Posts Tagged heart

Just Blurt Out Whatever Comes Up


Say What's On Your MindI’m on a Jet Blue flight to San Francisco.  The purpose of my journey is a two-day “personal retreat” in Sonoma with my teachers, Saniel and Linda-Groves Bonder.  The retreat is part of an intensive ten-month course entitled “The White-Hot Yoga of the Heart.”

I’m concerned about filling the two days with Saniel and Linda with enough meaningful material to discuss.  It will be just the three of us.  No other students will be present, which is usually the case with the other “in person” retreats and the tele-course seminars.  I won’t be able to snooze or go off into my own little world.  There will be no opportunities to take “time off” during our sessions.  Gulp.

We’ll spend some time working on marketing projects that I’ve initiated and we’ll take a trip to the beach or the mountains.  We’ll do some meditation.  This still leaves a lot of time to fill in two days, including lunch and dinner.

We’ll talk about “my stuff,” or in more dignified terms, “my process.”  As I’ve grown on this path, I’ve become less inclined to talk about myself, yet some self-talk is necessary.  It’s a challenge to decide what is worth talking about and what isn’t.  I suppose it’s hard to know in advance what to talk about, but it makes sense to come ready with a few notes.  When push comes to shove, I think the shotgun approach is the best way to go: just blurt out whatever comes up on the topics I’ve come prepared to discuss.  The golden nuggets will spew forth in the midst of the dross.

I’ve learned to try to listen to feedback and not sit there thinking about what to say next.  For me, that’s easier said than done.

Lately, I’ve developed the habit of saying succinctly what little I have to say.    This new habit only exacerbates the problem of how to fill the time.  My teachers are experts in filling the awkward gaps in conversation.  Still, I feel responsible for coming to the retreat with enough material to fill the space.  I’m not exactly brimming over with material.

I’ll just have to be cool and see what happens.  I’ll fill you in on the flight home.

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Heart Seat Share


winding corridor to my heartThis past week I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives and their process of awakening with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I decided to write my heart share down and read it to the group.

Here I am.  It’s my time to share.  Please excuse me if I repeat some of the things I said in the small group.  Wait a minute.  I really don’t want to repeat myself.  Why don’t I just check in with myself to see what’s happening.  I can go deeper if I write this all down.

I imagine myself walking down a long flight of steps in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.*

Leaving the first floor stairwell, I encounter a winding corridor with abrupt ups and downs spaced randomly for no apparent reason, maybe just to keep things interesting.  Fortunately, I’m walking along a single corridor with no doorways or branches where I have to choose which way to go.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that these very same feet are taking me to a place I want to go.

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a plain, wooden door, not a wrought iron gate, no carvings in the wood or lettering, not even a white coat of paint.  I wonder why the door isn’t more elaborate.  I’d certainly make it so if I were writing a story.  But this is sharing.  I don’t have to impress anyone with my incredible powers of imagination.  I simply have to say how it is.

I grab the plain brass handle on the plain wooden door, turn it, and nothing happens.  The door is firmly locked.  I knock a few times and wait.  Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer the door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before.  I’ve come to realize this place is the door to my heart.  No big discovery, no unique metaphor, just the plain old door to my heart.

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of that heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing here like an idiot, all by myself.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a few burblings, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side of the door in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down in place.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up.  Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing.  Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

“Is that it?

“Yes, David. I must say you’re doing quite nicely.  THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART.  Hang in there.  You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

*The first floor of my chest cavity is actually the highest floor in relation to my feet.  The floors numbers increase as you take each flight of stairs down, which is the opposite case in most buildings.

**The construction of an elevator is underway.  Please pardon our dust and debris while we make this a better living space for your comfort, convenience, and safety.

***Photo by http://www.thisarchitecture.com

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The Case of the Missing Box Office


Escaping from his empty life, traveling salesman Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti –L) discovers the joys of karaoke singing and a new friend in ex-con and soulful singer Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher –R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

I like movies with heart. “Duets” is a movie with a big heart that nobody went to see.  Well, almost nobody.  Despite an intelligent, one-of-a-kind script and a star-studded cast, “Duets” tallied a mere 4.73 million dollars in domestic box office sales.* In terms of Hollywood studio economics this paltry sum is tantamount to a financial implosion.

“Duets” is (mostly) a feel-good road movie about people following their hearts and discovering who they are. I don’t see any harm in a story like that, particularly if you can add a few new twists and keep  folks smiling.  I thought “Duets” did both, but a lot of people disagreed.

I can find only two explanations why “Duets,” a movie I liked, was so universally overlooked by the movie-going public. Explanation 1: I have very bad taste. Explanation 2: An overwhelming number of negative reviews by movie critics cut off the hand that feeds the box office.

