Category Archives: Susan Piver

Something Good

Dadd's Gulch, image by Eric

Dadd’s Gulch, image by Eric

1. On Running a Web-based Business by Tammy Strobel.

2. Please ask yourself this question before you choose the “format” for your next product, service, art project, or heart project and How I met the love of my life. {A true story…about what happens when you say what is true} from Alexandra Franzen.

3. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson,

And real healing — of the body, the heart, the mind, and the soul — happens only when we are in the state of rest and digest. That is, when we show up and come into direct relationship with what is, we have a chance to heal into what and who we are really.

4. Good stuff from Bored Panda: 20+ Of The Best Packaging Designs Ever, and Japanese Flip Books Reveal Magical Stories With Negative Space and Secret Chambers, and Russian Miner Spends His Breaks Taking Photos Of Foxes In The Arctic Circle, and Goldfish Tea Bags Will Turn Your Teacup Into A Fishbowl.

5. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Time to Write, and Onward, and It Doesn’t Have to Be Easy.

6. Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world.

7. It is okay to need a lot of help, wisdom From Anne Lamott on Facebook.

8. The 8-hour rule is bunk: Why conventional wisdom about sleep is stressing us out on Salon.

9. On Doing the Work from Lisa Congdon.

10. sometimes happiness can only emerge from periods of unhappiness, wisdom from Justine Musk.

11. Mom lets her son pick his own outfit, and the results are awesome, especially this:

“For now we will just let him experiment and let him decide when he’s older what he wants,” says Dawn. “I feel like a great deal of the depression and hate in this world comes from children being raised to think who they are and how they feel is wrong, then they grow into broken, confused adults.” Dawn admits that when Kaige first expressed an interest in dressing like a girl, she was terrified — not because it bothered her, but because she feared the way the world would treat her child.

12. A Brief History Of Old Navy’s Troubled Relationship With Fat Women from xojane.

13. The Truth About Marriage, Monogamy & Long-Term Partnership on Elephant Journal.

14. 4 Surefire Ways To Make Your Partner Feel Loved on MindBodyGreen.

15. amy palko: talking about a revolution, an interview with Sas Petherick.

16. The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day.

17. A farewell to Dr. Sophia Yin.

18. Oh, the irony from Kat McNally.

19. devotion (all the ways life gives fire) from lists and letters.

20. trusteeship & coffee art on Chookooloonks.

21. An open letter to Oprah, whose ‘The Life You Want’ tour asked me to work for free.

22. Creative Giant Podcast Episode Four: Become More Mindful with Susan Piver.

23. Burrs, rough edges & tangled mats of hair by Laurie Wagner.

24. Could female self-hatred be the real cause of autoimmune disease? from Sarah Wilson. This made so much sense to me, but many readers misunderstood, so she followed it up with “Female illness is not all in the mind” and 19 other things I’d like you to know about unreasoned e-blowouts.

25. One Hilarious Video Perfectly Sums Up a Big Problem With Western Humanitarianism.

26. 9 strategies for surviving the holidays with an open heart from Gemma Stone.

27. Defining the Well-fed Woman from Rachel Cole.

28. Being Small is the Greatest Escape by Stacy Morrison.

29. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving-kindness for yourself. Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time—trying to set up your life so that you’re comfortable every moment. Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty. In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go. This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are, with both your laziness and your bravery. There is no step more important than this.

30. Wisdom from Gertrude Stein,

Everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there.

31. We are All This Golden Retriever Spectacularly Bombing an Agility Test.

32. Interesting stuff about Amanda Palmer, There’s More To Asking Than Just Art (a book review), and The Art of Asking Why We Hate Amanda Palmer.

33. Ursula K. Le Guin’s fiery speech, and the overwhelming reaction to it.

34. Short animation describes what drug addiction is like. *sigh*

35. ‘If We Left, They Wouldn’t Have Nobody’ from Story Corps.

36. More wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.

37. Less expensive options for a convertible desk: A Standing/Sitting Desk You Can Afford and Ikea’s New Desk Goes From Sitting To Standing With The Push Of A Button. Obviously I’m not the only one interested in this — look at how much this Kickstarter campaign earned!

