is the power. Love is the healer. Love is the answer. Come Home to your Heart.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
In the aftermath of the numbing shock of September 11th, I've found myself dancing with the word "trust," and within its resonance there has been great solace. To me there's something much larger going on here then even the entire world being in the grips of imminent danger. And that has to do with the reaction/response that each and every one of us has to this potential threat to our very existence.
We, truly, are the world. Our collective consciousness, or perhaps more accurately, our collective unconsciousness, has been creating the scenarios on our Earth for millennia. And now, with our backs literally to the wall, we face our greatest challenge and, potentially, our finest hour.
"But what can we do?" we cry out. We're only human, with all those incumbent frailties and shortcomings. And to that I say, "No!" It's time to get off that one, and admit, acknowledge and claim that we are also, and most importantly, divine. We are spirit beings as well as human beings, and have immediate access to The Power, The Source, God -- however we wish to label the Divine Presence -- every second of every day. It dwells very peacefully within us.
Waldo Emerson has said:
To me this dark and difficult "night" is the grandest opportunity ever presented to the human race to -- once and for all -- embrace and be willing to embody Who We Really Are. We're in the midst of a major earth drama to be sure, but the more we can expand into the larger context, the infinite, sacred context which is pregnant with both the mysterious and the miraculous, the less that anxiety and fear will incapacitate us.
We can choose to hold the perspective that the enormous upset and dis-ease currently raging throughout our world has as its purpose to cleanse and uplift humanity to an awesomely beautiful level of love and understanding and brotherhood. And here is where trust comes in. We need to allow ourselves to trust this arduous process. We need to relax into that trust -- to breathe, to let go, to trust.
Every day, even for only five or ten minutes, lie down on your bed, on your office floor -- whatever -- and make yourself as comfortable as possible
your arms away from the body,
Now breathe naturally, and slowing begin to notice your breathing:
how miraculous, how mysterious is this ever-constant breathing.
Now, simply and innocently, trust. Trust that you are one with the Infinite Presence. Trust that It is guiding you to be at the right place at the right time. Trust that we are all giving birth to a new and most glorious way of being in this world. Trust that there will be joy for all, and that boundless creativity will be available for manifestations that will thrill us beyond our wildest dreams. Trust that the Innate Intelligence within your heart and mind will act through you with great courage and integrity in the face of any challenge. And always, in all ways, trust that you are never alone.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
"An open heart, an open mind, just being kind -- and peace begins" are the opening lyrics to And Peace Begins, a song by Paul Trueblood, a fabulous musician who plays at the Unity service at Avery Fisher Hall every Sunday morning. I love this song because its message tells us that peace begins right here, right now in our own hearts and minds and in everything we do. World Peace begins at home.
Several years ago, on two separate occasions within the space of about ten days, people shared with me that they thought that world peace would be boring. I was initially stunned and then jostled to an awakening that this was indeed a very prevalent thought: that somehow we all needed the titillation of frightening scenarios and upheaval and chaos, albeit usually second hand, to make us feel alive. I felt that this concept was espoused by many and that it created an insidiously powerful energy field that unwittingly fueled the upset and cycle of violence all over this planet.
I shared my concern with my spiritual teacher, Hilda Charlton, and she said: "You're absolutely right, dear - you must talk about this at our next peace meeting." (Hilda had created a Meditation Evening for World Peace which met -- and still does -- on the equinoxes and solstices of the year.) I immediately reminded her that I "sing," I don't "talk," to which she replied: "It's about time you spoke up, dear." Her words ring in my ears to this day. So with great trepidation, at the next peace meeting, I actually "spoke up," and I've been speaking up ever since. Thank you, Hilda.
I remember sharing that night what I'd told Hilda and my shocking realization that this was such a prevailing attitude. World Peace would be boring?! I went on to explain that I understood that many feel that peace is boring because of its relentless identification with death ("may they rest in peace"), or the images of the serenity and otherworldliness of the monastic life, which the word often evokes. But they have never experienced the adventures of inner space and the peace, to say nothing of the love, joy, ecstasy -- I could go on and on -- that become available when one is willing to be quiet and dive deeply within. There's nothing like it. Here one discovers that peace is far from boring. Peace is thrilling. It is not the absence of violence or upset, it is a vital state that combines an infinite sense of ease with a heightened awareness of aliveness. It is a deep well spring within us from which profound creativity emerges. It is a state that is unceasingly available to us.
