Wednesday, July 09, 2008

heart exercises

"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."

in a desire to see things move from the cerebral to the actual, i propose to you something that was proposed to me by the spirit about 2 years ago. i call them "heart exercises." you may find them useful, you may not. but, at the very least, i think they are worth giving a whirl.

i had been agonizing over having a faith that, when followed, made me into a grade A asshole. very much an "us&them" style of faith, which of course had its results in the way i looked at and treated other people. i'm not proud, it just is what it is. one day, however, as my beliefs about the cross changed and i began to see it as something much more wide open and accepting, god spoke to my heart, unexpectedly, in line at the grocery store.

"if you truly believe that my son's blood is for everyone, and that all are now brothers and sisters at this moment, though some unaware, then i want you to focus all of your energy on the person in front of you. first break through the invisible wall that you place in your mind to keep others out. really notice that person standing here with you in this place in real time and space and realize there is no wall between you. next, i want you to allow your heart to experience what it would experience if this was your brother or sister or a really good friend that you had not seen for awhile. then, when experienced, hold that person in your heart and imagine how you would speak to them, if they were indeed a long lost someone. would there be burgeoning excitement? perhaps hugs? smiles? a brightness to your eyes? an excitement that might be hard to contain? try it."

i did, and i found myself surprised at how quickly my heart was able to open up and make room for this "stranger." as i began to practice this more and more and found myself able to open my heart easily and fil with warmth and love for someone i never met, essentially removing my fear of someone i didn't know, the spirit then asked me to open my mouth. not to that person, but when my heart was filled with that openness and acceptance and love, to then turn that towards the cashier and strike up a conversation about anything but with this emotive and spiritual force behind it. it was literally amazing to hear the things that would come out of my mouth naturally and the smiles that these people would offer up as someone reahced across the fake lines of treating them as slaves, or even worse, machines, or worse still, invisible. to recognize them as human and give them a little human interaction.

the final step in these preliminary exercises was to then, while standing in line, tear down my wall entirely and begin to fell with my heart and spirit the entirety of the store and realize there are no walls between aisles, we're all together in a wide open room with shelving, but really, this is a place filled with many humans who need and deserve the same kind of love and acceptance. and then, to hold everyone in the building in my heart in the same fashion.

as a result, i have learned how to look anyone in the eye without fear and connect with them at a heart level. from the shyest person to the "hardest-pipe-hitting-brother" i have been able to learn how to cut through people's masks and see them where they live inside.

if this at all sounds interesting to you, i would be interested to hear of your experiences if you give it a shot. remember, step one requires nothing of you but an open heart. no words, no encounters, no pressure. just an open heart waiting to be found.


Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... never heard it put quite in those terms, but yeah, my friend and I call it 'seeing' people, as in seeing the real person inside. I don't do it all the time. Sometimes, it is all I can manage to just keep myself afloat. But even in those times, if someone comes across my radar, so to speak, it is becoming easier to be open and smile and engage than to hide and pull away.

Nate said...

Sherri, my wife for those of you that don't know her name, taught me this. She has a gift for it. She has been in so many nasty situations in life, and keeps such a wonderful outlook, it really amazes me, and everyone around her. Also those around her brighten when they see that she is coming. She will also talk with anyone, anywhere. While she was doing this one day, the same type of lesson Jon spoke about hit me. Now, cashiers brighten when I come in. People perk up a bit, and become a bit happier. They will also tell you things that they will not tell anyone else. They will ask your advice, becuase you are the only one who seems to care. That is a great responsibility, because they actually take that advice. Some of the things that they ask could destroy the family they are in if done incorrectly. But, all in all, it does make ME feel as though I am accomplishing something for the kindom when this happens. Again no horn blowing, just my experience with it.

Erin said...

Ok guys, so do you have to be an extrovert for this to work? Because I am such an innie that I struggle to look people in the eye and talk to them. They might actually SAY something to me.

Not always...but probably daily, I avoid someone's eyes.

All my life people have thought I'm weird and say stupid it's a deeply ingrained fear. I want what is described here, but I really struggle with it.

Ruth said...

Great post. I've experienced something similar. I'll be back when I collect my thoughts

Erin - I wouldn't have guessed that about you. You are such an extrovert on line. But I identify with what you are saying. I'm an introvert too depending on the situation.

Katherine Gunn said...


No, I don't think being an extrovert is required. I am not one - be any means. ;-)

For me, it began with just smiling at people as they crossed my space. And it isn't something that you can force - they have to want to engage, too.

One example, though, for me is a grocery clerk. I just made small talk with her initially - then, over time, we talked and now, when she sees me, she comes out from behind the counter and gets a hug - calls me an angel. Her son works at a local coffee shop and he does the same - comes from behind the counter to get a hug. It takes a little time, too. ;-)

jON said...

i brought up this topic for a twofold reason. 1.- i felt lead. 2.- i thought it would be a good primer for any who do not have experience. and i wanted to start discussion for those who may have had experience with it to strengthen and encourage one another. okay, so there's 3. but it's good to know that we have responses from all across the spectrum. i love hearing you guys talk amongst yourselves and i'm glad you feel comfortable enough with each other to do it without needing me here to moderate. :)

so let's go from beginner to advanced levels here.

erin, i would echo that you need not be an extrovert. which is why i also said that to begin the exercises, nothing is required of you other than to open your heart (inwardly) towards someone you don't already know. and in a place where you will have some time to practice that feeling. to solidify it within. which is why i believe god used the grocery store line with me, but i don't think he's really dogmatic about it. just focus on them and how you would feel if you were willing to let them into your world with complete acceptance and eagerness. words or contact not required.

i also agree with ruth that you do not seem very introverted here in this place. which, concurrent with the heart exercises, was the other thing god used to help banish my fear and open me up. having a space where i am able to speak freely and uncensored allows me to feel more comfortable with doing so and it spills out into my real life. i find myself saying things out loud these days that i would never have been able to muster up the courage for a couple of years ago. think what about bob? baby stepping...

katherine & nate - this building of relationships, of being able to help people in the moment with HUGE life issues... this i think is what god was looking for. i have found relationships since then where people do get all giddy and run for hugs as well as people spilling and entrusting their deepest darkest secrets all within a few moments of meeting.

yet, what to do with that. is that enough? is that all that this is for? a nomadic existence of moments? or are these steps baby steps along a much grander path as well?

sorry. i'm just asking because not many people in the greater sense utilize this ability and it is difficult to get discussion and feedback. thanks for sharing what you have so far.

