How is it that two people can stand up in front of the same room and say the same thing–but only one person gets heard? What creates magnetizing speech? Join Buddhist teacher and author Susan Piver for this discussion of Right Speech.
I have really got to get out of the house more often.
I was honored to have had the chance to offer a “Bold Talk” this week at the 2013 Hubspot Inbound Conference. Hubspot is a company that provides marketing software to small businesses and this year there were over 5500 attendees at the event, about twice as many as last year. Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington, and Nate Silver delivered keynotes. There were over 150 speakers making presentations during this three-day event that had the excitement and joie de vivre of SXSW in 1993 (when I lived in Austin).
My topic was “Mindful Communication.” I have given many talks in my life, but this one had me extremely nervous.
Usually, to prepare, I think about the topic, read about it, sleep on it, and then show up in the space about an hour early and the talk “appears.” I have no idea how this process happens but I’ve tried many times to plan what I want to say in advance and it has never worked out. I end up abandoning whatever I’d planned. (Believe me, I wish I could do it another way because this “way” is extremely nerve wracking.)
But I had to figure out something different for the Hubspot talk. I had 18 minutes. There would be 600+ people. It would be in the context of a marketing event. All of these were new variables and I didn’t know what to expect. Plus, I really respect and adore the person who invited me, so I wanted to do a good job.
When they emailed to ask for my slides, I was taken aback. Slides? What slides?! I have no slides!! Everyone else will have slides. I am slide-less. Their slides are going to punch my no-slides in the face. When I open my slide-less pie-hole to talk, no one is going to understand what I have to say. Mindful, shmindful. Opening, relationships, authenticity, courage, creative flow, feeling, compassion, blah, blah: the things that I usually talk about would fall on deaf ears. How to contextualize for the aggressive world of business? How to convince people who are on a mission that slowing down is the fastest way to get there?
I wrote eight different talks that sucked in eight different ways. I could not find the voice.
Then I went to the talk that opened the conference: Seth Godin’s keynote. 5500+ people sat there quietly, smartphones, tablets, laptops at the ready to take notes. I was half excited (because I love Seth) and half terrified (because I felt intimidated by everything).
Then he started talking about generosity as the path to success. Caring as a business strategy. Being human, making everything personal, taking risks and being fearless. Making art.
Generosity, creativity, compassion, authenticity, fearlessness: these are all expressions of mindfulness and are at the root of powerful communication. To me, Seth was giving a dharma talk. I began to relax.
The next day was my talk. That morning, Arianna Huffington gave her
dharma talk keynote address. She talked about the importance of quiet and inwardness as the source of innovation, creativity, and leadership.
As I sat listening to her, this phrase popped to mind: “culture of caring.” These people are creating a culture of caring, I thought to myself, whereupon my own talk downloaded itself.
I realized that I was at home. I could use my own voice.
I was blown away by this event. There was so much heart, so much inspiration, and so much intelligence. But this is what gave me the greatest thrill of all: this could change the world.
I know that sounds impossibly, well, bold. But our world is not governed by politics or media as much as it is governed by consumerism. If caring, kindness, generosity, and creativity begin to mix in with the culture of consumerism, that could be…big.
The way things used to be marketed was one to many. The primary relationships were with the middlemen–wholesalers, retailers, and media. They were the customers and we built our products for them. The way to be powerful was to offer or withhold money or access. Whoever was most financially coercive or, in some rare instances, purely great, would dominate. Advertising sold product. Endcaps sold product. It was all about deals and positioning.
Now, our primary relationships are with actual people and we build our products for individuals. The way to be powerful is to be human and offer from the heart. Community creates customers. Meaning sells product. Now it is all about openness.
It is all personal.
In my professional life, there was only one dirty word that you could ever utter at a business meeting: feelings. But feelings are what make things personal and suddenly, feelings are important because when our businesses are driven by direct connections, we are overlaying the personal onto the professional. When our companies are run according to values, we are situating the personal within the corporate. When our success is predicated on connecting with people, we have to look at our relationship skills, not just our technical, logistical, or financial proficiencies. This is very exciting.
I believe that as we go forward, we will see that success belongs, not to the cleverest or the most charismatic, but to those who know how to care. To feel. To extend themselves open heartedly and connect genuinely. Thus your ability to communicate is not so much about what you say. It is about who you are.
