Category Archives: Susan Piver

Day of Rest

Selfie I took with my new laptop while on retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center -- what I look like when I'm working

Selfie I took with my new laptop while on retreat (writing and meditation with Susan Piver) at Shambhala Mountain Center — what I look like when I’m working

Over time, as the thinking mind begins to settle [through the practice of meditation], we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be a painful experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher, and a support, and no longer as an enemy. ~From Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chödrön

As I mentioned recently, my guiding word for 2016 is path. In a moment of luck, serendipity, magic, or auspicious coincidence, the monthly theme for January in the Open Heart Project Sangha is “stages of the path.” In Susan’s talk introducing the topic, one thing that really stood out to me was something she said about discipline being related to remembering our priorities — some of the most important of which are to find out who we are and share what we have to give, to nourish and nurture ourselves so we can be of benefit to others.

For so much of my life, I was confused about this. I looked to external standards and measures to determine who I was supposed to become, what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to be. None of this process ever asked, “who are you? what do you have to offer?” My effort was completely disconnected from my inherent being, and was focused on becoming something else. I spent most of my adult life denying who I was, lost to myself, homesick for something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

A conversation with a friend got me thinking about how I got here, how I found myself back in my own body, reconnecting to my true self, and about all the remaining ways I still struggle. I went back through the timeline (starting nine years ago) and considered all the things that had to shift, all the effort and patience it required. It wasn’t easy, and I’m nowhere near done.

And I know that sounds like I’m talking about changing, about self-improvement, but that’s not it exactly. Before I was a constructed, false self, and the effort now is about sinking into my authentic self, letting all that other crap fall away. For example, some people might look at my body now and think “she’s bigger, she changed,” when actually it was the previous form of my body that was a construct. I put so much effort and struggle into how my body was before. It wasn’t natural or healthy, and yet to look at me, I was a better fit with the norm, the standard women are measured by. My body before by external measures was preferable, but I had to suffer to have it. I had to hurt myself to look like that. I’m now making the choice to not generate more suffering, to be kinder and less judgmental. I no longer go to the gym to change the way my body looks, but rather I’m there to feel good in the body I have. Sure, I hope the effort translates into an increase in strength, endurance, overall health, but I can no longer be motivated by needing things to be different, thinking I can control the outcome, hating myself because I don’t measure up.

And what a wonderful surprise to realize that the most important thing I have to offer, the best thing I have to give can only come from being fully myself. That who I really am is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing I need to fix or hide, but rather something to honor, something precious, something to set free. No smashing myself to bits. No more striving. Instead, I just need to relax, sink deeply into my tiny ordinary life, just as I am, letting the edges of my practice soften so that there is no longer any difference between my life and my path.

2016: One Word

bestnineThere’s a website (2015bestnine) that will look at your Instagram account and make a collage of the nine most liked images from your account for 2015. The above is mine. I’m a little surprised there’s no pictures of dogs, and only one food picture, since it seems like those are the kind of pictures I post the most.

I’ve been doing lots of year end things like this lately. Crafting year end reviews, and cultivating new year intentions. Letting go and looking forward. In a meditation this morning with Adreanna Limbach’s 31 Days of Devotion program, I contemplated the suggested question “what do I feel devoted to this year?” I was surprised and not surprised by what came up. There was nothing I hadn’t expected, but I was caught off guard by the intensity of my devotion in regards to some of the things on my list.

  • Health and well-being of my body. The intensity of this one was so strong. The desire was deep to care for it, let it rest, give it lots of water, feed it good food, take it on walks, stretch it, do yoga, lift weights — to be rested, well-fed, and strong, to feel good.
  • Reading and thinking and practicing. This is both in relation to my Buddhist studies and doing for the simple joy of it.
  • Intimacy. This in particular to my relationship with Eric, continuing to explore the ways we can be closer, familiar and connected and content.
  • Joy. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m realizing that when I lost Dexter I let my joy go with him. I’ve been so focused on the bad things that have happened over the past decade, so caught up in preparing for the worst and working with the hard stuff, that I lost my sense of joy. I’d like to open some space for it, invite it back in.
  • Writing. For this blog, for the book I’m writing, for publication elsewhere, for the fun of it.
  • Teaching. Yoga, my Wild Writing Crazy Wisdom workshops, and some online classes — both in service to my students and for my own sake.
  • Simplified, beautified space. With our bathroom remodel, I realized how good it feels to have a beautiful space, beautiful things, and to get rid of what no longer serves us. I want all my space to feel like that — cleared out and full at the same time.

After having picked a guiding word for the past four years, I wasn’t sure if I would this year. Last year’s word didn’t turn out like I expected, and one didn’t seem to be coming to me. I signed up for Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word free class, but I put off reading the emails, doing the work. I thought maybe I just wouldn’t have a word this year.

Then I went on retreat with Susan Piver, and she talked about the necessity of our writing and meditation practices having a path quality to them. I’d been feeling a longing to deepen my Buddhist studies, having taken refuge vows a year ago, so the idea of cultivating a path quality in my life, in my other practices, was very appealing.

I kept coming back to “path” as a possible word for 2016. For the past few days, I was planning to work through Susannah’s emails to be sure, but after listening to Adreanna’s video this morning, practicing with her, listening to her talk about devotion, I knew path was right.

pathwithtextPath carries with it a sense of devotion — love, loyalty, and enthusiasm. It’s commitment, immersion, dedication, discipline, and joyful effort that springs from a place of love and attention. On a path, there’s a clarity of direction and intention, but also unexpected obstacles and surprising beauty. I show up, open up, stay with what arises without an agenda, thus sinking deeper into my innate wisdom and compassion, experiencing my life more fully. I encounter clarity and simplicity, ease and contentment, stability. It’s a good word.