So the trick is dismantling the mass consciousness that contends that violence, incessant activity and excitement-seeking are what make life worth living. In my opinion, this franticness serves as a smoke screen, preventing us from ever dealing with Who We Really Are.
I'm reminded of Nelson Mandela quoting Marianne Williamson's words in his 1994 Inaugural Speech: "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us..."
The reality that we are powerful beings is scary to us. We don't want to assume that kind of responsibility. However, the time has come -- big time -- for us to march right through that fear. And even though it takes guts and a sense of daring to explore the depths of ourselves,
"You've got to be tough, kid."
These were the last words that Hilda, my spiritual teacher, ever said to me. (Hilda called everyone "kid"' whether you were three or a hundred and three.)
Two years later on the set of a TV show, I discovered that one of the cameramen had worked on the Mother Teresa documentary that so many of us have seen on PBS. When I queried him about his impressions of her, his first words were, "She's tough."
A few weeks ago, Oprah's guest was Will Smith, who was sharing his experiences preparing for, and shooting the film Ali. He was radiant in both mind and body -- at the very peak of his form, he felt. He spoke of the arduousness of his process -- not only the relentless physical training necessary to portray this legendary athlete but equally, if not more challenging, getting inside the psyche of the awesome, much-bigger-than-life, Mohammed Ali. He recounted times when he was so totally exhausted he felt that he could not continue another second.
He'd find himself repeatedly saying deep inside:
The answer was always "yes" and he'd keep on truckin'. Tough! (I'm not sure whether this motivating technique was Ali's or Will's. In any event, tough!)
Then, the other day I came across a Time magazine dated June 18, 2001. I'd put it aside to read the cover story which was of Eric Weihenmayer's Mt. Everest climb. Eric was 33 years old at the time and he'd been blind since he was 13. To me, there are no words to even begin to describe the unmerciful trials inherent in scaling Mt. Everest under the best of circumstances. But sightless? Mind boggling! He made it to the summit. Tough. One of the sentences in the article stated, "On Everest, toughness is perhaps the most important trait a climber can have."
There seemed to be a theme here.
I, for one, was not raised to be "tough." My mother and father would not be amused at all. But strong and resilient -- now that's totally appropriate; and in our current circumstances on the planet, a must for the life scenario into which we were so brashly thrust, on September 11. As a race of people, I feel we are all now being called upon to toughen up and roll with the political and economic punches that are assailing our peace of mind.
And there's the pertinent word. No matter how physically strong we are, or well-trained and fed and nurtured our bodies are, it's our minds that are running the show. And fear and depression and worry, and all those negatives that hover so near these days, cannot be allowed "air time" in our precious minds. They're destroyers -- they disempower us. Certainly we have to acknowledge that they're there and not stuff them. But the trick is then to focus our minds on the positive and the creative. Do you want to be champ? Oh yes. Whatever that equivalent is in our own lives, we need to fly with that. Giving our all to whatever we're involved in at the moment. Having a sense of our own being and becoming, and making decisions about our priorities and dreams.
"More than doers we are deciders," says The Book of Runes, the oracular writings that many refer to as the Celtic I Ching. So let us decide this moment that, whatever travail may present itself, we'll take a few deep breaths -- breathing in all the power and courage the Universe has to offer us, exhaling the fear and anxiety and upset, and then respond to the situation from a place of wisdom and strength and resiliency. Our tuning into the energies of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and, of course, Mother Teresa would be most helpful. And let me not exclude Joan of Arc from that list. Invoking the courage of St. Joan is extraordinarily powerful.
One of the characters in Victor Villaseņor's brilliant book, Rain of Gold says, "Some people think that the things of the heart are so delicate that they must be handled with care. I say that the heart is tough and vigorous, overflowing with life's juices, so we must be tough and decisive and get to the heart of the matter or we lose everything."
