Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing by Carolyn CJ Jones is not the kind of book I usually review, but I became acquainted with its lovely creator via LinkedIn and then connected with her on Facebook and knew that it sounded like something very special that I wanted to experience.
She told me about this book she wrote about healing our lives. It combines her gorgeous photographs of wrought iron gates with her poignant, honest and heartfelt prose which reflects her personal spiritual journey. After reading through it several times, studying the exceptionally composed photographs, and reading their titles and the prose that reflects how Carolyn felt about them, I am so moved by it that I am afraid that I can’t find the right words to tell you how beautiful this book is. It will stretch your heart, affirm the staggering beauty of this world, and encourage you to realize that anything is possible. It’s the perfect gift for a friend you know well who is experiencing his/her own spiritual awakening and also the perfect coffee table book and conversation piece for your living room.
After 20 years of marriage and a 25-year nursing career, Carolyn, who was struggling with alcoholism and depression, walked away from them both. While grieving her past and feeling terrified about her uncertain future, Carolyn embarked on a journey of self-discovery and healing that was the beginning of her metamorphosis into not only a talented, creative photographer (which she already was) but also author, publisher, and a sober woman who now experiences peace and joy in her life. The journey you take with her through the pages of this book will touch your heart, inspire your spirit, and delight your senses.
“I tap into my ability to persevere, to walk through the gates of my despair to reach my passions and desires… the things about myself and the world around me in which I delight, to which I connect.
I allow myself my grief and sorrow, my sadness and anger. Then I turn my attention to the lushness I see beyond the opening…
I decide to walk through the gate.”
The images of gates in Opening the Gates of the Heart were photographed in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 2004.
“I walked with my camera gear and tripod for hours, going from gate to gate. I became lost in time capturing crafted metal, the light reflected from it, puzzles or brick and stone, and the ever-present lush foliage. Although I was initially drawn to their beauty, eventually the gates began to represent the peace and light I wished to experience in my own life, yet couldn’t quite seem to reach. The light was always on the other side. Somehow, the gates exemplified the barriers of my heart that I had erected in response to my fear, hurt, and pain. I began to wonder if all of us have erected barriers that prevent us from seeing the beauty and wonder all around…in ourselves, in others, and in our surroundings.”
Carolyn, who became a daily journal writer during her period of travel and emotional healing, realized that the gates symbolized her closed heart. Due to a wrist injury she started writing with her non-dominant hand which unleashed her creativity as well as uncovered more about her fears, pain and the barriers of her heart. She defined each image in the book with a title and prose that originated from her journaling that fit perfectly.
“Rather than take on everyone else’s dreams, desires, and expectations, can I not humbly look at what has been placed before me?
Will I continue to look at others’ needs and expectations, to what is presented to them in their lives, or will I notice what is in front of me, feel the warmth of appreciation and graciously say thank you for what I am given, for who and what I am, and participate?”
It is Carolyn’s courage, honesty and vision that make this book a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable piece of art that you won’t soon forget.
Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing is the recent winner of an Honorable Mention from the New York Book Festival in the spirituality genre. Additionally, Carolyn’s book won an Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival in photography/arts.