I met Kathryn Samuelson at an event last fall… a psychic fair where we were both reading. During a lull in business, I took the opportunity to wander around and connect with other readers and vendors. Kathryn had copies of her book for sale; naturally I was interested in seeing if it could be a good fit for my shop.
Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be offers meditation prompts, reflections, and exercises. The book is organized into three sections, prefaced by a short set of instructions on how to use the book. The first contains images of flowers with a brief meditation prompt printed on each image–sort of like an oversize oracle card. The second section offers accompanying text for each image… short interpretations followed by questions to explore or a suggested focal point for the meditation. The final section offers more structured activities, including guided meditations and exercises. Some of these align to specific images from Section 1, others encourage the reader to select an image at will.
The images are all close-ups of various flowers and plants. Some plants are repeated, although each photograph by David Steiner is different. Out of the 56 images in the first section, 17 of them are water lilies and 15 are roses. The remainder of the images show chicory, red berries (my mother suspects it’s winter creeper), and a pretty purple spiky flower… This presentation works well for readers who appreciate repetition and subtle variations on a theme.
Meditation prompts on facing pages are often related: “Clouds exist on sunny days” appears across from “bright starlight illuminates the darkest night.” “The universe is a quantum universe” faces “the universe is a Newtonian universe;” “Accept that you are called to offer your best” sits next to “accept that sometimes you will fail.” These pairings offer opportunities for exploring both sides of an issue to develop a greater depth of understanding.
The exercises in the final section of the book come with preparation and follow-up instructions: prepare for the exercises by playing some meditation music and chanting a mantra for a few minutes to open your heart and throat chakras. Do one exercise, some of the exercises, or all of the exercises. Afterwards, quickly check in and answer three questions to help benchmark your spiritual development: Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Many of the exercises focus on writing, drawing or creating collages to reflect the messages received in meditation.
Overall, I’d recommend this book for people with some meditation experience rather than those just starting out. The exercises offer some questions for reflection, rather than explicit guidance. If you’re trying to look at an image, read the text in section 2 to guide your meditation, and do the exercise in section 3, things can get awkward unless you have someone else to facilitate. On that note, it’s a great book for anyone looking to lead guided meditation sessions as a group activity.
This book is also a good fit for those who want to do more writing or reflection through art, as opposed to those who want to perform some sort of more active ritual.
The flexibility to do some or all of the exercises in one sitting is good for people who want to vary the lengths of their meditations. If you want to work up to longer meditations over time but need some sort of variety, this book could definitely be a useful tool–pick one image to start with, then try doing two, then three and so on.
Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be
by Kathryn Samuelson. (c) 2013, Dog Ear Publishing.
Paperback, 168 pages.
Excerpts and images used here with permission.