To me, the heart is the higher intelligence. In coming home to our hearts at this time on this Earth, I feel it's imperative that we act with a heightened sense of alertness and vitality. Let's have a divine toughness join the repertoire of love and tenderness and caring and compassion deep in our hearts. As we launch into a brand new year, may we all be of good cheer, of clear and decisive mind and, most of all, of courageous and strong heart.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
I was riffling through a Wildlife Preservation Magazine recently. This particular issue had award-winning photographs of various creatures in their natural habitat. They were all spectacular, but there was one that was irresistible to me. I was totally captivated by the picture of a polar bear and her pup in a snowy mountain landscape framed with feathery evergreen boughs. I found myself returning so often to gaze at it, that I decided to order a print. I called the magazine and they gave me the email address of the photographer and within a few days, I had my print. I was thrilled.
With a very long lens, Thomas Cooper has captured a mother polar bear sound asleep with her tiny pup, who looks like a small ball of super white fur. Its black eyes are wide open, and it's nestled between the mother's huge head and an enormous front paw. There seem to be no ears on the pup, and the nose and mouth are hidden in the mighty embrace. There's just this tiny white fur ball with big black eyes gazing out at the magnificent world with such an innocence and wonder. Completely adorable.
As the days go by, I continue to be grateful that I ordered this picture and keep asking myself why I did. I see terrific photographs in magazines all the time but I've never before felt compelled to call the magazine and email the photographer in quest of a print. What is it here that touches me so?
The mother is obviously completely at home in her natural environment (-25° F). She's at peace. She's connected. And the pup seems blissfully happy in its safe, cozy haven. The picture seems to be whispering, "God's in his heaven and all's right with the world." And maybe that's it. Maybe my body/mind/spirit are so yearning to remember this all the time -- to feel safe and cozy and at peace and connected in the midst of the churning upset energy that permeates our living space on planet earth at this time. And this picture came to live with me as a constant reminder, in a most endearing way, that despite the most challenging atmosphere, the "peace and safe and cozy and connected" are always here -- now, the instant I acknowledge my inner life.
And I find myself revisiting my favorite theme: going within -- coming home to the heart -- connecting with the kingdom of Heaven ever present there -- stopping the relentless mind chatter -- relaxing, embracing, delighting in the feelings of silence deep within the energy of my body. There is the true vitality -- there is the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Do it right now as you read these words. Be conscious of the energy inside your body. Be conscious that you're reading. Be conscious that you're breathing.
Stop reading for a few moments and just be here now, totally in the present. Feel the stillness.
The authenticity and serenity of the bears, so at peace on their snowy mountain in Manitoba, Canada, bless and inspire me every time I look at them. They invite me to hear the silence, to feel the exhilarating crisp, clear air -- to sense their ease. They remind me of the lyrics of the Bernstein/Sondheim song Somewhere: "Peace and quiet and open air wait for us, somewhere." They remind me that that place is deep within me and they make me grateful that that Kingdom of Heaven is still reflected in certain parts of our world. They remind me of the sacredness of these pristine wildernesses and their many life forms. They remind me that we are to be the stewards of this earth and her creatures, and not despoil them with our shortsightedness and greed.
How can we even begin to imagine that we can rape and poison the very earth that feeds us, gives us air to breathe and water to drink, and continue to live? The bears remind me to pray without ceasing that our collective consciousness will wake up in time to save Mother Earth and all the life manifesting upon her. May we embrace and honor our role as nurturer to the Nurturer. Thank you, glorious bears. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Beloved Earth.
If you would like to order a print of the polar bears, please contact
Thomas Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Elizabeth Hepburn
I had earmarked Tuesday morning, September 11th, to complete this column. For weeks I'd been jotting down thoughts and this was to be the time to collate them. At the top of the page I had scrolled the word "Imagine," and my first musings had been some of the key words in John Lennon's song:
Imagine all the people living for today
There were other notes all aimed at using our brilliant imaginations to create more beauty and fulfillment in our personal lives and ever expanding love and peace in our world.
And then it happened!
In certain circles John's song wasn't, and still isn't, well received. His lyrics speak of imagining no countries -- no religions -- the very source of identity for many of us. But John's whole thrust here, it seems to me, is encouraging us to be here now -- today -- with peace in our hearts and love in our minds. To share this world openly, freely, and with great delight. No more separation -- no more arrogance that declares, "I'm better than you because I belong to this religion or live in this country."
