THE OPEN HEART
Let's start with a prayer: Father, Mother, God; thank You for Your immense love for me. I ask You for the grace to open my heart and receive Your love more and more each day. Please reveal to me any unhealed hurts or wounds within me that are impacting my full receptivity to the Love You offer me freely at every moment. Please guide me to see more clearly the obstacles I create and the ways that I deflect Your love. I desire to bring Your healing love to others, and I know that to do so effectively, I need to first experience Your healing love myself. Thank you, Father. Amen.
In this coming month of thanksgiving and gratitude, we will explore the way of the Whole Heart, and we will look at what it means to live from a place of wholeheartedness. Wholeheartedness is defined as having a heart that is:
I think this is important work for us during the month of November because this is a time of year that our hearts can sometimes close down, can't they?
It can happen because we are in overwhelm, or because this time of year brings up sadness from the past, or for a variety of other reasons.
So, each week in November, we will take one of the aspects of wholeheartedness. Today is having an Open Heart, and I want to begin with a story - a true story.
It's a story about a young boy named Shaya who was a student at a Chush in Brooklyn, New York. What is a Chush, you might ask!? It is a Jewish school that caters to learning-disabled children. Shaya attended the Chush during the week, and on Sundays, he went to the yesh-iva (a Torah Institute) where he was with classmates without learning disabilities.
One Sunday afternoon, Shaya and his father came to the yesh-iva as his classmates were playing baseball.
The game was in progress and, as Shaya and his father made their way toward the ball field, Shaya said, "Dad, do you think I could play in the game?"
Now, here's what Shaya's father knew:
He knew that his son was not at all athletic;
He knew that he didn't have the hand/eye coordination to hit the ball with the bat;
He that knew that his son couldn't run very fast and, most of all;
He knew that none of the boys would want him on their team.
But Shaya's father knew something else as well. He knew that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him such a sense of belonging and connection that it was worth the risk to ask.
So, I want to stop the story for just a moment and ask you to check in with your heart. How open and willing is it to ask for what you want even though you may "know" all the reasons why you might not get it? Be honest with yourself about that.
Let me say it again. How open and willing is your heart to ask for what you want even though you may "know" all the reasons why you might not get it?
I mean, you might be right - you might not get it. You might be turned down and that would hurt. You might feel rejected or unloved or unworthy or even upset at yourself for asking in the first place and you say to yourself (perhaps even unconsciously) "That was such a dumb thing to ask or to go for; I'll never do that again"!
Has that ever happened to you and has your heart closed because of it? Those are just questions to ponder this morning.
But for now, let's get back to Shaya and the baseball game in progress.
Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked, "Do you think my son Shaya could get into the game?"
The boy squirmed a bit. Looked down at his feet and then looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he had a moment of choice. To open or to close his heart.
And in that moment, he chose to open it to a young boy who could add nothing of value to their team! And he said,
"We are losing by six runs and the game is already in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team, and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."
Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.
It's now the bottom of the eighth inning, and Shaya's team is up. In that inning, they scored three runs. They were still behind by three runs, but they were getting closer.
Now we are at the top of the ninth inning and the other team goes to bat and scores nothing. So now we are in the bottom of the ninth inning. Shaya's team scored again, and that run put them only two runs behind.
Two of the batters on Shaya's team strike out, but the next three batters get on base.
Here's the situation - the team has two outs, but the bases are loaded. In other words, the potential winning runs are on the bases and guess who was in the line up to bat! Of course -- Shaya! His father held his breath.
Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surely not!
Much to the father's surprise, delight as well as utter terror (isn't it interesting how we can have all those emotions whirling around in us at the same time!), Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit.
Everyone knew that it was all but impossible - they had seen Shaya warming up. He didn't know how to hold the bat properly, let alone how to hit a ball with it.
But as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the dynamics, the energy, the tone, of the entire game changed. The pitcher moved in a few steps toward the home plate and rather than sending Shaya a fast ball or a curve ball or a slider or a knuckle ball or any other type of pitch that Shaya clearly would have had zero chance of hitting, he lobbed the ball in softly to Shaya.
Despite the gentle lob, not surprisingly, Shaya swung clumsily and missed.
At that, one of Shaya's teammates came up behind him and held the bat with him. He instructed Shaya to take the hitting stance, and they waited for the next pitch.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward and tossed the ball softly toward Shaya and his teammate.
As that pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball straight to the pitcher.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman - with no effort whatsoever. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Shaya's team would have lost; the other team would have won. End of story. But he didn't do that.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball in a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman's reach. And then everyone - Shaya's teammates, the boys on the other team and those in the stands - started yelling, "Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!"
Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He wasn't even sure what to do, but he saw the first baseman waving at him to run toward him, so he scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled.
When he reached first base, the first baseman motioned for him to continue running to second base and he did.
As that was happening, the right fielder had the ball. He could have easily thrown the ball to the second baseman who could have tagged Shaya out.
But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the second baseman's head, as everyone yelled, "Shaya, run to second! Shaya, run to second."
So Shaya ran toward second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases toward home.