38. Do great work. Live great lives. on Medium.

39. What Normal Looks Like on Huffington Post.

40. Groomer Shaves Homeless Dog. What She Found Underneath All That Hair Made My Eyes Tear Up.

41. 10 Great Privileges We Forget to Be Thankful For from Marc and Angel Hack Life. #5 isn’t true for me, but the rest certainly are, and I’m grateful.

Taking Refuge

my meditation shrine

my meditation shrine

The first time I attempted meditation was almost 20 years ago. I was reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart and books on writing by Zen Buddhist Natalie Goldberg. I was fascinated by the philosophy, the perspective, the practice, and willing to try anything that might help me cope with the difficulty of my life, my emotions and my mind. Even though I found it beneficial, sat regularly for a short time with a Zen meditation group and on my own, the practice didn’t stick. I didn’t even finish reading Kornfield’s book.

I continued to struggle for eleven more years before finding my way back to a cushion. A friend recommended Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart and mentioned that the local Shambhala Meditation Center had a program coming up I might be interested in, “The Art of Being Human.” I read the book and went to the training, and started to practice in earnest. For two years, one weekend a month I was either attending a retreat or staffing one. I read and studied and practiced. This was the same time I started to practice yoga regularly. Things were falling into place.

And then everything fell apart. I had already been dealing with a difficult work situation, was stressed and in crisis, when my Obi was diagnosed with a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. At the same time, my friend Kelly was diagnosed with cancer. That summer I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to participate in a longer retreat, Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the two years of training I’d been doing. Not long after I returned home, Obi died. Six months later, Kelly died. Even though I didn’t leave CSU entirely, I effectively quit the job that was so problematic.

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

I was completely heartbroken, utterly lost, so confused. After two years of regular practice, I couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I sat on my cushion to meditate, I fell part, felt so raw, came unhinged and couldn’t stop crying. I was angry — if this practice couldn’t help me feel better when the worst happened, what good was it? I smile to remember it now, that way of thinking about what practice was supposed to do for me. What I understand now that I didn’t then is that my raw and tender broken heart, being able to feel that, experience it, sit and stay with it is exactly the point, not making it “go away” or fixing it like I thought.

Practice starts precisely where we find ourselves, which for many of us is a place of heartbreak, suffering, alienation and doubt. But it is precisely there, within those circumstances, that we start. ~Ryushin Sensei

For at least a year, I tried to find my way back to my cushion. I would practice in fits and starts, but it never seemed to stick. I continued to practice yoga and slowly started to write more regularly. I started taking ecourses and began this blog. I started building a routine, finding a rhythm. And then I found Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project, (OHP). I signed up for her newsletter and started meditating with her. Her wisdom, kindness, and friendship, along with the OHP community, helped me find my way back.

meditating with Susan

The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you — when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever — you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about taking refuge vows. I’ve been telling people for so long “I study and practice Buddhism, but I’m not actually a Buddhist, haven’t taken vows or anything,” that I wondered if I ever would. But I’ve been feeling a longing, a growing awareness — this is my path, I’m committed to it. Like I told a teacher once, “if this doesn’t work, nothing does.” For whatever reason, this is just what makes sense to me. It helps me to live my life, to be in the world, to cultivate kindness and wisdom, sanity. And yet, I have been waiting, for either an opportunity that was close to home or one Susan Piver could attend, because it felt important to me to have her there somehow, since she’s the primary reason I’d be there.

Then I got certified to teach yoga. We studied yogic philosophy as part of our training, meditated, did mantra and kirtan practice, learned various breath practices and the sanskrit names for the yoga poses, read the yoga sutras — and I loved it all, saw so many similarities between it and my tradition, but also became very aware that it wasn’t my path. Yoga is one of my practices, and part of my path as such, but I’m not so much a yogini as I am a Buddhist who does yoga.