PS Pictured above are the notes I jotted down for my talk a few hours before I gave it. I clutched this paper as if it was the one lifeline that could save me. When I got home, I smoothed it out to make notes to use should I have the opportunity to give this talk again. This is what it looked like.
Guess I’ll have to start all over again. Again.
Hello and welcome to the first Open Heart Project podcast! Personally, I’m very psyched. The first topic is: “The Dharma of Love.” To listen and subscribe on iTunes, click here.
This podcast is about falling in love, being in a relationship, and breaking up—from a Buddhist point of view. As a student of Buddhism and someone who has fallen in love, lost love, and been in a long-term relationship, I have often wondered: If the spiritual path is about non-grasping, how are you supposed to fall in love? If non-attachment is counseled, how does one make a commitment to a person and a relationship? And if ego-clinging is seen as a problem, what does it mean when your heart is broken and all you can think about is how awful, shameful, and unworthy (all forms of ego-clinging) you are?
Of course, this is an enormous topic, one on which books should be written. Surprisingly, there are not a ton of such books, which in itself is curious. If I was to write something, what would I say? I asked myself. This talk is a result of my exploration of this question. I hope it will be of benefit.
In the podcast, the following points are covered. I hope you will be inspired to contemplate them on your own or discuss with others.
- The single most important attitude in making a relationship work.
- The one thing we most avoid when it comes to love that is also the only thing that makes love possible.
- The “Four Noble Truths” of love.
- The three phases of making a relationship work.
- When a relationship is new, the most important determination to make.
- How to remain powerful in love relationships.
- The importance of meditation.
Obviously, no 30-minute podcast can cover any of this in depth but hopefully this talk will offer some clarity on the topic and introduce you to notions that further open your heart.
Next month’s podcast is “The Dharma of Communication: How to Say It and Be Heard.”
Here’s to love!
*For those who have purchased a membership in the Open Heart Project, this podcast comes with a discussion guide, access to our online community for further dialog with each other and with me, and suggestions for discussing this important and confounding topic with those you care about.
I hope you are enjoying this beautiful time of year, whether it is summer or winter where you are. Here in Boston, the sun is shining on this Fourth of July and we are delighting in corn, tomatoes, and squash.
And I am getting ready to do my annual summer meditation retreat. (I usually go on retreat two to four weeks per year, in the summer.) This year, I’m going to do my retreat in a different way. Rather than going away, I am doing it at home.
This is the third time I’ve done a home retreat and I have found it to be unexpectedly awesome. Previous home retreats have been seven days long. This time I will be on retreat for two whole weeks. I am unbelievably excited.
The whole idea came about around 18 months ago, through desperation. I was longing for some time and space to practice and study and read and simply be with my thoughts. I was stretched and over stimulated and knew better than to ignore the warning signs of overwhelm: increased hissy fits, disheartenment, lots of time spent with the Housewives, and sitting about in a stupor. (Those last two are synonymous.)
It was time to withdraw.
It was time to look within without interruption.
It was time to cradle myself in a routine that I didn’t have to mandate.
It was time for retreat.
There were three things stopping me. First, I was also longing to write.. I was scared of going any longer without an intensive writing jag (which is the rhythm that suits me best—I’m a binge writer) and writing while on formal retreat is only possible if you awaken at some crazy hour, like 4am. But then you spend the whole day kind of sleepy and you end up cheating both your practice and your creative work.
How could I choose between spiritual practice and creative work? I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.
Second, I was SICK OF TRAVEL and the idea of leaving home was majorly anathema. I had been on the road a lot, coming home for a few nights at most before packing up to leave for another (delightful, wonderful) teaching gig in Mexico or Cleveland or NYC. Don’t get me wrong, I love to teach and I love to travel. But at a certain point, you just want to stay home and I was at that point. I couldn’t face packing another bag and leaving my husband, our cats, and our bed. Plus, I was feeling sluggish from lack of exercise and an iffy diet.