As Shaya reached second base he stopped, but the opposing shortstop ran toward him, turned him toward third base and shouted, "Shaya, run to third!"
As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him chanting, "Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!" and no one from the opposing team picked up the ball to throw it home.
Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys -from both teams -- encircled him, and in a highlight of young Shaya's life, they lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero of the entire game.
So, why did I tell you that story? It was not to manipulate your feelings and see if I could make you cry - I promise - but, rather, to open your heart. Helen Keller said it perfectly when she said: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."a
We felt that story with our hearts because it was a story about hearts opened in a profound way. Hearts that opened to caring, hearts that opened to compassion, hearts that opened to kindness - or to summarize it . . . hearts that opened to love.
And although I doubt that any of those boys on either team would have considered that they had opened their hearts to caring or to compassion or to kindness or to love - in fact, that is what happened!
So, this morning as we look at one of the ways to live a wholehearted life, I want to offer a way we can open our hearts wider than they have been or keep them open if we think they might want to close during this time of year. And I want to do that by making just one point about love this morning that has a nuance of a difference from points made about love in the past.
Are you ready to receive it? Poke your neighbor and say, "Pay attention. This is really important." Lean in a little. OK, I think we're ready.
We have often heard, been told, that we must first love ourselves before we can love another. Right? And to put that in the language of this morning: We must open our hearts to self-love before we can truly open our hearts to love another. We have heard this, right? From me, I'm sure!
We may spend lots and lots of time and money with therapists, counselors, chaplains, and ministers trying to learn to love ourselves. And yet, we can only see our flaws, our mistakes, our missteps, our failings.
Or, we can only see ourselves through the eyes of other, unloving, misguided souls who neglected, hurt or abused us.
And so we try to love ourselves in spite of all of this, because something in us knows that we will be happier and that life will have greater meaning and purpose if we could just get there.
But here's the subtle difference I want to make this morning: We really don't need to try to love ourselves in spite of all of our shortcomings -- instead we need to OPEN our hearts to know ourselves AS Love.
The very essence of our worth, our purposefulness, our value lies in the Spiritual Truth that we ARE Love.
This is different -- subtle but hugely important! -- from loving yourself.
Joel Goldsmith once wrote: "Love does not come to us. Love is within us and we must open a way for it to escape."b
That's the open heart!
The 13th century Persian mystic Rumi wrote: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."c
That's the open heart!
Charles Fillmore, in Talks on Truth wrote: "We have been taught the beauties of love and its great power in the world, but no one else has explained that it has a center of action in the body, a center that was designed by the Creator to do a specific work."d
You have the right and the freedom to look there and to know yourself AS Love and then - here's the second part -- to be JOINED WITH THAT WHICH EXTENDS AND COMPLETES YOUR LOVE.
The boy who said yes to putting Shaya in the game and then the pitcher and all the boys on each team who helped him make the home run knew themselves as love. They didn't know it in their heads, but they knew it in their hearts.
And they then took actions which EXTENDED and COMPLETED their love. Just put yourselves in their shoes as they hoisted Shaya in the air after the home run.
How do you suppose they felt? The story said it was the highlight of young Shaya's life - I suspect it was a highlight in their lives as well.
You have the right to know yourself as love and then to be joined with that which extends and completes your love.
And, of course, when we do this - we are experiencing the Love of the Divine; the Love of God. You got that already, didn't you?
I love what Charles Fillmore wrote in Talks on Truth, and I am going to adjust it ever so slightly: "We may talk about the wisdom of God, but the love of God must be felt in the heart. It cannot be described, and one who has not felt it can have no concept of it from the descriptions of others. But the more we [open ourselves to love - to know ourselves as love and then to be joined with that which extends and completes our love], the stronger it grows in the consciousness, and if we persist in [doing this], we are sure to bring into our experience the feeling of that great love that is beyond description - the very love of God."e
I want to give you one other opportunity to open your hearts to feel the Love of God from an unexpected source. Another true story.
A few years ago, a three-year-old boy visiting a zoo in Chicago decided he wanted a closer look at the gorillas. He wiggled away from his parents, climbed over a railing, lost his footing and fell 18 feet into the gorilla enclosure.
Knocked unconscious by the fall, he lay helplessly on the ground in the midst of a group of gorillas. The boy's mother became (understandably) hysterical, onlookers were (understandably) horrified, and several people ran (in panic) to summon zoo officials.
But before anyone could get to the boy, one of the gorillas, Binti Jua, with her own 17-month-old baby riding on her back, brushed away the other gorillas and gently lifted the unconscious boy in her arms.
As the astonished crowd watched, she tenderly carried the child to the door of the gorilla cage and handed him to the attendant, who had by then arrived.
The boy spent 4 days in a hospital and fully recovered from the fall.f
Raise your opened arms above your head and say with me:
"Today I open my heart . . . to know myself AS Love . . . and I choose to join . . . with that which extends . . . and completes . . . my love." And so it is!
dCharles Fillmore, Talks on Truth
eCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth, p. 51
fA Daily Dose of Sanity Allan Cohen