Becoming a yoga teacher made it clear it was time to make a true commitment to my path. I searched to see where I might go to take my vows, and saw that the Boulder Shambhala Center was offering the ceremony two days before my birthday. Susan couldn’t be there, but she did write my letter of recommendation. The teacher who would be performing the ceremony had taught at my Warrior Assembly, and when I arrived the night we went to make our official request to make the vow, a friend was leading our meditation session. It was time.

boulderrigden

Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center Main Shrine Room

I asked Susan her advice about taking vows in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, and she said, “Relax. Watch your mind. Enjoy. Relax. Repeat … And remember, you have nothing to prove. This ceremony is to mark something that has already happened.” I tried to remember this as I waited for my interview with Acharya Ferguson (“Acharya” in this tradition basically means “senior teacher”), and even though he’s the kindest person and I’d met him before, I was still nervous. The purpose of the interview is to make a formal request to take the vow and for the teacher to come up with the dharma name you’d be given the day of the ceremony. We were told that he might ask us questions, but might not. The person who went in just before me was talking and laughing with him, and I wasn’t sure what to wish for — if he didn’t ask me any questions, was that good or bad? Part of me wanted him to see me and for my presence to be so vibrant, my true self so clearly embodied and present that he would know just by seeing me. I think I was also afraid if I opened my mouth, I might say something weird because I was anxious and end up with an odd name that didn’t fit, didn’t make sense to me.

In Tibet, children are given a nickname when they are born. This is what everyone calls them until they are old enough to take their refuge vows and receive their adult, Buddhist name. In that culture, everyone given a name uses it. In the West, many dharma students don’t actually change their name, but rather use it as a contemplation. We were told that the name isn’t meant as a compliment or a challenge, but rather something to consider as we practice, intended to offer insight, and that it was entirely up to us whether we wanted to officially change our name, use it in that way. I felt sure my name would be a message, that it would provide me a new understanding of my path. And during my meeting with Acharya Ferguson that night, he did ask me a few questions, and I could see the exact moment he knew the name he’d offer me.

heartgiftOn the day of the ceremony, I focused on Susan’s advice. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Acharya Ferguson gave a talk in the morning about what it meant to take refuge, and then we did sitting and walking meditation until lunch, contemplating what we were about to do. After a break to eat, we came back and had a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom. ~Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The ceremony itself was a funny combination of something like a baptism and a wedding, along with something else entirely. After you take the vow, reciting it three times after performing prostrations, the teacher (referred to in this case as a preceptor) snaps his fingers, and it’s at that moment the vow is made. My favorite moment was that finger snap. It was so simple and yet so definite. My next favorite moment was receiving my dharma name.

As I stood in line, listening to all the other names, I wondered if mine would be so good. Every person’s name seemed so rich, so full of beauty and possibility and wisdom. Every name that was read, I thought “oh, I wish that was mine!” I worried I’d get something that would be awkward or confusing. I’d talked to other people about their names, and listening to them describe their lingering confusion, I anticipated my own.

dharmanameI didn’t need to worry. There’s a rightness to the name I was given. I will continue to contemplate it, but my first thought was an appreciation of the way it married the concept of vastness, openness, emptiness with embodiment, movement, physical expression. I used to long to be a visionary, an oracle, a seer, a prophet of some sort, but I’m understanding more and more than my purpose is to be a container, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

You go through this ceremony which is like part baptism and part wedding and you expect to be born again somehow, cleansed or something, a new beginning, but really I’m just back in the heat of my own stew, laughing at how silly I was to think anything was going to be magically changed by it. I have to do the work, show up and practice, it’s up to me and that’s never going to change. This is my path, for sure and for real.

The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

Three Truths and One Wish

from our walk this morning

1. Today is my birthday. I am 47 years old, and it’s wonderful to be alive, awake, still here. I feel simultaneously older and yet so much younger than that number. I am not at all where I expected I would be, and my life hasn’t gone the way I imagined it would, and yet where I find myself is so right, so much better than I thought, while also so much more difficult. More than anything, I promised myself I would spend today being exactly who I am, loving and celebrating myself. It’s still morning here, and I think what I’ve given myself today might just need to be the way I live all the time.

2. Susan Piver is brilliant. Her latest video for the Open Heart Project suggests a simple question that she labels “a life changing question.” I finally watched it this morning and it was so perfectly timed, such a great way to start my day. Spoiler alert: the question is “who would I be if I took myself seriously?” It reminds me of what Rachael Maddox said recently, how “maybe the magic that was missing all along was the will to be all the way true to the call of your brilliant heart.”

