When the Tibetan Buddhist was mugged at Port Authority

Hello, dear meditators. Before we practice together today, I tell you a story that taught me something important about working with anger and loss.

Sending love,  Susan

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

In which we listen to music to learn how to listen to ourselves

Hello, excellent meditators. In our last video, I discussed the importance of letting yourself feel. In today’s video, I explain what I mean by “letting yourself feel.” Feeling is different than analyzing, explaining or naming what arises–it is what happens just before we arrive at the label. But how is this even possible? The way we listen to music illustrates this principle perfectly and that is exactly what we do in this video: listen to music together!

Please let me know how this went for you and most of all, please enjoy.

With love, S.

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

The most important question you can ever ask yourself


It sounds like a bold statement, I know. What could this most important question be? Before today’s meditation practice, I tell you what I think it to be.

What do you think? I always love to hear from you.

Sending love,  Susan

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

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Getting those we love to meditate


Hello, excellent meditators. I hope you are enjoying your practice and seeing some real benefits and results from it, or will soon.

When the benefits start to become clear, it’s natural to want those we care about to give it a try. However, they’re not always willing to entertain the notion! What can we do to get them to give meditation a chance? This video contains some thoughts on this topic.

Sending love,  S.

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

We rest our bodies, why not rest our minds too?

Just like your body, your mind benefits from periods of rest and, just like your body, it becomes run down if it is in constant motion. Although meditation can be thought of as many things–from a scientifically proven method for becoming more effective to a spiritual path that could lead to enlightenment, it can also simply be thought of as a delightful rest. So as we practice today, be especially focused on not trying to accomplish anything, but instead to just relax from all forms of trying.

Sending love,  Susan

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

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Meditation: How do you know if you’re doing it right?


It is not unusual to wonder if you’re doing meditation “right.” See this video for a short reflection on this question.
Sending love,  S.

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

PS Would you consider answering a short survey (3 questions) about the Open Heart Project? Since we never “see” each other, it would be very helpful to me.

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Should spiritual teachers be paid?

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This past Valentine’s Day, I launched a program called the “21-Day Open Heart Immersion: Live in Love.” I received this message (from a stranger) via email:

With all due respect, I think that the global consciousness is in a state of a major shift and it has a lot to do with people like you helping to spread the world and enlighten people on a large scale.

I admire the spiritual community in helping humanity evolve into who we truly were meant to be, however I find that many “teachers” are taking advantage of peoples hunger for growth and spiritual enlightenment to make more than just a living with the substantial cost involved in either participating in a spiritual retreat or otherwise simply taking an e course such as yours.  There are many people who simply cannot afford the $300 plus that it costs to take your course for example and so it seems that spiritual enlightenment is left mostly for those who have the means to afford it and leaves a substantial amount of humans behind which seems very contradictory to what most spiritual teachers are preaching about how we are all one and we need to open our hearts to love etc….. I often find myself seeking more and more information and find the cost of seminar or a course to be out of reach monetarily to many many people which defeats the very purpose these teachers are out to accomplish.  I understand that there are costs involved in setting up and teachers need to be compensated for their time but on the other hand, sharing this information is almost a responsibility given from the divine to spread to humanity to make this world a better place and the excessive cost being charged seems contradictory to any and all spiritual principles.

I was just wondering what your take on this is.

Thank you, Blank

How would you have responded?

My initial response was to become enraged in a deeply un-spiritual manner. The following went through my mind: Why does she pretend to flatter me and then accuse me of being greedy and disingenuous? What is this “spiritual community?” Does this person know that I offer free meditation instruction to nearly 12000 people via video twice a week—and have been doing so for three years? When did I ever preach that “we are all one?” Why is she passing judgment on me? She has no idea who I am or what my life is like.

Anyone who blogs and teaches knows that this kind of judgment-bomb can land in your inbox at any time and we have several choices about how to respond:

1. Delete
2. Respond politely with appreciation for her comment but offer no real response
3. School (as in “She tried to school me. I tried to school her back”).

A sensible person would have chosen #1. A kind person would chosen #2. I chose #3.

Hello, Blank.

I’m not sure if you are actually interested in my take on these points or if you want me to hear your ideas of what my responsibilities should be and the suggestion that perhaps I am taking advantage of others.

If the former, I need to earn an income and it is up to me how I choose to do so. If the latter, duly noted.

In either case, I wish you the best in finding the information you seek.

Thank you, Susan

Not exactly scathing, but not softly “spiritual” either, whatever that is.

