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The Heart of the Matter - or is it a Matter of Heart?

Sibis Mouton

Dr Sibis Mouton facilitates the ZEST4LIFE selfgrowth workshops in Hermanus.

In 1999 I was having a leisurely summer's day exploring the sights and museums of St Tropez on the Cote D'Azur in France when I picked up the most exquisite pamphlet advertising an outdoor sculpture garden. The beauty and sheer power of the pure white marble figures radiating from the pictures enticed me. I filed the flyer with the intention of visiting this garden at the Musee de Faykod in the near future.

The following year, I was back in France having been chosen to compete for South Africa in the Nice Ironman World Triathlon Championships. Fifteen km into the 120km cycle part of the race, just as I was attempting the gruelling climb towards Col de Vence, the axle of my fancy, carbonfibre, trispoke backwheel broke. So, that year, I got a DNF (did not finish) for the 154km race, due to mechanical problems. The rest of my planned trip was fortunately better blessed and after a two week stint learning the intricacies of the French language at the famous Cavilam school in Vichy, on the banks of the Allier river, I took the train down to St Raphael on the Mediterranean coast. I picked up my hired car at the station and set out to search on the road north away from the sea for the Musee de Faykod, between Tourtour and Aups.

I nearly missed the turn off about ten kilometres after Tourtour, and on reversing, almost landed my hired car in a ditch. The gravel road was full of twists and turns and the sky was turning grey, holding the promise of a thunderstorm. Finally I arrived at a big wooden gate, at about 3.30 pm in the afternoon. I rang the bell persistently with a slight air of desperation. Fortunately somebody answered eventually and via an intercom, promised that they will be there in 3 minutes. I was about to enter this marvellous outdoor sculpture garden in real life at last.

What I saw, what I experienced and what I felt that afternoon in this garden, was one unforgettably magical moment in my life. The passion, the beauty, the purity, the powerful message of the white Carrera marble figures, transformed my day into a miraculous moment of truth, hope and inspiration.

The artist, Maria de Faykod, was one who was in touch with the ever optimistic love flow and force of the universe. She created, not from the mind as so many artists do today; she created with the honesty of an open and courageous heart. Her sculptures speak of hope and love and transformation. The question is: Do we still believe in this transformation? Have we largely lost our faith in our own power? The centre of that power is our heart, a heart that programmes the head to think and act positively.

My current profession is as a facilitator of selfgrowth workshops. The biggest stumbling block I find to growth is the human mind - its tendency to remember and to experience and live life from the past. Why can't we have the heart to escape the limitation of our minds and reach out in order to allow our inner, unlimited self to bloom? We have forgotten to sit in silence; silence from talking, silence from thinking, silence from feeling in order to escape the repetitive patterns of the mind. In this kind of silence the power of creation, its consistency, its ever present beauty can dazzle us and bring us back to reality, the ever-present now. Without these moments we lose our optimism, our belief in the power and will of an omnipresent God who wants to fulfil all our heartfelt desires.

In 1997 I visited the controversial art exhibition "Sensation" in the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, London. Damien Hirsch exhibited his then famous tiger shark "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" in formaldehyde and his cow cut in half and there was a pig sliced in half too! The work of Chris Ofili, "Afrodizzia", depicted the Virgin Mary's portrait covered with elephant dung. One room depicted sexuality in its most graphic and vulgar fashion with no consideration of ethics or moral behaviour. The whole exhibition was one huge shock for my innocent system. The same exhibition later went to New York, where the Mayor of New York and the then first lady Hilary Clinton complained about its vulgarity and open disdain for conventional and Catholic beliefs. The exhibition was allowed, but in typical American fashion, the gallery gave the brave visitors a little brown bag when they exited: to throw up in! Last year Damien Hirsch held an exhibition in the Eyestorm Gallery in London. One of his works called "Painting by Numbers" was simply a gathering of ashtrays with stubs, newspapers full of paint, empty beer bottles and sweet papers. On the first evening the janitor came by, swept it up and threw it in the nearest bin. He was obviously shocked when he discovered the next day that he has demolished an "art piece" worth about R65 000!

What a contrast between the creations of Hirsh and the sculptress Maria de Faykod! The one fabricating from the human mind, the other creating beauty from the depths of her human heart. The sculptor Auguste Rodin said: "Art should ennoble the public" - an opinion which I wholeheartedly endorse.

I now know and believe that one can create beauty out of solid blocks of white marble. I saw the huge blocks from Carrera, Italy on Maria de Faykod's farm. Through this belief I can look for such transformational miracles in my own life. Once we change how we see, once we look from the depths of our inner being, the world starts changing: we notice the small miracles; the unexpected calls or e-mails, the sudden solutions. We see without the trappings and repetition of the ego memory, we absolve the past, we see that each day can be a new beginning.

To be brave and to start believing in the possibility of a better life for yourself and others is at the heart of self transformation. A client from Gauteng visited my kinesiology practice in Cape Town last year; she had fibromyalgia and myofacial pain. Some nights she was too tired to peal a potato. We soon determined that she was stuck in a behaviour pattern of always having to do every thing perfectly. She had no belief in herself or sympathy for herself. This stemmed from the past. By releasing the mind's judgements with positive affirmations and also reinforcing her belief in her own importance, my client has now created a new life for herself, living outside the judgemental pressure from her mind. She has regained her energy and love for life . She has moved from someone who could not peel a potato to one who now works at a stable where she cleans up to four horses a day!

When we start living from the heart, we free ourselves to start believing that we can create a magical world, a world that synchronizes with the spontaneity and pure optimism of nature around us. And the heart of the matter is and will always be love; to love life and to be aware of the force of love exhibited in a perfect universe. By choosing to spread love and beauty into the world, we can change our own consciousness and our own experience of life. Our outer world is merely a reflection of what goes on in our inner world. There is an unlimited supply of love in each of us; we must merely open the portals of our heart and live out the immortality of our souls. We must escape the negativism of the mind, its tendency to believe the negative instead of the positive. We must stop doubting the positive. Our minds want to believe the negative; our hearts will opt for the positive. If somebody say to you : "I am angry", we don't doubt it. If they say: "I love you", we question it; is it true?

To seek and give love and to gain knowledge are the two things that will change our earthy existence into a journey of discovery; a quest that will transform our feet into wings, into wings of truth and wisdom. The mind limits, especially if we cling to the past, but love and knowledge, new ways of seeing and doing things, are unlimited.

What power do we have! Are we brave enough to believe in transformation, are we brave enough to opt for deeper knowledge, for more love? We should put less focus on the mind and intellectualism. We should have an earnest desire to escape the brain washing of modern materialism to claim our real power back and to look for pure beauty. In the words of Hazrat Inyat Khan, the founder of the Sufi movement: "Optimism is the spontaneous flow of love" and therefore the secret of a happy and fulfilled life remains a matter of heart!

Published in 2003 in the Odyssey, December/January, p51, under the title "Small Miracles".