3. I’m still grieving the loss of my Dexter. It’s been almost a year and a half, and I’m only just now able to touch the center of that sadness, which is very much alive, fierce and tender and raw.

One wish: That we take ourselves seriously, and that we celebrate and love and grieve fully, each in exactly our own way.

Something Good

1. Wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke,

YES, I truly, love and accept my body exactly the way it is — I think it’s cute, I think it’s sexy, and I like the way it looks in my clothes. But that doesn’t mean everyone else thinks so.

The unfortunate reality is that while, I choose not to participate in body-shaming, body manipulating activities (like diets), that doesn’t mean other people aren’t, OR that other people don’t think I should.

No matter how “okay” I am with my body personally, I still have to navigate living in an insanely fat-phobic, thin-privileged, diet-culture world. And that will likely continue to be the case until the day I die (although, God knows I’m doing everything in my power to try and change it).

A big part of doing “body image work” means learning how to handle having different opinions about weight, beauty, and/or “health,” than other people. And that’s something that, unfortunately, doesn’t go away.

At the end of the day, accepting our bodies doesn’t mean that life becomes all rainbows and unicorns — it simply means that instead of making the globally pervasive thin-ideal our problem, we start to see it for what it is: society’s problem.

2. The First 5 Most Frustrating Things About Simplicity (plus solutions) from Be More With Less.

3. Good stuff from Alexandra Franzen: Standard Out of Office Messages Are Boring. Try This Instead, and Good Question, and What are you devoted to creating… in the new year? [a worksheet to help you focus & find the right words].

4. A Better Organizational Strategy: Throw Away Everything That Doesn’t Make You Happy.

5. “On the All of It” – Going Om from Marianne Elliott. (Thanks for sharing, Tina).

6. The tiny cost of failure from Seth Godin.

7. Good stuff from Medium: How to live like a motherfucker, How to Write, Tell a four-word story, What Habits Are Best for Creativity?, and On Kindness.

8. The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit on Zen Habits.

9. Let yourself have days to be a perfectly imperfect human being from Brave Girls Club.

10. I Won’t Let You Down by OKGo.

11. Shared on Positively Present Picks: Weekend Do: Rest and Reset and Amy Poehler’s Radical Niceness.

12. 9 Essential Books That Will Transform Your Writing Forever, shared on Tammy’s Happy Links list.

13. The Here Year: Wellness on A Design So Vast.

14. Where Would You Sleep In This 86-Square-Foot Paris Apartment?

15. Wisdom from Krishna Das, “Love is what we are; we don’t get it from somebody, we can’t give it to anybody, we can’t fall in it or fall out of it. Love is our true Being.” Also from Krishna Das,

As far as I’m concerned the only thing we need to renounce is our self-hatred and judgement of ourselves, and our sense of unworthiness, and our sense that we are not worthy of love. This is where we should start. If we could just work with that place a little bit the whole quality of our lives would change.

16. This Woman Set Up An Instagram To Show The Shocking Truth Of Being A Woman Online on BuzzFeed.

17. Wisdom from Dan Pearce,

Share your weaknesses. Share your hard moments. Share your real side. It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called “perfection,” which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be a part of.

18. Addiction recovery takes body as well as spirit, a piece about Jennifer Matesa and her new book, (it’s SO good), The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober.

19. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper. How to Not Cheat on Your Creative Life. from Rachael Maddox.

20. Molly Crabapple’s 15 rules for creative success in the Internet age.

21. Truthbomb #659 from Danielle LaPorte, “Take up space.”

22. Comfortable: 50 People 1 Question.

23. Anne Lamott: “We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane” on Salon, in which she says,

Grief is just so scary. Our grief and rage just terrify us. If we finally begin to cry all those suppressed tears, they will surely wash us away like the Mississippi River. That’s what our parents told us. We got sent to our rooms for having huge feelings. In my family, if you cried or got angry, you didn’t get dinner.