The truth is that we are family on this tiny, precious planet and he knew that. He knew that "we are all one." And anything that obscures, denies, or defiles that innate connection and brotherhood is counterproductive to the natural flow of life.
If you're reading this column it's no accident, and you've got work to do. We all do. This is why we're here now.
On Friday evening, Sept. 14th, all over this country and in many parts of our world, candles were lit in an outpouring of spirit that sent light forth into the darkness. We can be doing that with our thoughts constantly. Light literally emanates from us when we think upon love and peace and all the positive energies.
So begin today to imagine that you are a bearer and beacon of light. See and feel that light is emanating from the center of your chest, what is metaphysically referred to as your heart center. Imagine it like a gigantic search light, and focus it wherever you choose. (You can do this anywhere, anytime -- walking down the street, sitting on the bus, doing the dishes, making the bed, etc. You don't have to be at a prayer meeting on in meditation.)
Also imagine that the light of compassion is pouring from your eyes everywhere you look and that light flows from your hands healing everything you touch. Imagine your "heart search light" flowing into those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and profoundly comforting them. See it descending upon ground zero, assisting the courageous beings who are working there with such relentless determination. See it blessing and releasing the suffering of those who so abruptly lost their lives. See it bringing hope and new vision to those whose lives have been so drastically shattered. See it filling the hearts and minds of all our world leaders with inspiration and great wisdom at the most critical hour our world has yet encountered.
Imagine that you are sending forth light to encircle our earth and rain down a soothing balm that, now and forevermore, heals the anger and hatred that source such egregious acts. Imagine.
Imagine that this time we finally wake up; we get it. Imagine that this time we recognize and claim that the love, the beauty, the deep compassionate caring that become our modus operandi in times of great crisis is who we really are. Imagine that this time we shift into that way of being, always.
Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than information. Imagine that your mind and heart and every fiber of your being is a healing instrument. It is when you say so. Be the Light. Imagine.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
I woke up one morning thinking about the overly zealous glint I'd seen in President Bush's eyes on clips I'd caught from one of his "making Iraq free" speeches. Scary. I'm thinking about Bob Woodward, around the time that his book was first released, talking about how our president makes "gut" decisions on his own -- not the all-night-in-depth-discussions-with-many-advisors we've heard about when other presidents were in the throes of crisis. Scary again. I'm thinking about that night in March 2003 watching the eerie green glow of the Baghdad night as CNN covered our imminent attack of this great city. Through the horror my heart was feeling, I kept hearing the words "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do," and somehow that phrase remains excruciatingly appropriate as the months and years have gone by.
I'm thinking about an Oprah show maybe two weeks prior to our illustrious Iraq invasion. Please know that I'm a big Oprah fan. I think her spirit is stupendous and the healing energy she brings to our world, an invaluable gift. However, on one of the segments of this particular show we saw Oprah and her crew at, I believe, a navy boot camp. This was "graduation day." These kids had been training arduously for weeks and we were there to salute them and offer our gratitude for their willingness to go over to Iraq and fight for "our freedom." (I didn't resonate with that then, and I surely don't now.) We saw clips of these young people going through their paces. We saw and heard the drill sergeant bellowing at them, "Are you ready to kill for your country?" and this great roar of a YEAH! as the response. And then "Are you ready to die for your country?" And another roar of thunderous assent. I looked at these shiny young faces -- our children -- 18,19, 20 year olds -- and thought, dear God, we're training our children to kill and shipping them off to hell. What's going on here?
Oprah, in her ever-generous way, had the mess tent outfitted to look like the Waldorf, with white table cloths, little vases and wine glasses. Tuxedoed waiters served a lobster dinner to our newly anointed warriors, who had been up and running for over 24 hours. I don't know about you, but a lobster dinner and a glass of wine would be the last thing my stomach would want at the end of a 24-hour-plus day. However, the film crew captured a good time being had by all and to complete the festivities, the "soon to be shipped off" were each given a camera with which they could record their upcoming experiences. Arg!
On some level all this seems like a wonderfully thoughtful event. And in the context of the world in which we live, it was just lovely. But, I'm questioning the appropriateness of celebrating this world context any longer and continuing to feed into this grossly dysfunctional mass consciousness. How can we even begin to wonder about the ever so publicized prison atrocities when we've meticulously and methodically indoctrinated psychologically and emotionally immature hearts and minds with violence?