Third, my home and workspaces were a mess. It’s not that things were dirty or unkempt as much as they were disorganized and chaotic. I’m not particularly uptight about order, but when there are stacks of paper, unopened fedex envelopes marked “urgent, and a zillion files on my desktop that I have no memory of creating, I start to get anxious. Because I had been away so much, there was sense of confusion in the environment. This extended to the inner environment as well. How was I doing in building my business? What was my vision for my work? I had lost track of the big view and become immersed in the day to day. I was yearning to climb out of the swampy goo of email, social media, and website management that takes over my day more often than not.
So I had these components: the longing for a real retreat; the desire to write; the wish to stay home and get healthy; and the hunger to get back on top of my work rather than struggling under its weight. I wanted to do it all.
Wait. Why couldn’t I? Would it be possible to retreat at home? But how can you “retreat” without going anywhere? I mean, doesn’t retreat mean getting away from home and all daily concerns?
No, I found out. I does not. You can retreat without going anywhere.
The power of retreat comes from aloneness and an inviolate routine. Here is what I did.
I decided to do my retreat in my home office, including sleeping there. I chose to maintain so-called functional silence, which means you don’t talk except to say things like, “your hair is on fire,” or “there’s been a flood.” This meant I had to get my husband to agree to this, which, luckily, he did.
I did what I could to create a sense of separation from the rest of our home, which is not so easy because we live in a loft. There are no rooms per se, and no doors to close. I invested in a few tall shoji screens to block off my office from the rest of the space as well as to create a psychic divide. I dragged our air mattress in and situated it between a chair and the bookshelves. My shrine and meditation space are in my office, so all of my practice mojo was already there.
Then I set about to create a very rigorous schedule for myself and this is where things became very interesting. At first, my plan was to follow a schedule as if I was at a “real” retreat. I would begin and end practice periods, take meals, and sleep as if I was doing a retreat in Colorado or Vermont. But then it dawned on me that this was my retreat and mine alone. I could craft it as a withdrawal from my personal stresses into the particular space I wanted to create.
For me, most important was the practice and study of the dharma. That was my main priority. But if I also wanted to use my retreat time to write, why couldn’t I? If wanted to use it as a visioning quest for my creative work, why couldn’t I? If I wanted to rest and take care of my body, why couldn’t I? And further, if I longed to create order in my home and work space, what would prevent that from becoming a part of the retreat?
As soon as I thought this, something shifted. It realized that I wouldn’t be using retreat time to write and clean up, rather, writing and cleaning up would became part of the spiritual practice. Suddenly, my work felt different. The visioning work I wanted to do would be undertaken as a gesture of service rather than anxious grasping. Answering all of my emails would be an exercise in mindfulness-awareness rather than am anxiety-producing hassle.
The retreat became very, very personal. It was suffused with a kind of intimacy that I’d never before experienced.
Here is the schedule that I devised for myself:
6a – 730a Spiritual practice
730a – 8a Breakfast
8a -11a Writing session
11a – 2p Gym or yoga and lunch break
2p – 230p Short practice session
230p – 430p Business visioning, strategizing, clean-up
430 p – 5p Tea break
530p – 630p Short practice session
5p -7p Dharma study (read, contemplate, and so on)
8p – 930p More study
930p – 10p Closing practice
This schedule turned out to be both rigorous and absolutely, utterly joyful. After a few days, I realized that while I may have described what I was doing as “retreat,” actually I was spending my day doing exactly what I wanted. I was fulfilling my heart’s desire.
And where was my sweet husband in all of this? His presence (and his silence) played an unexpectedly powerful part in the experience. I felt so supported by him that my heart almost shattered with love. I found an unexpected intimacy through the shared silence. There is nothing more intimate than being together with someone in silence. Although I’m not sure why, it brings you closer than the deepest conversation. Finally, I felt that my retreat was being conducted in complete safety and was actually being protected by him. This one really took me by surprise. Retreats are almost always done in a foreign environment, whether it’s a cabin in the woods, a mission in the mountains, or a hotel room in Manhattan. To retreat in my own home brought a sense of tremendous ease. And I could not have done it without him. Every time I heard him upstairs making the bed or in the kitchen unpacking groceries, I felt even more gratitude. He was keeping watch on our home so that I could take a deep dive into my dreams. I can’t say that I ever loved him more than I did sleeping on that air mattress, not speaking, but feeling as close as I could to another being.
So, while nothing can take the place of an authentic retreat grounded in ancient wisdom and practices, I found special gifts in retreating from my life by doing exactly what I wanted rather than what I ought.