We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction. All I know is that after 10 years of being sober, with huge support to express my pain and anger and shadow, the grief and tears didn’t wash me away. They gave me my life back! They cleansed me, baptized me, hydrated the earth at my feet. They brought me home, to me, to the truth of me.

24. Wisdom from the Journey of Love deck by Alana Fairchild, (shared by Susannah Conway),

There are many teachers on this path, some humble, some wise, some great companions on your life journey and some who will enter in and out of your life quickly, perhaps imparting a helpful word or teaching you a more challenging lesson about trusting and relying upon your own wisdom. The greatest teacher, however, is Life itself. You can trust your own experiences and know that it is the divine spark within you, the life within you, that is the one true teacher who carries you home in reawakened reunion with the Divine.

25. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

The Buddhist master Shantideva set forth a path for training in spiritual warriorship. In his text The Way of the Bodhisattva, he explains how the bodhisattva or spiritual warrior begins the journey by looking honestly at the current state of his or her mind and emotions. The path of saving others from confusion starts with our willingness to accept ourselves without deception.

You would think that a training whose intention was to prepare us to benefit others would focus exclusively on other people’s needs. But the majority of Shantideva’s instructions entail working skillfully with our own blind spots. Until we do this, we are in the dark about how other people feel and what might soothe them.

26. Wisdom from Susan Piver,

Meditation is more than a technology to employ on the path to success or even health. It is a method for communicating with your own brilliance. It is a way to relate with the mystery of your life. Something, everything, is trying to communicate with you. When we use meditation as a means to instruct our reality rather than listen to it, the magic disappears.

27. Because I Love to Make You Laugh and Why I Failed Nutrition Coaching 101 from Sue Ann Gleason. The video at the end is still making me laugh.

28. Why You Have To Destroy Doubt To Create The Life You Want on MindBodyGreen.

29. none of it was a mistake on Effervescence.

30. Wisdom from Jo Pillmore, “We are not here to be perfect. We are here to be whole.”

31. Free Mandala Workshop from Julie Gibbons.

32. Beautiful Things, River Teeth’s weekly column which “features very brief nonfiction that finds beauty in the every day.”

Glimpses, glimmers, meditations, moments, reflections, refractions, interrupted shadows, river shimmers, darkened mirrors, keyholes, kaleidoscopes, earring hoops, slabs of cracked granite, cracks where the light gets in. Beautiful things.

33. Little Hamster Bartenders Serving Tiny Food and Drinks on Bored Panda.

34. What Has Become Clear from Gerri Smalley.

35. Woman Photoshops Herself Into Her Mom’s Childhood Pictures For Touching Photo Series.

36. Note from the Universe, “If you keep asking ‘May I?’ Jill, I’ll keep asking ‘Will you?’ It’s never been up to me.

37. Holiday Hungers from Rachel Cole.

38. Thrive on Chookooloonks.

39. What It’s Like As a Bartender to Watch Your Awkward Tinder Date.

40. Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ Fits Almost TOO Perfectly With Aerobic Dance Video From 1989. Having lived through the Jane Fonda french cut leotard and big bangs era myself, this made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

41. Wisdom from Galway Kinnell, (shared by Lindsey),

To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.

42. Ready as I’ll ever be, from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

43. Where to Begin? Judith Kitchen from Jeff Oaks.

44. The Disease of Being Busy from On Being.

45. After A Death, Should We Get A Dog? Brain Study Signals “Yes.”

46. Navigate Your Life: Anna Guest-Jelley, an interview with Jennifer Louden.

47. Wisdom from Jen Lemen,

i don’t know if this path is for everyone.
i don’t know if it should be.
but if it is for you, i know how incredibly painful it is to pretend otherwise, and how difficult it is to constantly question yourself because you have this pain and this truth pulsing inside you that makes it nearly impossible to blow anything off or to try to be like everyone else.

48. Antonya Nelson’s Ten Writing Rules.

Something Good

1. Wisdom from The Zen of an Aching Heart by Jack Kornfield,

Sometimes suffering the losses and the unexpected betrayals and break-ups that befall each of us becomes the places where we grow deepest in our capacity to lead an authentic and free life. Often by working our way through our difficulties, our ability to love and feel compassion for ourselves and others deepens, along with the wisdom that will help us through similar problems in the future. And learning how to survive our present difficulties is one of the few things that will help us to know the right things to say and do when others whom we love suffer as well.

2. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, The Most Important Words of My Life and Don’t Live Somebody Else’s Dream.

3. Why I Will Never Use Microsoft Word Again by Jeff Goins.

4. Real Love Is a Choice on Huffington Post.

5. Simplicity is Not a Destination from Be More With Less.

6. Healing for the Inner Good Girl from Mara Glatzel.

7. Wisdom from Anna Guest-Jelley‘s newsletter,

I’ve recently been reading The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be by Mark Nepo…I wanted to share with you one of the gems from the book that I’m continuing to carry in my heart: “No matter how hard we work, the aim and purpose of practice is not to be done with it, but to immerse ourselves so completely in life by any means that we for the moment, are life itself living. Excellence, if we achieve it, is a welcome by-product of complete immersion. But the reward for practice is a thoroughness of being.”

8. How to train for your writing marathon from Sarah Selecky.

9. My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig, Reborn! from Laura Resau.

10. Raising Geeks from Brittany, Herself.

11. This Humans of New York post, “Before medical school I was really into music.” He has the most beautiful voice, like make you want to cry beautiful.

12. “When I Meander, I Discover”: A Q & A with Dani Shapiro.

13. This Is the Human Behind “Humans of New York.”

14. 22 Perfect Ways To Respond To A Text From Your Ex from BuzzFeed.

15. Wisdom from Mark Van Doren, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”

16. Why I Put Down That Green Smoothie on Elephant Journal.

17. 3 Buddhist Beliefs That Will Rock Your World (And Make You Much Happier!) on MindBodyGreen.

18. Letters to the Living No. 5: On Gentleness, Wrestling with a Wounded Angel.

19. 9 Year-Old Spanish Boy Becomes Young Wildlife Photographer Of The Year on Bored Panda.

20. Natty Valencia Fixes Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

21. Wisdom from John Muir, (by way of Jessica Patterson), “Earth has no sorrow that earth can not heal.”

22. Brittany Maynard, 29-Year-Old With Terminal Cancer, Explains Why She’s Delaying Ending Her Life. And sadly, just a few days after I watched the latest video, this: Terminally Ill Woman Brittany Maynard Has Ended Her Own Life.

23. This Upsetting Video Shows One Woman’s Street Harassment In A Single Day, and the parody video, This Is What Walking In New York City As A White Man Looks Like, both on BuzzFeed.

24. Beautiful, brutal wisdom from Isabel Abbott, remember and release: a list of love and letting go and Where Memories Dwell.

25. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” …It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.

26. A Life Enchanted.

27. Gathering my selves from Susannah Conway.

28. 30 Days To Better Hand-Lettering E-Course, shared on Positively Present Picks.

29. This quote about how being an artist is different from being “a lawyer, scholar, mechanist, typist, scientist, production assistant, or what-have-you.”

30. Pen & Ink, Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them on Medium.

31. all of me from Lisa Field-Elliot.

32. Carolyn’s Lovely, Freeing Eating Guide from Rachel Cole.

33. Maintenance: some notes from Jeff Oaks.

34. Not If, But When from Dani Shapiro.

35. Wisdom from David James Duncan,

If we feel the Unspeakable and then try to speak of what we felt, we sound like fools. But if we feel the Unspeakable and don’t speak, we feel like ingrates. I’m inclined toward gratitude. So, foolishly, I speak.

36. what I think you should eat from seed & feather. I can’t agree more with this:

So what do I think people should eat? Here’s the list.
1. Enough.
2. What you need.
3. Whatever you want.

37. How To Exercise Out Of Self-Love And Not Due To Fat-Shaming. Amen.

38. Which reminds me of some of my favorite lines of poetry from Osho,

Don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Move the way love makes you move.
Move the way joy makes you move.