During my health crisis, I had the profound gift of another type of indoctrination. Though it wasn't the 24/7 of boot camp, it was extremely intense in its own way. It had to do with exploring the vast resources of our "inner space" which turn out to be the creator of the "outer spaces" that we project. When we don't have our 'inner' in good shape, our "outer" is a train wreck, hence the state of our world today.
All the posturing and the blah, blah, blah about making the world safe for democracy seem to me to be just that. If the bottom line does not embrace our having deep respect and compassion for all of life, we're just shouting into a meringue. My indoctrination, which literally saved my life, was Love - what my spiritual teacher, Hilda Charleton, referred to as the glue of the Universe. We can call it God, The Force, The Source, Spirit, Universal Energy, whatever -- it is the all pervasive creative and healing force of the Universe. It is not owned and operated by any one special religion or group. It is the energy that unceasingly beats all our hearts and breathes us all - and moves the tides in the oceans and blooms the flowers in Spring. It is Love - It is Life. Its joyful expression can be experienced within our own hearts anytime we choose to "go there" and connect with it.
This energy teaches us that we are all one - despite our different cultures and languages and ideologies. We are family. We are brothers and sisters. As Dr. Henry Grayson said in his article in the April 2004 Oprah magazine, "We share the same last name, which is God." So why are we relentlessly pursuing ever more atrocious methods for torturing and killing each other, with the added perk of perhaps rendering our planet uninhabitable for millennia? Do we really want to continue down this road?
The enormous economic complexities, which clearly call the shots in our world (no pun intended), are admittedly a mystery to me. Truth be told, I feel that very few have a handle on them. Nevertheless, if each of us (corporate moguls and all) were daily tuned to the integrity channel and had the well being of the planet and all who reside on her as the ongoing goal, we'd have a much different world.
Let us please reinvent the education of our children. It all starts with that very basic universal law: what you put out comes back to you. Violence begets violence. Love begets love. Creativity begets more creativity. (We could all benefit from a refresher course in this law, GW included.)
By our love and caring let us teach the children love and caring and encourage them to delight in the differences they perceive in others instead of fearing them. By our respect for all living things let us teach them deep respect and appreciation for all of life. Let the child in all of us "grown ups" morph into our minds and hearts a new wonder and enthusiasm for life that thrills us and lifts our dreams for our own lives and the well being of our world to exciting new heights. The challenge is enormous. And the only place to start is here - in our own bodies, minds and hearts -- each one of us caring in a more profound and ever expanding way. Being in that place will guide us to what we are here to do. And we'd better do it soon.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
Say Thank You To Your Beating Heart
Though my current "knowing" is rooted in richly metaphysical concepts, which, by the way, are now the bedrock of scientific thought, there is a simple path to accessing the marvels of the heart. Acknowledge it! Say hello to it! Say thank you to your beating heart!
The physical heart is housed in the chest cavity, which is metaphysically referred to as the heart center. But, metaphysics aside, I simply invite people to become aware of their beating hearts. Read the rest of the article and then try this. Feel it as you read it. Pretend you're doing it.
Sit or lie down in a very comfortable position - and gently close your eyes, sighing out your breath as if you were sinking into a fragrant warm bath after a long, tiring day. Let stillness embrace you. Feel as though you're listening to silence. Despite the relentless stimulation of our lives, peace and serenity are always present and they are an overwhelmingly sumptuous place in which to relax. Just breathe as easefully and comfortably as possible a few times allowing your sighing exhale to release your tensions and relax you more and more deeply.
Now just notice your beating heart. Listen to it. Acknowledge that you¹re not consciously beating your heart anymore than you¹re consciously breathing all day long. We are ever-pulsing energy systems - ever alive with the same energy that¹s moving the tides in the oceans and blooming the flowers in Spring. Say thank you to the Source of your breathing; thank you to the Source of your beating heart. Allow yourself to feel the pulsations all through your body as the result of your beating heart. Awake or asleep this energy is flowing unceasingly. Feel it.
