With gratitude for you and our practice together…

December 25, 2022   |   32 Comments

Dear Open Heart Project,

Instead of a meditation video, I thought I’d send you a note to wish you a happy, healthy, joyful new year. I hope you will experience all the blessings of your path in 2023 and always.

At this time of year, it is tempting (and understandable) to think about what we want to create, build, change, and who we want to become. At least these are the things I think about during this liminal space between years. Must work harder! Must do better! And so on and so forth.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with these admonitions particularly, but rather then inspiring me, they often exhaust me. There is just so far to go, I think to myself.

At such moments, it enriches me immeasurably to think of the words of the great scholar, sage, and master, Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, with whom I have had the incredible good fortune to discuss my own practice from time to time. In one such conversation I was despairing of ever progressing along the path. I was (and remain) a very bumbling practitioner. When will I ever “get it”? I wondered. His response:

“Don’t think about how far you have to go. Think about how far you have come.”

The moment I heard these words, I relaxed. I realized that I had come a long way. I saw that my progress was marked, not by great flashes of realization or experiences of bliss (whatever that is), but of countless tiny moments where I let my preconceived notions go, managed to avoid being hooked by usual triggers, took a chance on expressing my real feelings, discovered patience for people and situations that I’d rather ignore, found ways to avoid losing my temper (on good days), and to soften toward, well, everyone (on really good days)–especially myself. Most of all–and I think this is a potent marker of progress–I had become more real, true to myself, willing to turn towards my actual experiences, which include love, joy, kindness–sure–but also irritation, rage, jealousy, dullness, and endless awkwardness. Also, my sense of humor improved. (No small thing, that!!) I found that I could make space for Susan Piver to be…Susan Piver.

I wish this for you, that your practice will turn you, not into some kind of saint, but into some kind of EXACTLY WHO YOU ALREADY ARE. Another way of saying this is: I hope that the voice of your inner teacher grows stronger with every breath.

As we enter this new year, perhaps you could spend some time reflecting on how far you have come, on what you have discovered about your inherent kindness, brilliance, and bravery. I would love to hear what you discover.

Love always, Susan

PS Also: please consider becoming a member of the Open Heart Project sangha as it gives us the opportunity to practice together more closely.

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  • Posted by:  Pippa

    Dear Susan, I feel I’m still discovering so much about the world and my place in it; your Dharma talks and meditations certainly help with that. I generally feel so much calmer, more tolerant and appreciative of everything! I would also like to wish you and yours a very happy new year! Kindest regards, Pippa

    • Posted by:  Ana Buede-Fletcher

      Dear Susan

      Thanks so much for your comforting note and also for all your generosity throughout the year.

      I’ve recently felt rather dejected at the way I still react rather than respond in certain situations, and at the way I still snap at my husband and get so irritated. It’s very humbling having to face up to these limitations when I practise meditation every day and have made the practice of mindfulness the purpose of my life. Your teaching on the noble truth if EFFORT came to mind, the idea of never giving up, that really helps me keep trying to overcome these limitations and, most importantly, to be kind to myself in the process and, most difficult!, embrace the irritability like a mother would her baby. Thanks so much again and best wishes for now and always. Love, Ana x

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Sending much love, Ana. It sounds like you are on the right path.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I am so happy to read this, Pippa! With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Lisa

    Dear Susan ,
    Thank you for your letter and for reminding us to reflect on our progress rather than the distance to ‘go’. I will certainly turn to this more positive reflection as the ‘ old year ‘ draws to a close and the New Year beckons .

    Thank you also for your work and wisdom.