Katherine Gunn said...


The clerk that runs for a hug... that is not all she does. She tells me what's going on. The son, when I ran into him (he saw me from a distance and went out of his way, actually) to introduce me to his new girlfriend. They talk to me about what's going on with their lives - there lack of feeling like they want to go to church (ha!), etc.

In my experience so far, these encounters have been mostly transient. So far, anyway... ;-)

Ruth said...

'very much an "us&them" style of faith, which of course had its results in the way i looked at and treated other people. '

This is where the pardigm shift starts. I used to see it that way too. However, I went back and forth between being the "us" and the "them". I never felt I belonged anywhere. I didn't feel a heart connection to either camp. I remember one time when I was about 17 someone analyzed my handwriting and said I had a double life. That was really freaky cause it was true and no one knew that but me.

About 5 or 6 years ago - when I started to get a real heart connection to the Lord I started to see things different. I started to see all people as God's created children whom he knew intimately. When I looked at a person through their heart, it didn't matter what camp they were in. Who knows where anyone is on their path in life but God? But I do know that God created us all in his image and we can have a heart connection on that level.

Somehow, that opened up the door for me to be myself in BOTH CAMPS and give of myself rather than trying to conform to the NORM in either camp. I hope I'm making sense here.

On a side note Katherine - your experience with the grocery clerk is very inspiring.

wanting more said...

Erin...I, like you, find it easier to open up here also. I'm an innie too...and for much the same reasons. I'm always afraid of the response of the other person because so often it's been negative and, maybe this is our place to start! And, as I was reading this...and considering the "baby steps," I guess you really don't have to SPEAK to someone first, just in your mind, then in your heart, see them differently. I'm going to try it!

One Voice of Many said...

Spending all of my life under the "go out and make converts" teaching has always had me at a dead end with meeting people. I never felt sure enough in my faith to "witness" to people (as it was proposed to me). I, also, am not an extrovert and haven't felt confident enough in myself to show concern for others. I guess overall I've just lived a very selfish and secluded life.

coming to the end of the compulsion to make converts has given me the freedom to open to other people and simply be kind to them. I consider for a moment that we're all just shells that encompass a unique personality and without listening to what's coming from inside the person, we're never really making contact.

I'm not sure, but I think that lines up with what you're suggesting here. Maybe?

jON said...

absolutely, michelle. dead on, in fact. i realized at a certain point that two things were happening when i would encounter people.
1. - i simply would feel uncomfortable and close myself off to them because i felt that they were sinners and getting comfortable with them would somehow rub their sinfulness off on me and make god displeased.
2. - if contact was somehow established then i was always, like you, trying to think of how to get them to become a christian. because that's what you need to do to be a "good christian" is make more christians. right?

so i never really listened to them. i never opened my heart to them. i was always just waiting for something they said to give me an opening for trying to convince them of something.

this is totally different. one of the things the spirit brought to mind during this transitional phase was paul's statment that "it is no longer i who live but christ who lives in me."

through these experiences i began to realize that if this is true, i don't need to worry about the best way to "share christ" with people. sharing christ with people is now as easy as sharing myself.

but first i needed to know who i was. very much like what you were saying, ruth. i too had been living a double life. but that, for me, would be a whole 'nother post altogether. a rampant problem within the church, though. and one i believe needs remedying.

karilynnbryant - i am very excited to hear that you are going to give it a go. let us know what happens, if anything, please? i am so very curious now...

thank you kids for stopping by and engaging me in this topic.

katherine, i am still pondering the transitory nature of such encounters and whether they point towards something larger. or if they are simply one-offs? the tiniest encounter with a person can have such a huge impact in the greater scheme of things.

i am at the point where i have enough people who are loosely connected and gather together every once in a while and help each other out whenever possible and i wonder. is that good enough for what it is? or is it still going to evolve more into something else...?

One Voice of Many said...

is that good enough for what it is? or is it still going to evolve more into something else...

Your question here is very interestingly timed for me. My family is evolving into something else that has pulled on us unexpectedly. I keep saying that I'll blog about it soon. I really will. I'm having a hard time mentally again these days. I used to be sane -- way back once upon a time ;-) In the meantime, I'm having anxiety which causes a chemical dump which results in thinking as if in a fog. So I'm not trying to leave cliff hangers I just want to get my thoughts together on it before I start up a conversation on it.

Still... very interesting that you are pondering that aspect. I think that as long as one has a support system of some kind, the kingdom is still accessible. My darkest days are those that have no crack in the bricks to let another's hand stretch in to give a touch.

Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... I think that that depends on the individuals... I know that one encounter with love, even though transitory, can change the course of someone's life. I've seen that firsthand. I'm kind of at the place where I am open, but do not want to force things. That is what the church used to push on us was the idea that we had to overcome our fears (misgivings?) and just "witness." And to do it like you said - always looking for a way to make them a Christian - required forcing situations. Ugh! So I am more into letting things flow more naturally, now. Much less stressful. Much more authentic. ;-)