Believing in Goodness–How is it even possible? And how meditation helps.

The meditation begins at 3:57.

Hello to the entire community of Open Heart Project meditators. Today I want to say a few words about Basic Goodness, a notion in my Buddhist lineage that says that ALL beings possess such goodness. But how can this be so? You just have to be awake for about 5 minutes on any given day before you see evidence of basic badness. We want to believe in goodness, but it is not easy–indeed, it is almost frightening–to do so.

Before today’s sit, some brief insights into this very important topic and how your meditation practice enables you to see Basic Goodness without having to make giant value judgments about the nature of humankind. If you want to explore this and other topics more fully, please consider joining the OHP Sangha where the topic of Basic Goodness is our theme for the month. (Next month: Kind in an Unkind World: Opening Your Heart with Confidence.)



Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

PS I mention a link to a post on posture in the video. Here it is.

The Dharma of Depression: a podcast


In this podcast, drawn from a talk in the Spring of 2014 at the New York Shambhala Center, Susan discusses the intelligence of depression, how to differentiate depression from sadness, and how depression can become a part of your spiritual path.

Feelings, part two

“A lot of tragedies happen around the world because somebody’s feelings were hurt.”—Sakyong Mipham

I see part of our work together as returning a sense of grace and power to the realm of feeling. For far too long, feelings have been ghettoized as girly, weak, something for losers. Feelings are what you talk about when you’ve run out of ideas, jokes, and stories. When someone says, “I want to talk to you about my feelings,” we gird our loins for battle or try to run away. Anything but feelings! Conversely, however, some of us make a very big deal about feelings and treat them as precious, fragile, even magical. Some kind of middle way is best.

The last thing we want to do to someone we care about is hurt their feelings and we will go to great lengths to avoid having our feelings hurt. And for good reason. They can cause relationships to end, companies to collapse, and wars to start. I am not even exaggerating. (I don’t know too much about wars, but I do know something about work and I’ve never seen a great idea fail for lack of funding, positioning, or talent. Great ideas fail because someone’s feelings were hurt.)

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t afraid of getting your feelings hurt? I’m not saying there is a way to avoid hurt feelings, but there is a way to develop the capacity to meet them as a part of your spiritual practice. Seriously, ask yourself: who would I be and what would I create if I was not afraid of my feelings but saw them as my allies?

You could say that learning how to feel is the foundation of a good life and a good human society. As you develop a relationship with your feelings you create the pathways (Sakyong Mipham’s word) to feel how others feel.

In meditation practice, the pathways create themselves with each moment you spend simply being human. The wider you open the door to joy, sorrow, and confusion, the more wisdom you invite. With each molecule of feeling you allow, you create a molecule of compassion.

In other news, what do you think of this logo for us?

Do you have questions about meditation practice?

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This is me, awaiting your questions.

Please post in comments and I will do my best to offer you a helpful answer.

You are the sky.

When you trust your own happiness, you can allow the entire scope of experience to touch your heart. This is the mark of the spiritual warrior. She can hold sweetness, sorrow, rage, and delight equally and fully. She can watch as emotions rise and fall, notice how she reaches out so some and recoils from others, and know that somehow she’ll find a way to make whatever she experiences a part of the path. Whether her world is friendly or inhospitable, smooth or rocky, she can abide in it wholeheartedly. A joyful mind is as infinite as the sky and, like the sky, can contain sunshine and storms, snowflakes and hail. Conditions are continually shifting, but the sky is always the sky. It never gives up. From within it, the great sun rises in the east, the moon meets the tide, and the circle is always complete.

From “How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life”

Hello, dear Open Heart Sangha members. For some reason, I was thinking about this passage that I wrote for “How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life.” When I read it now, I don’t know where it came from. I didn’t even know when I wrote it, it just came out, and when it did I felt like someone had dictated it to me. It remains the favorite thing “I” ever wrote and I just wanted to share it with you.