Decide to name this energy, that you feel pulsing all through your body, love. And decide that love energy from your own magnificent, miraculous heart is bathing and soothing and healing every cell, every atom of you. Feel it. Allow it. Remove all resistance to it.
Feel loved and cared for. Feel your Oneness with the very Spirit of Life. Say thank you to your beating heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
Feeling Good is the title of a song from the musical comedy Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. Having been very drawn to the lyric, I've been singing it for years and subsequently recorded it on a CD. Jon Werking, my wonderful musical director for this project, introduces the piece perfectly with a glissando of notes that sound like shimmering sunlight. The lyrics align us with nature:
Bird flying high, you know how I feel
The bridge of the song speaks of "dragonflies out in the sun and butterflies all having fun and sleeping in peace when day is done" -- all lovely, delicious images of Feeling Good.
I don't know about you but when I was growing up feeling good -- really yummy, exuberant, joyful -- was suspect. Though I could never say that we didn't have a lot of fun, the context of life was somehow quite serious and joy was not a biggie.
I was raised Roman Catholic and was very much "in the fold" through my entire pre-adult life. Now when I think of some of the prayers we used to say constantly, I'm amazed at how inappropriate they are from my current perspective. For example, in the Hail Holy Queen prayer that is always said at the end of the rosary, we address Mary as our Mother of Mercy and we cry out to her as "poor banished children of Eve," and "we set up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears." It's all about begging Mary for her loving intercession to free us from this relentless travail. Starting as a little child, saying this prayer year after year, I can't believe that these words wouldn't have a deleterious effect on one's psyche.
The emphasis is definitely on sin and guilt and the ever-suffering, wretched, banished creatures that we are. I've come to feel very strongly that this is an extremely counterproductive indoctrination for a life of radiant health and well- being, which I consider our birthright.
How can we put our best foot forward in the world, and feel good about ourselves and the unique contribution to life on this planet we've come to make, when we're beating our breasts and holding ourselves as hopeless sinners who are continually reaching out for someone, something, anything to save us?
Feeling good. It seems to me so important to cultivate the habit of feeling good (gratitude is a great start), and to say an emphatic "no" to anything that dis-empowers us. We are here to do great things -- on a small or large scale -- whatever is appropriate for our life's journey.
We need to start recognizing that we are weakened by sadness and grief and guilt and shame.
I feel we need to stop choosing to "go there." And we are at choice every second. I'm reminded of the wisdom in the title of Peter McWilliams book, You Can't Afford The Luxury Of A Negative Thought.
Which brings me to my thoughts and feelings regarding Mel Gibson's The Passion. First of all let me say that I'm not a critic and this is not a review. I haven't seen the film. I choose to not subject my consciousness to that kind of violence. I have seen clips of it and read countless reviews and articles about the movie, and what kept coming up for me was that this sounds like a horrifically gory guilt trip to make us feel bad yet again for being such a sorry lot.
In Stephen Simon's stunningly eloquent and inspired review of this movie, http://www.mysticalmovies.com/alert022504.html, he warns: "The violence is as gruesomely depicted as you have heard, perhaps more so, and is simply unrelenting in its vivid and graphic detail. It is shocking to me that the film is rated 'R,' rather than 'NC-17' which I think it should be. To allow -- let alone bring -- children of any age into this film could be considered a form of child abuse and even attempted brainwashing."
He refers to its being "an endless ode to suffering." As to the film's being either anti-Semitic or anti-Italian (Roman), Stephen says it "feels simply anti-human." He goes on to say that though the film may be considered "religious," to him it is clearly not "spiritual" -- and "those two words are not synonymous." And to that I say Amen!
One of Hilda Charlton's (my glorious spiritual teacher) favorite topics was "Take Jesus off the cross." She insisted that He didn't want the emphasis there with all the suffering and shame that elicits, but on His beautiful message of love and respect and forgiveness. Do let us finally take Jesus off the cross. Let us be the beauty of His message and embody that love and power. "Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do." John Chapter 14. That's the mantle He gave us. And though it's a big responsibility, it's time we get on with it.
