Posts Tagged With: “Opening the Heart” workshop

Day 2077: Applause

Several times in therapy groups this week, there was spontaneous applause, as people supported each other’s perspectives and progress.

I remember attending an “Opening the Heart” weekend workshop many years ago, where each one of us received thunderous, sustained applause after introducing ourselves. I still vividly recall how that applause felt, after I had revealed myself and my vulnerabilities to many strangers.

How do you respond to applause?

Last night, I was surprised by the timing of the applause to my latest original song, “Shameless Appeals for Applause.”


I now shamelessly appeal for applause for my photos from yesterday:


No matter what kind of comment you leave below, you’re sure to get applause from me.

Gratitude is a kind of applause, so I’m now clapping for all those who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — YOU.


Categories: original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Day 1977: Other people’s opinions

Yesterday, in a therapy group, people discussed  and wrote down their thoughts and feelings about other people’s opinions.



What is your personal experience of other people’s opinions?  What makes other people’s opinions more difficult for you? What helps you deal with other people’s opinions?

In yesterday’s group, I shared a personal experience of other people’s opinions, which I’ve written about previously (here). At the end of a weekend-long retreat, decades ago, I participated in an exercise where everybody got to give and receive opinions about each other.  The people who were running the exercise offered this excellent opinion: When people give you their opinions about you, they are often talking about themselves.  However, if you hear similar opinions from different people, you need to take those opinions seriously.  At that retreat, I was surprised …


… to hear mostly positive and supportive opinions.

After group yesterday, I swapped opinions with author and friend Chris, who was my student at Boston University decades ago (and who has appeared in other blogs posts, here, herehere, and here).



That’s Chris taking a photo of the street sign at Fenway Park that was recently changed from Yawkey Way back to its original name — Jersey Street — because of other people’s opinions.

I sang my first original song — “I Don’t Like You” —  for Chris, and his opinion matched other people’s opinions. When I told him I was going to debut that song at an Open Mic tomorrow night and also share that performance on YouTube, his opinion was very supportive.  I have very positive opinions of Chris and I’m sure other people share those opinions.

I’m wondering, here and now, about other people’s opinions of this post, including all my other photos from yesterday …





… and the music I’m choosing for today’s post.

On YouTube, other people’s opinions of Jake Shimabukuro playing the ukulele are similar to mine.

I look forward to other people’s opinions, below.

My opinion is that you should express gratitude to others whenever you can, like now!


Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 286: Duck Test

According to Wikipedia,

The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning. This is its usual expression:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.

This morning, I was remembering somebody quoting the Duck Test, many moons ago.

It was a facilitator at a two-day Opening the Heart  workshop, which  was attended by around 70 people. (That’s a large group, people.)

He was describing, to us all,  the final exercise of the weekend.

I remember that guy.  He was a gentle-looking fellow, with a beard.

Because I struggle with detailed visual memory, I’ll turn to my old standby, Google Images, for some help in describing him.

This is the first person that came up, for “gentle looking fellow with a beard”:



Anyway, the facilitator at the workshop (who actually DID look a little like that guy, above),  explained how the exercise would work.  He told us that we would form two large circles, half of the people on the outside and half the people on the inside.

Like this:



As the circles of people moved, stopped, moved and stopped again, we gave and received authentic feedback with each other.

I remember the facilitator making these two important points, regarding the feedback we would hear:

  1. What other people say to you, about you, usually has to do with THEM.
  2. However, if you hear the same things over and over again, that’s probably about YOU.

And that’s when he quoted the Duck Test.

I remember, having this thought, in response: ‘He’s gently and effectively giving guidance about how to hear negative feedback.”

What I didn’t consider, back then:  His guidance applied to positive feedback, too.

As I’ve confessed before, I (like many other people I’ve met) can struggle with believing positive feedback, no matter how many times I hear it.

I could expound, at this point, about the first Cognitive Distortion on this list:

  1. Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
    This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation.  For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”


However, I’d rather end by returning to the duck test:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

I’d rather end that way, especially since my reply to this (old standby) question

“If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be?”***

is this:



Thanks to Opening the Heart,  ducks everywhere,  people who wear unusual hats,  givers and receivers of feedback, and to you, too, for reading today.

* From Reddit: Here’s me wearing a rejected kitty hat.

** From Google Images, again.

*** From Saturday Night Live: Father Guido Sarducci

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 160: Fame, Shmame

Just to make sure that everybody who is reading this post understands the title, the second word — “Shmame” — is not a misspelling. There’s a tradition, in  American Jewish culture, to take a word (like “Fame”) and then reduce the power of the concept — in a humorous or ironic fashion — by putting a “shm” sound in the front of the word.

There’s a dismissive quality in the”shm,” for sure, which is highlighted in my two impeccable sources (found a few minutes ago, through Google, of course):


I especially like how — in that second link — somebody was searching for a definition for the word “shmoetry.”