    Wishing you and all the wider community a peaceful , joyful year ahead
    Lisa x

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      And all the same to you, Lisa! With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Carolina

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your lovely note. Reading it gave me a sense of relaxation. Yes, i was having those thoughts of best resolutions for the new year but as i kept on reading your words it just came to me that the best resolution is to walk the path of becoming oneself minute after minute…day after day…year after year…untill time itself has no more meaning.
    Thank you.
    Happy New Year to All!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      What a beautiful response, Carolina! With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  diana plummer

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your encouraging and inspiring letter and for all the work that you share with the Open heart Project Community throughout the year. The messages you deliver are very clear and down to earth.
    I realize that the only way towards meaningful transformation is to keep working and putting into practice what I have learned and understood and to keep going -no matter what- and to never give up.
    Happy New Year and many blessings in your on-going work.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Wishing you all the blessings of this precious journey, Diana. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Catherine

    Dear Susan
    I was deeply moved.
    I’m going to save this letter of encouragement
    Thank you for being you

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So happy this resonates. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Janie

    Thank you as always for your deep insight, honest sharing, and welcome for connection. I am blessed by your words.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Much love to you, Janie. Very happy to practice together.

  • Posted by:  Killarney

    Dear Susan
    Thank you so much. I find your thoughtful comments and musings inspirational and encouraging and as a result of your guidance I am so much more reflective and calm. Certainly not perfect but a little wiser and kinder to myself and those around me. Warm wishes to you and yours and this wonderful community.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      It sounds like your practice is taking root in the best possible way. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Chiara

    Thank you Susan for these beautiful words, which will accompany and be the beacon for my future path. Thank you for accompanying me in this year, day after day with your words, always so bright, deep but at the same time simple, nourishment for the soul and authentic testimony of what a constant practice can allow us. Thank you for your generosity, which has allowed me, despite my limited means, to be part of your great community.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I’m so grateful for this kind and encouraging post, Chiara. Many thanks. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  James H

    Thank you so much for this.
    Earlier this year I walked a trail that was so long that when I set off I didn’t really believe I would make it to the end. Completing it seemed a distant and improbable dream.
    I learnt the lesson in your letter in a very practical way.
    The trail was so long that if I thought about how far I was going to walk, the journey seemed impossible. So each day I focused just on what was directly in front of me. I got up and walked and tried not to think too much about how far it was.
    Then one day, after a few weeks, I paused at the top of a hill and turned and looked back in the direction I had come. And it hit me. I had already walked so very far. Noticing that gave me a boost that carried me forward.
    I looked back regularly after that. And each time I looked back it was always the same. Though there was still a huge journey ahead of me, the distance I had traveled was always much larger than I had realised as I was crossing it. And the vastness of what was behind me seemed to lift me up and carry me forward somehow, like a boat on an ocean current.
    I was thinking about that again before I saw your letter. I was sitting up in bed with a cup of tea on the morning after Christmas Day. Here in my new home.
    My ex-wife had come to lunch. I’d invited her and cooked a big meal. We gave presents to the children and everybody hung out together and nobody cried. And when she left we hugged briefly, and afterwards she sent me a message to say thank you and I replied that she was very welcome.
    So sitting here I was thinking about how long and hard the journey sometimes is, but also how very far we’ve come.
    Your letters are always so wise. x

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are always so perfectly you and inspiring and poetic and wonderful and JAMES. So grateful you took the time to share this. Also “everybody hung out and nobody cried” is my new hope for this world. Love always, Susan

  • Posted by:  Susan King

    Last year at this time my dear father passed, and terrible family arguments followed hurting everyone badly. I had been caretaking my parents and the reaction from several siblings was very painful. I lost weight, felt anxious constantly, as if the foundation under me fell apart.
    As my self care – I walked more, meditated and continued yoga. I went onto an antidepressant.
    I have come a long way. I have determined family bonds don’t guarantee understanding. I am in the process of getting stronger and realizing my relationship with some family members will be distant because they are not good for me. This has all been a tremendous learning experience and I have faith life will continue to improve as I’ve done my best in this situation.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Oh Susan. This does sound truly painful. It is wonderful how far you have come. So glad our paths crossed. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Danny Tindall

    I love the words of Tulku Thondup Rinpoche. I think we forget the journey we have made so far and the obstacles we have overcome to this point. We will always be a ‘work in progress’, but if we keep covering more ground and enhancing our discipline and structure, we will keep developing improved iterations of ourselves!
    Thank you Susan,
    Danny T

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Agree with every word! With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Isil Uysal Calvelli

    Your letter refreshed me. Susan, I am grateful that you are my meditation teacher and spiritual friend. Things you say make just sense to me and I love how you say them. My heart and mind open when I listen to you and when I read from you.