39. The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to a Marriage from Huffington Post.

40. Susan Piver talking about the four noble truths of relationships. So good.

Trust in Basic Goodness

In the Open Heart Project Sangha, our recent topic for contemplation and discussion has been basic goodness. I’ve written about it here before, but this morning I was reminded of something else I wrote that I want to share with you — specifically because I was thinking about how self-compassion begins with trust in basic goodness. Over a year ago now, my friend Joy put together a 30-day ecourse, called Illuminate Your Heart Whispers: 30 Days of Love Prompts. She invited me to contribute, and I wrote the following about basic goodness.


basicgoodnessskyMy mission in life is to ease suffering, in the world and in myself. My method is trust in basic goodness. My practice is knowing that I am basically good, resting in this truth, and living with this understanding at the heart of everything.

“Basic goodness is our inherent wisdom and compassion, the fundamental nature of all sentient beings. We all possess basic goodness — genuine openness, intelligence, and warmth. Basic goodness is whole and complete, as it is. It is unconditional and does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our our desires,” (Chogyam Trungpa). It is not something we own, or can generate or earn — it simply is.

I am already whole, all of us are — this is basic goodness. I am not a problem to be fixed, or a project to take on, and neither are you, nor anyone else. You are not — no matter what advertising, religion, culture, or that little meanie with sharp teeth that lives in the dark might say – you are not basically bad, you are not unworthy or unlovable.

Certainly, we also might be confused, hurt, discontent, and lost in delusion, and we often cause suffering from this state, but our fundamental nature is always there, intact and available. Our basic goodness is like the sky, clear blue and spacious and enduring — everything else is simply the weather.

You have basic goodness, a deep wisdom and compassion, available to you every moment. It’s right there inside, waiting all the time. No matter what mistakes you have made or bad luck you have, it remains, it cannot be used up or smashed to bits, no matter how hard you might try, how violently you resist, how fast you might run, no matter what happens to you.

Basic goodness is what is precious about each and every one of us. It is what makes us shine and sparkle, what fuels love and right action and great work. It is medicine and magic and maitri, (“loving-kindness”). It is the only thing that is unchangeable, unconditional.

Basic goodness is freedom. “If you are ever going to be free, you must be willing to prove to yourself that your inherent nature is goodness, that when you stop doing everything else, goodness is there,” (Cheri Huber).

You are who you are, you are basically good and you can’t change that, no matter how you try. Certainly, you can change habits or opinions or affiliations or memberships or addresses or hairstyles, but that fundamentally true part of you, that collection of love and wisdom and dirt and breath and blood is basically good, and in a way that is you as only you can do it. It is the best, most brilliant you can give, and the most brave you can be.

It’s such good news, no one believes it. – Chogyam Trungpa

Take a moment with me right now to pause and rest in basic goodness. Right now, in this very moment, place your hand over your heart, feel the warmth there, the beating of your heart, the rise and fall of your breath, and say “I am basically good.” Notice if any resistance arises as you say those words. Be curious about that, but gentle. Take a deep breath and say it again, “I am basically good.” Rest in the deep knowing that this is true.

We can love and accept ourselves, our reality, exactly as we are and exactly as it is. No need for self-improvement or change, no need to earn this. We can simply drop the trying and accept ourselves, exactly as we are. It takes courage to trust in basic goodness, to believe that it is our fundamental state, to believe so of others, but if we can it is the path to freedom and love. Relax completely into who you are, aware in each moment of your basic goodness, your natural wisdom and kindness, and in this way you will be of benefit both to yourself and the world.

My meditation instructor, Susan Piver, has shared a mantra that I would like to offer to you as you develop your confidence in basic goodness. It goes like this:

I am basically good.
All beings possess such goodness.
Knowing this, my heart opens.
When my heart opens, the world changes.

I invite you, kind and gentle reader, to join me, in trusting and resting in basic goodness, in keeping our hearts open. In this way, we can ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world.

What I Don’t Want to Talk About

It’s been a tender morning for me. Ringo woke us up around 3 a.m., with that heaving and gagging that every half asleep parent knows will result in the need for a change of bedding. He threw up a wad of grass wrapped around a small rock, probably eaten when he dug a big hole outside at daycare yesterday, (he had help apparently, and they still adore him). I’m struggling right now with issues relating to the dogs, health and training specifically, some of which is Eric and I’s shared struggle (sometimes our struggle with each other) and some of which is mine alone.