Herein lies the dilemma. How does a “spiritual” person conduct herself in a world where dharma and commerce intermingle? Where anyone who has a judgment of you can share that judgment at a moment of his or her choosing? And anyway, aren’t spiritual people supposed to be peaceful zombies who are inured to anger and hurt feelings? If they aren’t, shouldn’t they at least pretend to be?

Blank-ess brought up a question that has been contested for millennia. Those of us who teach and write on spiritual matters will encounter it at some point in our lives: Should this be free? If so, how will I live? If not, what do I charge and how do I relate to money altogether?

Again, there are choices. Many choices. With great difficulty, I’ve narrowed it down to six.

1. I am a child of the universe and trust that I will be taken care of if I offer to support sentient beings.

2. What I have to offer is of inestimable value and I deserve to be paid handsomely because I know how life-changing it is. (And it is.) Plus, isn’t making money a sign of success and shouldn’t spiritual teachings be associated with power?

3. Hmmm. These teachings are very profound. Too profound, actually—no one will understand them. What harm is there in expressing them in a way that people can access easily (i.e. minus the difficult bits)? If I fit my message into the current conversation, I can probably make my mark as well as some money.

4. Actually, the teachings are simply too deep and sophisticated for most people to grasp and I’m not even going to try to offer them widely. I refuse to dumb anything down. I reserve my offerings for the intelligentsia and if they pay me, fine. If not, I’ll stick to my principles and figure something out.

5. What do I know about anything? Not very much, truth be told. I better charge as little as possible so no one can accuse me of being superior or even knowledgeable.

6. I have no earthly idea how to manage all of this, but I better figure it out because this (writing and teaching) is my calling. I have a mortgage and a need for health insurance. Plus, someday I will be truly old (hopefully) and I don’t want to have to live outside.

Catch my drift? It is complicated.

There are definitely those who think that so-called spiritual teachers should be saintly and poor. There are those who think that the more powerful and wealthy you are, the closer you are to divinity. Who knows, maybe one of those is true. All I can do with this issue is what I try to do with every issue I encounter: bring it to the path by not attaching to a fixed answer.

I could feel my conflicts and discomfort about money with gentleness and precision—but not as a basis for action.

Ride the waves of self-preservation-related fears, shame at not having enough, and contemplate my supposition that wealth will make me safe.

Examine over and over how this fear and shame might make me do stupid things that are harmful to self and other and avoid said stupidity.

Most important, see how both my confusion and my wisdom can be offered to benefit sentient beings. Watch it all cycle and cycle and in each and every case, let go and keep letting go. Commit again and again to the middle way.

In which I demonstrate how to cry while meditating.

Hello, wonderful meditators.

Well, I started off this post by talking about the definition of patience and how meditation helps us to be more patient. Then we began our meditation. Somewhere during the practice, a large wave of grief overtook me and I started to cry. I thought about stopping this recording and starting over, but then I thought, no. I am not the only person who cries during meditation and I’m certainly not the only one of us who is grieving. So I left it in. Sending love, S.

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

On love and how to find it

Hello, excellent members of the Open Heart Project. I appreciate you so much for your willingness to meditate.

Love makes us all feel vulnerable. However, there is a way to also feel very powerful in the way we invite love into our lives. Today’s video offers some suggestions before our 10 minute practice. And PS, please practice! Because meditation, in addition to sharpening your mind, softens your heart. This softening really helps when you want to love.

Here’s to love in all its forms!

Susan

Audio-only version can be downloaded here.

Buddhism and Heartbreak: How to Heal and Live in Love

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A few years ago, I traveled across the country giving talks based on my book, “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.” It was an amazing experience. I drove from Boston to Victoria, BC and back, giving talk after talk, hearing story after story, meeting person after heartbroken person who was seeking some way, any way, to mitigate this astonishing pain.

Marilyn came home from a business trip to find that her love of eight years had moved out and taken the cat.

Carlene and her boyfriend were going around with their realtor looking for a house. The next week he sent her an email notifying her that he was in love with someone else.

Dan sold his house and was packing up to move from Texas to California to live with his boyfriend—only to receive a call telling him to unpack because he decided he wasn’t ready for a long term relationship.

These kinds of things happen every day—and every day they leave someone’s life in complete freefall. Heartbreak from lost love is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. The pain takes you by complete surprise.

Who knew anything could be this painful?

When a relationship ends, it is always sad but after a few weeks, months, years, most people pick themselves up and move on. But there are some endings from which it seems impossible to move on and life falls apart.

When it happened to me (in the most prosaic way imaginable—my boyfriend fell in love with someone else), my world went to pieces. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely leave the house. The thought of him with her literally made we want to vomit. For two years.