    I have too measured myself up against lofty goals (not that there is anything wrong with lofty goals, they are great), which kept vibrating anxiety and a sense of shame of falling too short. But at the same time, through this anxiety, I have practiced letting go and through the shame I have practiced letting myself be as I am. I think I have come quite some way in being myself past year and I wish to continue this journey.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So very, very happy to be on the path together, Isil. You are such a wonderful companion on the journey. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Ilse

    Dear Susan,
    I Can’t put into Words How much the OHP has helped me this year, with my meditation practice, with a wider view of the world through your talkings and all you share with us.
    Thank you for your letter and for being so human and authentic through your Words. It allows me to connect with you and actually, even with myself in such a deep way.
    I feel like I Can’t thank you enough, but maybe a way to start is by spreading your word every time I can. That I do it for sure.
    2022 was a great chapter in my life and I’m living the present moment which eventually will bring a new chapter.
    I wish you all the best, and especially that you Can reach more people who can learn from your guidance 🙏🏻

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Ilse, I’m so glad to know that are practice and study support you. That means so much to me!! Much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Sarah L

    It just “turned 2023” here. Someone was setting off fireworks and it woke me up. I laid there – and continue laying here – thinking about how scared I am. That’s all I could think. And then I decided to pick up my phone and read some ridiculous article on something like, you know, 10 Best Celebrity Pets from the 1960s… So basically click bait. But it dawned on me that I hadn’t read your letter yet, and it was something I could do without waking my family up. So I did, and then I read all of these comments, and I realized that just doing THIS is evidence that I have some so far, and that this sangha is real and true. Turning to sangha rather than letting pain take me over completely – that is so different for me. Thank you all so much. I almost exclusively have to watch talks, etc., asynchronously – but this is proof that I still have a real-time sangha. I’m still scared, but you all are out there, and I have to remember that. I love you all ❤️ especially that Susan person who comes into my email inbox so wonderfully everyday 😜 lol

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sarah! I can’t tell you how happy I am to read your words. We all know that feeling of fear-in-the-night and it is brilliant that you were able to shift your focus to how far you have come–while still feeling afraid. You have illustrated the power of sangha so perfectly. It has the power to turn loneliness on its head no matter where we are. I’m so happy to practice with you. Much love, S PS Send that 10 Best Celebrity Pets of the 1960s if you find it!!! 😉

  • Posted by:  Betsy Loeb

    Dear Susan, Thank you once more for your teachings, your generosity through The Open Heart Project and your reminders (your words & actions) of qualities of stead-fastness, gentleness & compassion. My reflections: many times “wanting to give up” (ALONENESS: living alone for almost 30 years is hardly my preferred way of being; WORRY: the state of our world for all of us & most especially my children & grandchildren), but I haven’t. Somehow I must have grown more gentle with myself…I no longer (as of today!!) take medicine for depression that I’ve taken for about 30 yrs. I continue to practice, study and participate with the Sangha. One area that I continue to ponder is how to “find” a meditation teacher (the 3 Jewels). Thank you, thank you. And, may you & yours have a 2023 filled with ease, with love and with laughter. With an open heart, Betsy

  • Posted by:  Betsy Loeb

    PS…Ha! I just read your “Annual Report” and your descriptions of the Outer, Inner, Secret teachers after I had posted my previous reflections re: having a relationship with a teacher. Glad to see that…continue to wonder about this. Thank you, Betsy

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