We are all working with so much—so much sorrow, so much love, so much confusion, so much longing, so much divine light. The older I get, the more I feel that our work is not to accomplish anything but to make room for it all.

Sending love,



PS I sent you an email last night with the results of our first survey about how this program is going. If you missed it or would like to comment in any regard, I posted it here.

Elephant’s tears, suffering, and liberation.

I had an experience the other day that I’m sure you too have had–suddenly the whole world and all its suffering became too much. I started sobbing at the super market. (I seem to be doing a lot of crying lately.) The experience caused me to reflect and I share some of these reflections with you today before our 10-mintue practice.


Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

The Dharma of Depression


Having trouble viewing the closed caption version? An un-captioned version can be found here:

Before today’s 10-minute meditation session I offer a few thoughts about depression, sadness, and how meditation can help us work with difficult emotions.


Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

Indestructible Goodness

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There is such a thing as goodness. It is alive. It is intact. Nothing we do can destroy it.

By goodness, I don’t mean the opposite of badness, exactly. I certainly don’t mean anything sentimental, saccharine…soulless. Ew. Goodness is not goody-goody or cute.

The earth is good. There is goodness in love. Friends are good. Teachers are good and so are students. It can sometimes be good to have an enemy. Pets are good. Reconciliation is good, as are courage, kindness, devotion, dignity, and confusion. The capacity to care—even to notice goodness or non-goodness—is good. Laughing is good and so is crying. Wisdom, insight, and intuition are good. It is good to be fierce and it is good to be soft. Vulnerability is good. Sadness is very good. Anger can sometimes be good and so can doubt. It is good that you can get your feelings hurt because this means your goodness has been wounded and, well, that hurts. (Even though it feels bad, it is good.) Healing is good. There is goodness in art, extraordinary goodness, perhaps the very most.

These things are happening all the time. But none of them need be present in order to feel the goodness because it is always present—in you. Your tenderness reminds you of it and so do your longing, tears, and capacity for joy which are not so different from each other.

The thing that is not so good? Forgetting the goodness. Letting it slide. Hiding from it.

Denying goodness sometimes seems easier than affirming it, however to do so is actually dangerous. With this denial come cruelty, violence, abandonment, and the inability to recognize what is precious and real. We see “us and them” in all things. We perceive attacks where there are none. We are afraid all the time and from this fear come fundamentalism, intolerance, stupidity, and absurdly short-term thinking.

Affirming it reasserts the truth.There is nothing more radical that you can do. It will make some people mad, but do it anyway. Just one person can remind a multitude.

Creative Mornings Boston: Changes in business hopeful for the world…

I really enjoyed giving this talk to the creative community here in Boston. I talked about how changes in the way we do business bode well for other changes we’d all like to see in the world…

A simple way to sidestep irritation and judgment

Having trouble viewing the closed caption version? An un-captioned version can be found here:

Life is full of everyday irritations and worse: judgments, criticisms, and dismissing people because they act or look a certain way. Sometimes this is actually appropriate–people can be rude or out of line or domineering–but sometimes we have missed a step, a way of looking at things that can help us soften toward what offends us. Before today’s practice, I tell you a little story about a different way of approaching such things.This way is not only a way of being kinder to others, it is a way of being kinder to yourself because when you are able to let judgment go, you soften. And softening always makes you feels better…

Thoughts? I always love to hear them. With love, Susan

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT AN EXCITING DEVELOPMENT IN THE OHP VIDEOS! You will notice something different about today’s video: it is close captioned for the hearing impaired. A member of our wonderful community suggested that I do this to make it easier for those who can’t hear to meditate. I loooved that idea! Today, we begin. Although we can’t close caption every video (which requires transcription, word for word), my beautiful assistant Michele will close caption one video per month, on the first Monday of that month. Hopefully we will develop the resources at some point to close caption every video, but for now we’re deeply happy to offer one such meditation per month. May it bring benefit to that community.