By the way, I don’t know whether regular readers  have noticed this, but I like letting other people — on the internet, or anywhere —  do my work for me, especially when it comes to giving details or establishing credibility for any concept I feel like writing about.  That’s because I can get a little impatient with details.

In other words, details, shmetails.

Anyway, let’s get back to today’s concept which was ….


Actually, let me take a step back and define fame this way:  as a function of attention.

Fame is attention, to the nth power.  Attention, on steroids.

And what is attention?

Attention is being seen, heard, recognized, and understood, for who we are.  We yearn for attention and often need it, to survive.

Who among us do not want to be seen, heard, recognized, and valued?  And the more we experience each other authentically (letting go of all those things that get in the way of understanding and being understood), the more connected — and the less isolated — we can be.

Many years ago, when I attended an Opening the Heart Workshop at Spring Hill, we worked on writing a personal, customized affirmation.

This is what I came up with:

I deserve to be seen, heard, and loved, exactly the way I am.

Now, as I’m including that affirmation in this post, I wonder about your reactions to it. Affirmations can seem hokey and clichéd, I know.  However,  that affirmation was really important to me, because — when I wrote it —  I didn’t BELIEVE that statement.  Like so many other people I’ve witnessed, I’ve often added too many qualifiers. Instead of that simple affirmation,  this is what I can believe, instead:

 I deserve to be seen, heard, and loved ONLY IF  (I do enough, don’t make mistakes, make a difference, have enough friends, look good enough,  etc.)

When I wrote that affirmation at the workshop, so many years ago,  it seemed so radical and weird. I’ve worked on believing it, ever since.  And, I’m happy to report that I do believe that affirmation more and more, as each year goes by.  (That’s one big reason I’m such a fan of aging.) (So far, anyway.)

So much for affirmations. Why did I start with FAME, on this beautiful morning?

Well, we live in a culture where fame is valued. And valuing fame makes sense, doesn’t it?  Fame is like hitting the Seen Heard  & Loved JACKPOT.

Also, I grew up in a family where certain celebrities were admired (including singers and comedians).  My father, who was a terrific singer and perhaps the funniest person I’ve ever met, might have felt a little frustrated in his chosen profession (as a pharmacist).  He was a born performer, and he was wonderful at it. While he had an outlet at social gatherings, at the synagogue, and basically everywhere he was, I got the sense he  was somewhat dissatisfied, that he wished he had a wider audience.

But maybe not.  I wish I could ask him, right now.

But I can’t.

So I guess I’m trying to figure out the meaning of fame —  for myself and perhaps in memory of my father, too.

These days (and I know I’ve written about this before, in this blog), I feel like that any yearning for fame can trip me up.  Using a Fame Measure can cause me to  judge and doubt the validity of what I’m doing. For example:  How many people will discover my blog?  How many people will discover the group work I’m doing?  How many people will know that I’ve lived with a cardiac pacemaker longer than anybody else in the world*?

But then I think:

Numbers, shmumbers.

And I ask myself these questions:

Do you love your work?


Are you getting a lot out of writing this blog?


No matter what your history is with pacemakers, is a pacemaker helping you live a full and healthy life, right now?


Okay, then!

Here are my concluding thoughts:

Past, schmast.  Future, shmuture.

In the moment, it’s all good.

Thanks for reading, shmeading, or whatever else you did here, today.

* In 2014, I found out this claim was NOT true. See here for more about that.)

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 71: The Secret to Life is Three Things

Cristian Mihai is one of my favorite bloggers here.  This post of his showed up in my reader today.

That post, titled “Three easy steps to achieving what you want,” inspired me to write about something that I consider one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.

About 20 years ago, I attended a weekend retreat — the  Opening the Heart Workshop — run by an organization which was then called “Spring Hill”.  (Spring Hill was a gorgeous location in Ashby, MA, and there are some pictures of that beautiful spot in the link above.)

During that weekend, one of the presenters told us this.

The secret to life is three things:

(1)  Show up.

(2)  Be gentle.

(3)  Tell the truth.

That’s it.

Since that weekend, I have shared that gift with many, many people.  I sometimes invite people to notice that “be gentle” also means to be gentle with yourself.

A lot of people have told me they find this gift really useful.

20 months ago, when I left the day treatment program where I’d worked for 12 years, one of my esteemed colleagues there gave me this clock as a going-away present:


I keep this clock in my office.  I sometimes show this clock to people who come to therapy for the first time.  I think it’s a pretty good beginner’s How-To description of therapy.

So now that we’ve discussed the secret to life, I guess it’s time to end this blog post.


One more thing, though. When I got the photo of the clock off my phone, I noticed another photo I took recently, which is making me wonder if I should amend the title of this post.  

Maybe the secret of life also includes a fourth thing:



(4) A bunny cake.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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