I recommend such a retreat wholeheartedly. I recognize that I am wildly fortunate to be able to do such a thing. I have an understanding husband. I am self-employed. I don’t have kids or roommates. Not everyone can do what I did, but perhaps you could take a weekend or a day. If you plan far enough in advance, maybe you could even do a week.
No matter how long or short, here are some suggestions for planning this special time where you get to spend time with yourself, doing what you long to do.
1. Work out an agreement with your partner, family, and/or roommates to respect your silence (barring fires or floods). Or, if this is not possible, keep your conversation to the mornings or evenings. Try to put some limitations on communication with others.
2. Unplug. You have got to unplug. This means setting up auto-responders in your email system and changing your voicemail message to indicate you won’t be returning calls for this period. Even if you plan to answer all of your emails as part of your retreat, get off the internet to do so. If you use a web-based email service, investigate a desktop client so that you can read and answer your emails without going online. When you are done, you can connect back up and send them all at once, but don’t look at anything new that comes in. Promise me.
3. Prepare your space. Make it clean and neat. Wall it off with a screen if you have to. Make sure everything is there that you need to do your spiritual practice, study what you’d like, and/or create what you want.
4. Decide on your retreat priorities. Don’t pile on too much.
5. This is the most important suggestion: Create a schedule and stick to it. You have to be ruthless about this. Schedule your entire day from morning to night. If you want unstructured free time, great. Make that part of your schedule. Believe me, if you make a schedule and then don’t honor it, the retreat magic will go away and settle somewhere else.
6. Grocery shop in advance. You don’t have to be neurotic about this, just get some basics. This is generally not a good time to try that new kale juice fast or go vegan. The retreat should be relaxing. If you are trying to change your diet in any radical way, that will be stressful. Stick with your normal diet and, if anything, just try to eat more lightly. It’s hard to practice or contemplate deeper truths when you feel heavy and sleepy. And of course, if you take medications, keep taking them while on retreat.
7. It is totally fine to leave your retreat space, especially if your retreat is longer than few days. You can take a walk, go to the grocery store or gym. Parties and lunch dates and so on are contraindicated. When or if you do leave, try to hold your mind in as quiet a space as possible. Don’t listen to the radio in the car. If someone tries to strike up a conversation, keep your responses brief. Don’t dilly-dally and get back to your retreat space as soon as you can.
Finally, let me assure you (if you need it) that you fully and completely deserve this time. Your brilliance is worthy of your attention. There are precious seeds within you that need watering and care. You have things to say or create that need to come into existence. Please know this. Please honor your genius. Please take the chance.
I’m really, really excited to announce this one-day coaching intensive workshop for anyone interested in creating an online teaching business.
It will happen in two cities: Sept 21 in Seattle and Nov 2 in NYC.
If you are a teacher, trainer, coach, guide, mentor, and want to teach online, this workshop is built for you. You will be mentored by people who have created successful online teaching businesses. You will hear presentations from them and participate in small group conversations to unpack what you’ve heard. You will learn about technical platforms, marketing strategies, payment systems, and discover proven strategies for building community.
Your teachers are Charlie Gilkey, Jennifer Louden, Andrew Mellen, and me. Charlie coaches online entrepreneurs all over the world and is an expert on small business development. Jen is an internationally known teacher and coach who developed the massively successful online program “Teach Now” to coach teachers to be their best. Andrew launched Unstuff U, the world’s first completely virtual personal organization training center. Susan is a meditation teacher and the New York Times bestselling author of 7 books. Her online meditation community has reached over 10,000 members.
Each of us was early to the online teaching world and through a combination of skill, luck, and making a ton of mistakes, have figured out the best strategies and most glaring pitfalls. We invite you to learn from what we did right and wrong!
The world has changed. Each of us now has the ability to reach an unlimited audience. Most people are waiting for someone to model the best way to claim online territory as a teacher, but we believe that now is the time to act. There are no rules, only possibilities. We want to help you take the biggest and most important professional leap you may ever make.
Because we want to work with every student closely, we are limiting this program to 25 participants in each city. Each participant will have the chance to discuss his or her idea with the teachers and the group.