Eric took the dogs hiking, so I’ve been by myself all morning, and yet not alone but rather in relationship with so many people, their wisdom and their suffering.

robinwilliamsrollingstonecoverI started my morning reading a recent Rolling Stone article about Robin Williams. In it, Tom Hanks says, “He had wisdom born of all the burns and scars of his life, and he was funny about it.” Revisiting that loss reminded me of another.

perfectpuppyI bought this book in the weeks before we got Ringo, firstly because of the Cattle Dog Lucy who’s the main subject, in so many pictures throughout. Truth be told, this book kind of made me feel like crap about myself, but reinforced what I was learning about the shift in dog training to positive methods, offers good strategies and sound advice.

The author Dr. Sophia Yin committed suicide this week at 48. She was a pioneer of the humane training movement. Both Sophia and Robin were healers in their own fields, her through her vet care and by helping people build good relationships with their pets, him through entertainment and laughter. I’m contemplating this morning how you can do so much good in the world and still suffer so deeply you can’t see a way through it.

After writing my morning pages, I took a shower and sat to meditate. After that, I watched the first video from Susan Piver for her newly launched Open Heart Project Sangha, which was all about basic goodness, what she calls “square one.”

For some reason, as Susan was talking about basic goodness, I remembered scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing a picture of a cute fuzzy puppy with the caption, “Ready for a cuddle now.” I was shocked, surprised by my reaction, which wasn’t an immediate softening, no sense of “awww, how cute,” but rather a sense of dread, the thought that “one day that sweet fuzzy is going to break someone’s heart into a million pieces.” You know you are in a rough, tender place when the picture of a cute puppy, rather than making you feel warm & fuzzy, comforted and soothed, instead reminds you of loss, grief, and suffering.

Baby Sam

Baby Sam

Susan ended her dharma talk on basic goodness by sharing that she recently asked Tara Brach, “How is it possible to bear walking through this world in an open state?” This is an important question, because as Susan said herself, we all wonder how, “How am I supposed to walk through this world with an open heart when it’s such a crazy world, when it’s so hard and there are so many things that are so friggin’ painful that I feel like I might literally die if they touch me?”

Tara’s answer was simply “sangha.” The simplest definition of sangha is “community.” We can’t do it alone, and having a community, a place to belong where we can be genuinely ourselves, connect with others, find support, be in relationship, and as Susan describes “together and separately…dare to have confidence in basic goodness” is essential to being able to keep our hearts open, to be able to withstand what’s hard and feel the full wonder of what is beautiful.

I’m guilty of isolating myself. Of disconnecting, shutting down, spending too much time in my own head and by myself. Some of this is time I genuinely need to recharge, to rest and restore, but some of it isn’t so healthy. I get confused, think it’s up to me to solve every problem, to control and fix everything, that there is no help. I can easily sink into despair. I’ve had my own thoughts of suicide. I know there are some people who don’t want to believe that, who would reject and dismiss it, and I don’t feel entirely comfortable confessing it, but it’s true.

My life rehab started with the simple wish to “be a better friend to myself.” Not to be a better person, not to become successful or accomplish things and make stuff, but to practice maitri — loving compassion towards the self. I have a strong sense that right now that means two things: to accept help, to seek out connection and community, and to be gentle with myself.

kitchenbasicgoodnessI started to practice this open gentleness right after I finished Susan’s video. I went into the kitchen to make myself some French Toast. When I reached for the bowl, I noticed the greenness of the green, the way the light reflected off the smooth edges, how much it reminded me of jade. Then, the plate with its branch and buds, how it is square and round at the same time. Both of them sitting side by side on the countertop I chose over ten years ago because it reminds me of rice paper. I got out the bread, dense and whole and heavy with seeds. When I was done cooking my toast, I scrambled the remaining eggs to give to the dogs later and washed the pan. I noticed, let things touch me, was softened by the wholehearted effort I put towards nourishing myself.

It’s a start.

The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~Pema Chödrön