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by Joyce Johnson

In a self help group many years ago I heard honest to god real communication for the first time in my life, and it caught my heart, more than content or the sometimes heart-pulling stories did. It was as though the room was brightly lit. Over time I learned to express myself without fear of judgment from those humble people. And yet I understand and respect withholding personal truth too. It is safer, and a cautious necessity in the larger arena of life, these days.

Fun Hearts: Ron makes me smile most mornings when he shuffles by, sleepy-eyed, past my desk to the front door, one or two aging old dogs under his arms, and for 30 years an African Grey rode on his shoulder and often said good morning to me (the parrot did) Ron’s wild white hair sticking out; his big feet even bigger in thick slippers; his robe tied uneven, half the collar outside in. A big ol’ Hobbit I think still. Or just a tall white haired kid. Mom said when Iwas just a few months old at my baby baptism, surrounded by family and congregation at Angeles Vista Presbyterian church in LA., Reverend Stoddard reverently dipped a rose in holy water, said formal stuff, and sprinkled me lightly on the head to bless and welcome me to the world. I giggled, grabbed the rose and whacked him back. (Only a few months old and already had an fun heart, an inner clown.)

Challenged hearts: Ancient paths teach meditation to turn off the mind’s subtle negative “interruptions”—the voice of ego it’s called, that bounces off buried wounds. I will use myself as example: When I catch myself suffering with bad thoughts, or elevated dumb arguments with a spouse, or friend, or the world,... I try to remember to pivot attention to peace instead. I’m learning. No gold stars yet. It takes a strong intention and believe it or not, courage. Life work. But the art of breathing, or meditation, works real well. Right now just focus on breathing; count to 6 with in-breath, hold 6, and 6 out-breath. Repeat several times. How easy is that! Use higher or lesser numbers. Do it every day to burn it in. And, so what happens is when you’re in a conflict you might remember to put your palm out kindly for a time-out. Then close eyes or for a fun effect, roll them up, and take a slow, deep in-breath and count out loud to six, and 6 out. It would actually amuse, distract, confuse, and de-charge your opponent. And, squelch your whining ego to boot!. A win win thing. For some reason breathing on purpose and counting keeps the brain busy and causes negative thoughts and their feelings to go away. I think that’s what counting sheep to get to sleep is about. We have the power to control our minds. We all just have to take responsibility for it. “Don’t hold your breath,” you say?

Sports Heart: Life is a game of taking risks, if you ask me. It’s reflected in our arts, and clearly, and most fun, in sports. Baseball especially which is full of symbolism. A four-sided playing field symbolic of 4 seasons? The batter steps up to the plate, (symbolizing courage) and swings the bat around a few times to loosen his muscles, and show off a little. And then fast (as the speed of light) comes that hard little white ball from those cool, intimidating (show-offy) pitcher poses. We hope the batter (us) doesn’t miss, (but we get 3 chances!). Then, “whack!”or thump: just a modest punt, or a grounder that goes zooming past the basemen and fielders. But we wait for that great “crack!” of the magic fly ball that sails toward

the sun, high and over the fence into the crowd or out of the park. Everyone is in the breathless NOW, as we relate to the beautiful home run that happens, and leap to our feet while hot dogs and pop are dropped,...and a collective roar of victory is heard.

Collective Heart! Choirs of hundreds of people sang in traditional Song Fests during the communist occupation of Estonia and it is reported that it strongly affected an end to the takeover. Seriously good singing too, I read. That culture sings all the time from birth just about, traditionally. The human voice is powerful. When we add positive or sacred lyrics to the math of music and harmony, it makes it more so. It’s science. Everyone knows how to sing—off key? Who cares?—it’s the guess what? …. heart that fuels it.

The heart of Park County: No small pond really. Founded: Feb., 1887 How big? 2,813 sq miles, How many people live here? 17,659,... and growing. We are a recent news item as the busiest state in the country receiving people moving here from the big cities—I hope we will see as a result an end to all the help wanted signs, and the sad closing of our small businesses. Many of our newcomers are like us: they came here looking for freedom, nature, a good home for kids—looking for the last best place. We have walked in their moccasins. Because Montana has a free spirit tradition and despite that it’s hard to live here half the year, we draw the freedom seekers. We love our traditional values and trust that those who do not, will be drawn elsewhere.

I do believe that everything boils down to Quality of heart …the measure of our essential nature and Self.How often and well did we choose to love instead. Forgive and tolerate, as we run around and engage with each other. Sound easy? But it isn’t. When my feathers get fluffed out from relationship tangles and life’s’ um….fowl balls, I suffer inside which if prolonged makes me sick. I try to see the truth, now, in me, and catch my ego’s clever blame throwing ways; Others are trying their best, like me, to navigate life on a wounded planet. We tell each other not to judge, but we all do anyway at least silently. Better yet try to walk in their moccasins and find respect and compassion there almost every time—and judge softly if at all, from the heart. Takes personal courage.

The precious heart of a child: I remember flattening myself up against the chain link fence and crying out in terror when Mom left me day one in kindergarten. Strong, Taurian chin out, she walked quickly away, and I stood sobbing, my little fingers hooked onto the chain links,…Then I felt a tug on my shirt! It was a little boy my age who said, “Its okay, don’t cry.” He took my hand and pulled me down on the bench next to him. He had beautiful red hair. His name was Keith Harris. I stopped crying. Later at about 6 or 7, I visited a hospital with my troop of 10 little Blue Birds (Pre- Campfire Girls). When they asked if one of us wanted to go over to a group of patients in wheelchairs and give the lady who was crying, a hug, none of the girls moved. I was afraid and yet I slowly walked heart beating fast (like it is now in recall,) all eyes on me...the 30 feet to the patient. I could not resist the woman with tears who only wanted a hug from a child. I remember being in her moccasins. Wish I could find Keith now to tell him this: “Because of your little big heart, I became a consoling child of others.”

“And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” Kahil Gibran.

I made a typo on last issue. [Jalisco, means a “sandy” place, and is by the way, a State in Mexico known for the birth of Mariachi music and tequila! Please excuse me for writing Fiesta DJ instead of EJ at the end of last issue article. I try to catch the typos. One always gets away.]


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