According to Metacritic® (www.metacritic.com) a sample of 29 professional movie critics gave “Duets” an average rating of 40 % out of 100. In contrast, a sample of twelve “Users” (people) gave the movie a rating of 8.8 points out of 10. (I realize this is a small sampling of “Users,” but let’s not forget that not many people saw this movie.)

According to this compact study then, “Duets” is a predominantly people friendly movie with an allergy to movie critics.

Here are a few typical movie critic reviews:

“Miserable as it crawls for two eternal hours towards being “life affirming.” Wesley Morris, San Francisco Examiner

“Simply creaks with contrivance—particularly in its overwrought finale.” Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald

“A leaden piece of whimsy that looks for profound life lessons among a group of karaoke bar aficionados.” Steve Daly, Entertainment Weekly

To be fair, some critics praised “Duets, as evidenced by these reviews:

“A highly likable movie.” M.V. Moorhead, Dallas Observer.

“Appealing, and ultimately moving.” Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle.

Gwyneth Paltrow (L) stars as Liv, an innocent Las Vegas showgirl in search of a connection to a lone wolf karaoke hustler (Huey Lewis–R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

Now let’s hear from a few movie-goers:

“Her name was Lola. She was a show girl…dah de dah de dah. This movie was fun interesting and catchy. What is better?” James R.

“This movie is engaging, the story unfolds around the music, and Paul Giamatti is great. Apart some predictable things typical nowadays in American movies (family values, etc.), this movie is fun.” Pablo E.

“I loved it. Movie critics suck.” Stephanie R.

“The karaoke scenes were great…the film got me.” John O.

“Bette Davis Eyes…I like this song! Especially when Gwyneth Paltrow sang it.” Jiae K.  (I agree with you, Jiae. Paltrow sings the song like a sultry angel in her own voice–no dubbing.)

It’s interesting to note the difference between the critical reviews and the “User” reviews.  Critics, for the most part, write about the movie from a purely intellectual and artistic point of view. Believe it or not, I feel strongly this point of view does the movie-going public a disservice. For a more detailed explanation of what I mean by this, please read my earlier post, “Do Movie Critics Have a Heart?”

The people who commented on “Duets” experienced the movie in a completely different way than the critics. They connected with the movie emotionally.  They had a good time. People primarily go to the movies to be entertained. I believe this is a fact most movie critics tend to forget.

Here is my own somewhat extended review of the movie.

The script weaves the stories of three sets of people into a road movie unified by the common thread of karaoke. I give the screenwriter, John Byrum, credit for coming up with this unique concept. Before watching the movie, I never knew karaoke bars existed, and people competed in karaoke competitions for cash prizes. I discovered an entire karaoke subculture and its attendant technology. One of the things a good movie will do is open a door to a world you’ve never experienced before. For me, Duets succeeded admirably in this regard.

Down on his luck cabbie Billy Hannon(Scott Speedman–L) comes to the rescue of wannabe singing star Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello–R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

Good music of any kind never fails to stir the human soul. This comes through in the “User review” excerpts. I found the music and the surprising singing talent of the “A” list actors showcased in “Duets” both refreshing and moving. I am astonished that movie critics, in large part, failed to respond to the musical dimension of “Duets.”

“Hard to take stone-cold sober,” writes critic Jack Matthews of the New York Daily Times.

Instead of asking, “Do movie critics have are heart,” I wonder if it might be more appropriate to ask, “Do movie critics have a heart beat?”

What about the acting? Well, Huey Lewis is definitely a better singer than actor. But I thought he basically got the job done in his role as a karaoke hustler and recalcitrant father. I have some questions about the choices Gwyneth Paltrow made in playing her role as Lewis’ long-lost daughter. I think she was going for innocent, but I didn’t feel it worked.  I’d say this was the one major flaw in the film. I thought the other stars, Giamatti, Braugher, andMaria Bello all brought “A list” luster and ingenuity to their roles.

I found the three stories in the movie appealing, and yes, even insightful, some more than others. I enjoy movies that have the unmitigated gall (according to critics) to explore questions like “What the hell am I doing here?” or “What does it take to be a good person?”

I believe the emotional center of the movie revolves around the disillusioned-with-the American-Dream character of Paul Giamatti playing opposite Andre Braugher, an ex-con. Braugher (Life on the Street) brings his customary moral compass and dignity to the role, plus a singing voice you would not believe he commands if you had not heard it yourself. This can also be said for Gwyneth Paltrow, and to a slightly lesser degree, Paul Giamatti and Maria Bello.

I connected with “Duets” emotionally. Like John O said, “…this movie got me.”

I’ll close by saying it’s very hard to make a compelling, engaging movie that switches back and forth between three different stories.Yet here I am, twelve years later, still thinking about “Duets.” Am I smart or senile to like this movie? Why did it fail at the box office?” Did “Duets” make a comeback in movie rental receipts?

If you have the answers to any of these questions, I’d love to hear from you.

*September 17th to October 29, 2000. Source: Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge engine (www.wolframalpha.com)

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