“Open your heart,” he said, at the same time using both hands to pull from the center of his chest – as if pulling ribs to expose – to “open” his heart. I watch unmoved by the words and gesticulated reminder of Hanuman – mythological Hindu deity who rips his chest open to reveal Lord Krishna seated in the mystical heart.
Smiling now, he does it again while repeating his words. Hands posed as if gripping, pulling. Ribs parting, tearing flesh, bending bones. Intention without reservation. “Just open your heart!”
I don’t argue, he’s right of course. And yet these words and actions fail to move me – have no practical application in this moment. He’s spoken as if in answer to unspoken questions. “Which way?” “What now?” He’s trying to guide, though I’ve not asked directly. An unsmiling face tells my story. “Great graphic,” I say flatly. “Hows that supposed to work?” I add with a rhetorical edge.
Home is where the heart is! All those other references to the heart being the “heart” of the matter. Yes! What could be better than an open heart, one that reveals and releases good feeling and orienting emotions. Insight, one hopes. Yes, open your heart! Wasted words. Wasted when spoken to someone indulging any of a multitude self centered contractions. And not wasted. Maybe not immediately applicable, but always there, remembered when a reminder is needed… like right now.
“So, how ya doing?” he had asked at first, opening the conversation, I’m tempted to joke – to “accuse” him of asking a trick question. “How ya doing?”, when asked from the perspective of Awakened Mind, is the funniest thing anyone could say! “Who’s asking?”, being the correct answer when the listener is equally aware. “Who, indeed!” being one of any number of Awakened rejoinders. Biting the words before they reach my lips, this was a joke reserved for those who embody the truth of these questions and answers. I just know them – know them in my head. This is not a time for head games.
It’s Wednesday. Forty six people have gathered at for Sesshin, here in the Catskill mountains of New York. Removed from all but the occasional jet engine high above, the monastery holds us in silence. Birds call. Rain falling on roof tiles. These sounds, only these sounds.
Speaking with my friend, this teacher, silence is broken but not violated. He says other things that make me laugh. He says things knowing I won’t be able to resist a laugh, as with laughter the heart opens, even if just a little. Laughter opens the gate. The gate-less gate. The image is intriguing, a challenge to those on the outside. An affirmation to those who, having passed through, turn to see that there is no – never was a barrier.
“Open your heart,” he tells me again. I’m amused. I get it. I just haven’t got it yet. I can’t help but laugh a little.