Of course there are countless ways to get your heart broken. People we love become ill. The job we wanted so desperately goes to someone else. We run out of money and have to move somewhere we don’t like. These are all very real sources of pain, but the sorrow of lost love feels different. Not better, not worse, just different. It has attributes that don’t seem to go with the other forms of sorrow.

The first one is called shame. Mind-numbing, life-destroying shame. No matter how many times you tell yourself it’s not true, a desperate sense of ugliness and undesirability arises.

The second quality is (insane) moodiness. You just don’t know when the waves of grief and humiliation will re-arise. I remember once I burst into tears over a basket of jalapeño corn bread because it made me remember his fondness for hot peppers. I was sitting there minding my own business when suddenly some baked goods destroyed my equanimity. And it’s not just food products that can cause you to fall apart, but songs, movies, overheard conversation, basically anything.

The third quality of romantic heartbreak is a little something I like to call “obsessive thinking.” It can seem as if your own mind is attacking you. From moment to moment, mercilessly, unremittingly, it spews forth with things like this: They are probably laughing at me right now. I hate her/him. No, I love her/him. I will never find love again, this was my last chance. If only I hadn’t said boo or worn boots or chewed gum. I have unhealed wounds from childhood that made this happen. I am such a loser. No, s/he is. F*#k her/him.

It seems hopeless, but it is not. There are actually ways to relate with these very difficult inner states and, perhaps surprisingly, they are rooted in Buddhist teachings that are thousands of years old. These teachings present a third alternative to the options for healing we are usually presented with, which are:

1. Screw it. Go out, have a good time, forget about him/her, he/she didn’t deserve you, he/she just wasn’t that into you, so deal with it. Dance it out, girl. (Sorry, but most of the advice is addressed to women.)

Or:
2. There is something very wrong with you. You made this happen because you have carried forward unhealed wounds from childhood. Heal them, sister, or you will “attract” the same treatment over and over until you work it out.

Okay, fine. It can be great to remember that you are awesome and it is also useful to explore your psyche. However, neither of those are about relating with the pain. They are both about getting away from it.

The third option is to stop running, turn around, and look directly at your sorrow. Simply acknowledging and embracing it (without an agenda, simply as a gesture of kindness) has immediate pacifying effect.

There are three things you can do once you begin to develop a relationship with the pain and I found them so helpful I wrote a whole book about them.

1. Reassert dominion over your own mind. Your thoughts will continue to run roughshod unless you develop a kind way of relating with them. In Buddhist tradition this kind way is called meditation. Here, meditation is the simple act of being with yourself as you feel what you feel. This—“being with”—as opposed to “working on” turns out to be a more expeditious way of metabolizing sorrow.

2. View your sorrow as wisdom. I know this sounds crazy because it just feels so bad to be in this much pain. And it is. However, it is there and you might as well try to learn from it.

Here’s the thing about having a broken heart: you can feel everything. Everything. Your pain, your friends’ pain, the pain of people on TV, and also their joy. There is no longer a barrier between your heart and this world. In Buddhist tradition, this is actually the point of spiritual practice—to have a completely open heart. However, the difference between you and me and, say, the Dalai Lama, is that his heart is open and stable while ours is open and, well, out of control.

It is possible to stabilize your heart in the open state and it begins with using all of this emotional energy to give love in every possible way. I know that when you are heartbroken, you need love and may feel that you don’t have a lot to give. However if you begin to turn the tables even a teeny tiny bit from “how will I find love” to “how will I give love” I promise you will be amazed at the power your own loving kindness has to heal you. But don’t take my word for it. Try it. Be kind. Help out. Think kind thoughts. Give something. And report back to me, please.

3. Let your heartbreak transform you into a fierce warrior god/goddess. Okay, now you know the truth: there is no protection from heartbreak. There is nothing you or I can do to banish the possibility. In fact—don’t be bummed out—there is no relationship that will not end in heartbreak. People change. Relationships crater and no one knows why. And, of course, someone is going to die first. I realize this may not sound very soothing…but it is always empowering to recognize the truth. Saul Bellow once said about death, “it is the black backing on the mirror that allows us to see anything at all” and acknowledging impermanence, while making me very pissed off, also conveys the astonishing preciousness of our lives.

At this point you reach a very interesting junction. Are you willing to love anyway now that you know it can never be made safe? If the answer is yes: wow. I want to be in a relationship with you because you are one courageous, daring, and powerful individual who knows what it really means to love.

To learn to meditate: The Open Heart Project
To read more of my thoughts on the wisdom of heartbreak: The Wisdom of a Broken Heart
To dive in and work with the power of love to transform and heal: 21-Day Open Heart Immersion: Live in Love (starts Feb 14).