Registration is by application (see links below). Qualified participants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
We are offering one full scholarship. If you are interested, please indicate this on your application and explain why you are requesting it.
Prior to the program, we will have reviewed your business and online identity carefully so we can be sure to show up with the ideas tailored to help you most.
Application deadlines: August 1 (Seattle) and Oct 1 (NYC).
Because there are four teachers, each with a substantial audience, we expect this program to sell out fast.
In 12 hours, you will learn:
- How to package and brand your offering
- How to construct your offering (Webinars? Newsletter? Classes? 5-Week course? Year-long immersion?)
- How to market your offering
- How to choose the right platform to deliver your content
- How to process online payments smoothly and securely
- How to build community methodically and consistently
- How to deliver your offering in an authentic and powerful way
- How to create additional sources of passive income
- How to manage the entire process from inception to launch
- Where to find additional resources like designers, developers and virtual assistants
You will leave with:
- An action plan
- A realistic and dynamic budget
- A network of new connections to rely on as you build your business
View the complete schedule for the Intensive here.
All details are here.
$22 (includes link to MP3 recording)
The enneagram is the most amazing system I have ever encountered for understanding yourself and others. I am not exaggerating. It is known as a system for “personality typing” but that is like calling Bob Dylan a “songwriter” or Einstein a “scientist.” It just goes way beyond that. In this webinar, you will learn:
- The basic qualities of all 9 types
- The importance of the 3 subtypes
- How the arrows of integration and disintegration work
- How (and why) to begin typing yourself and others
- About the good and bad uses of the enneagram
Next to the Buddhadharma, the enneagram is the most powerful system of thought I’ve ever encountered. It is profound. It is uncannily accurate. Most important, it is incredibly practical and will offer you tools to work skillfully with difficult situations at home, at work, and in relationships. When you learn it really well, the enneagram gives you concise insight into your inner ecosystem. It will reveal your greatest gifts. It will show you how your “faults” are not your fault and that they could actually be strengths when viewed properly. It also gives you potent information on how others think and how use it to build bridges and engender kindness. It teaches you how to become a more powerful and effective communicator, even with people you thought you had no hope of reaching. I’ve been studying the Enneagram for close to 20 years. It is truly the #1 tool I turn to day in and day out to help me work with myself and others. Thus far, I have found it infallible. Only $22 bucks, yall! (FREE for Practitioner members of the Open Heart Project.)
A show of hands, please. What do you believe in? What are your values? What do you believe is at the heart of human nature?
What kind of world do you want to live in?
Here is what I say.
There are more people who want to act out love than hate.
There are more people who are neither Red nor Blue, no matter where they live.
There are way more people who are not fundamentalist than those who are.
There are more people who prize the values of tolerance, openness, and friendship over money, consumerism, and dogma.
There are more people who want our leaders and institutions to make the health and safety of our bodies and our planet their first priority than there are those who want to pillage both for their own benefit.
There are more of us who are willing to make some sacrifices for the greater good and than those who believe we are in this alone.
We stand by the principle that all persons have the right to choose their own belief system as long as it does not include violence against others.
We hold achievement and abundance as high priorities, but not at the expense of family, friendship, love, joy, raising healthy children, and the creation of a world of opportunity for all.
These—family, love, self-expression, creating goodness for ourselves and others, and tolerance—are the true American values. Beyond this, they are human values.
We want to restore sanity to our systems of governance, education, and commerce. We can do it because wherever lives a person who wants to abuse or kill others, there are countless others who do not.
For every businessperson who lines his or her pockets at the expense of others (or even of our very planet), there are five who give back.
For every self-interested, disingenuous politician, there are ten who would take elective office for the greater good.
And for every cynic who believes that power-grabbing and violence are simply human nature, that any person in position of power or influence would turn on his fellow man, I say there are a million who try to do otherwise everyday. I am one. You are too.
A show of hands, please.
“When a person sits and meditates, it is a special situation, a sacred act. In meditation, even the most impure, crude, or confused thoughts are regarded as sacred. You may fall asleep on your cushion or feel that you have not actually meditated at all. Even daydreams on the cushion are important. You should have the attitude that you are involved with a system and a tradition that is valid and has its roots in solid thinking. Meditation is a definite approach, an extremely valid thing to do. “-Chogyam Trungpa