I feel that the crises all over the Earth today are shouting to us, "Now's the time! Right now!" It's a critical moment for our world and for the very life of our planet. We all have a lot to do and be. Let us not be fearful or shameful or unworthy, but wholeheartedly and courageously own who we really are. Be still and know. Breathe, relax, chill out, smile, feel the breeze, marvel at the Spring, share your unique gifts, bring your happiest, most joyful and enthusiastic self to the "party." That's what brings healing to our world. And that's the mission right now. Feel Good. It feels really good to Feel Good.
by Elizabeth Hepburn
On QXR Radio this morning I was listening to an orchestral version of Oh Holy Night -- Cantique de Noel as it's formally known. This sacred song has been a staple in my repertoire for years and I've sung it in all seasons, feeling that it's appropriate to acknowledge that every night (and day for that matter) is a "night divine" (the last lyric of the song). This rendition began with cellos playing the melody and I had a feeling that the musical director was going for a very solemn, sacred interpretation. It lightened up a bit as the piece unfolded, but, to my ear, its overall impression was quite lugubrious. And it got me to thinking about how the sacred is so often portrayed as solemn, which often feels very dark to me. And I think it should be the opposite. I think the sacred is sublime and suffused with light, and that it's here in our cultures to ignite our hearts and souls and evoke pure joy.
Joy, joy, joy -- there was a time in my life when I remember telling people I was on a quest to find joy. Where the heck was it? I didn't see it in churches for the most part. I didn't see it at social gatherings/parties. I didn't see it in the faces of people on the street. Where is joy?
Well, I had a joy-ful experience during my healing process, that, I see in retrospect, paved the way for my meeting Hilda Charlton. I had been on my joy quest for a while and had participated in several "consciousness raising" events. I was reading a lot of metaphysics -- my hero at the time being Ralph Waldo Emerson. And I remember lying on the living room rug one Saturday afternoon and imagining that I had light shooting out of every pore of me in every direction, reaching way up into space and deep into the Earth, (somewhere I must have read about a meditation like this); and when I came back from this imaging, I felt a joy inside me, the likes of which I had never felt before. This extraordinary state lasted for about 2 weeks. I was so open and feeling so wonderful and loving, and everything in my life was delicious, and not a thing had changed in my external circumstances. It was truly a time of grace for which I'm profoundly grateful. And I know it was a carrot that the Universe allowed me to munch for a while so that I'd "get" what the "goal" was -- that completely anchored and safe inner space of joy and peace.
It truly does surpass all understanding. It's a wow!
There was a magical voice teacher at one point in my career. He was a wonderfully insightful and playful man/musician and a world-class teacher of Carl Jung's work. He had the most eminent Jungians in town coming to sit and counsel with him. Our times together each week were astounding, I would be with him for about an hour and a half and sing for maybe 25 minutes. The rest of the time we were delving into my psyche and exploring my dream worlds. It was fabulous. These sessions seemed so out of time and space for me, that I once had the thought that if I went back to his apartment, having left my gloves or something, that he wouldn't even be there -- the apartment would look different and a complete stranger would answer the door.
Anyway, this is all preamble to his encouraging me one day to attend a prestigious Jungian event that was being held on the upper east side of Manhattan. I was thrilled to be in the presence of these outstanding therapists and to hear them discussing the works of the brilliant Carl Jung. And I could barely stay awake -- and I'm never bored! Talk about sacred and solemn and grindingly intellectual. Arg! Jung was transcendent -- he was talking about spirit most of the time. And somehow that got, and often gets, translated into solemn and heavy. And the joy is missing -- the light is missing. I feel that this has happened in many of our religious traditions also.
Whenever we sing "Let There Be Peace On Earth" at our peace meetings, I always loudly, as if to eventually turn the tide, insert the word joyful for solemn -- the lyrics of the second half of the hymn being:
Let there be peace on earth, let this be the moment now
I think joyful vows are much more "hearty" than solemn vows and much more liable to be honored. So I propose that we take all the furrowed brows out of our vows and other "serious" areas of our lives. There's no getting away from the chaos and darkness that seem to be prevailing in our world at this time, but our getting gloomy about it doesn't help one iota.
As Martin Luther King said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I say: "Serious/heavy cannot drive out serious/heavy; only joy can do that." Think about it: Wouldn't we all rather be joyful than solemn? I do believe that we can "take life seriously" and live with great integrity and purpose and still be in joy. It'll take some practice and a commitment from us, but we can do it. And the rewards will be awesome. Let's have "Joy and More in 2004."
by Elizabeth Hepburn
"I am therefore I love" came to me while walking in the park one day. So many "hits" come to me in the park -- Central Park, that is. I love this park, smack in the middle of Manhattan, and feel that its preciousness -- (how its exquisite natural beauty incessantly serves the city) -- is incalculable.
So there I was briskly walking along, breathing in the trees and grasses, listening to the many bird songs, and I hear the words: "I think therefore I am; I am therefore I love." What was that? "I think therefore I am; I am therefore I love." Oooh, I like that, thank you. And I've been living with this phrase ever since, particularly the "I am therefore I love" part.
It's clear to me that we've all got "I think" down pretty well. We know that we are conscious beings, perceptive to the world which we inhabit and able to choose and, in many cases, manipulate certain aspects of our lives. It's also very clear to me that it's time to raise the bar.
"I think" is not nearly enough, "I love" is what we're up to now. And this can make life as wonderful as it gets.
I'm not talking about romantic love here, though that's a beautiful expression of this energy. I'm talking about our living in the context of this "glue of the Universe" love -- the energy that we're intrinsically connected to, couldn't get away from if we wanted to, that pulses through every cell of our bodies, vibrates in everything that exists everywhere, energy.
Just for a moment, stop, be very still, as if you were deep in a forest listening to the silence there, and notice your beating heart. Really stop reading for a moment, just let your vision go soft and be ultra alert to these pulsations. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed with gratitude for this most pivotal organ in your body and the invaluable contribution it makes to your aliveness. I perceive it as such a miracle, this physical heart. And now with my training, I daily acknowledge and let my consciousness come to rest within its housing -- the entire chest cavity, metaphysically referred to as the heart center.
My email signature quite spontaneously became "Whenever in doubt, Come Home to your Heart" probably because I know that the love and spirit indwelling our hearts is the ultimate panacea. And what coming home to your heart feels like is abandoning all the buzz in the brain and just sinking into the heart center as if the entire chest cavity were this cradle of tender love energy ever available to embrace and renew us. It is!
Sometimes, when I close my eyes to do this, I imagine myself on a dock on Lake George (Lake George is right up there with Central Park for me -- it was responsible for my first spiritual opening). It's a balmy summer evening, the moon is casting a path of shimmering light on the still waters, the fragrance of pine trees in the delicious clear air refreshes my body with every gentle breath I breathe, and I'm completely relaxed into a chaise lounge made of soft pink down. This scenario of beauty plays out within my heart center, and I'm enfolded in its love for a time. So renewing and healing. Try it. Or create your own "relax into love" scene.
As far as I'm concerned there's nothing more important than love. And regardless of our personal vocations in life, I feel that our core purpose is discovering what a force this love is and expressing it everyday, everywhere to everyone and everything. It's a choice, it's a gift, it's the healing balm for our earth.
In the musical comedy Plain and Fancy there's a song called "Follow Your Heart." As a singer I was very drawn to this song -- the wisdom in these lyrics by Arnold Horwitt touched me so.
The heart has reasons the mind cannot know
Because of my own healing experience, I know the heart is the way. I feel that it's our higher intelligence and totally subscribe to our learning to think with our hearts and love with our minds. When we follow our hearts we're being guided by love, the Universal Force, and not by our societal conditioning and knee-jerk reactions to life. The wisdom of the ages is available to us the more we listen here; and regardless of the prevailing winds in our lives, we find ourselves responding with care and compassion to the relentless flood of stimuli present in our everyday encounters.
The truth is we already are Love. We just don't know it. So the trick is deciding every morning to be a lover, an anonymous lover. No proselytizing, no placards -- quite unassumingly having our modus operandi be love and kindness and excellence, and giving and living from our hearts each day. Winston Churchill words ring so true: "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." For me, giving love is the only way back to sanity and wholeness. And the best news of all is that as we give, we receive. Love is its own reward.
Imagine what a fund of love we will amass for our lives and our world when we invest in our loving hearts each morning by embodying the resolve that:
Each and everyday I am giving and receiving more love.
by Elizabeth Hepburn