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Award! "How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life," best spirituality book of 2007!!

February 27, 2008   |   10 Comments

Books for a Better Life Awards
“The Awards recognize excellence in self-help, motivational, and self-improvement books in nine categories.”


Unbelievably, “How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life” has won best spirituality book of 2007 from Books for a Better Life. It is an annual event sponsored by the National MS Society. This year’s event was hosted by TODAY show co-host Meredith Viera. It’s the only event that recognizes self-help books. There are 9 categories, including Relationships, Finance, etc. Publishers submit books from their list that they think should be nominated and then judges actually read them and choose 5 titles for each category. The winner is also determined by judges.


Which goes to say that although I may heart my book, I never, ever, ever thought it would win because it was in a category with the wondrous Anne Lamott, nominated for her book, “Grace (Eventually).” Anne is one of my very favorite writers and a total role model for me in terms of voice. She writes about the business of being human with an admirable, inspiring combination of sharpness and fragility.


Also nominated in my category was the awesome T.D. Jakes, preacherman extraordinaire. I was throwing down with T.D. Jakes. This was getting very surreal.

But it got surreal-er. Here are some highlights.


(picture taken with my cell phone)

Highlight #1 Some years ago, I purchased my husband a vintage Hamilton watch from the Aaron Faber Gallery. It was in need of repair and so we brought it to NY with us thinking we’d drop it off there. I ran into the owner, Ed Faber, who is very close with one of my best friends, Beth Grossman. My mother was with us. (Both my parents said “we’re coming” when told about the awards ceremony. I didn’t invite them. In fact, I doubt I would have attended if they hadn’t said this!!) Mom told Ed I was up for an award and the ceremony was tonight. He said, well you’ll need some jewelry, won’t you? We’ll lend you something. I wanted to say, no, no, that’s okay, but instead I heard myself go, “Wow, thanks! OK!” What is your dress like, what is the neckline, how dramatic do you want to go are the kinds of questions he asked. I said I want to wear whatever will make people go, “Where did you get that?!” when they gazed upon my jewelry, so I could say “Aaron Faber Gallery of course.” It was totally like being a movie star. Or how I imagine a movie star gets treated. After trying on a lot of very bold necklaces, he showed me a gold and diamond necklace that, I’m not kidding, brought a tear to my eye when I saw it. It was so beautiful. And then he paired it with non-matching gold and diamond earrings. When he told me the necklace cost $54000, my tear-stained eyes almost bugged out of my head. I thought, no way can I do this. Then another voice said, why not? See what it’s like to wear a $54K necklace and see if you can wear it with dignity instead of having it wear you. It may sound silly, but if you ever get such a necklace draped around your décolleté, see if you can stand it without feeling like an unworthy shmo OR an entitled diva. See if you can simply wear it as the beautiful thing that it is. That’s what I tried to do. It was AWESOME.


Highlight #2 I loved my dress. Calypso “Julia” wrap dress. Color: Champagne.

Highlight #3 My dad had left his seat early in the ceremony to stand on the other side of the auditorium. That way he could hear the proceedings out of his good ear. Just before I got up on stage to accept the award, he came barreling out of nowhere to hug and kiss me in front of the whole auditorium. I said, this is my father and the audience went awwwww.


Highlight #nth At this age, I know the value of making my parents proud. In my 20s and 30s, it seemed like a decent thing to do but in my 40s with an 83-year old dad and a 77-year old mom (both aging in amazingly good health, knock wood), it means something altogether different. I thank God, Jah, Buddha whoever is watching out for me for enabling me to give this gift to my parents. This is by far the biggest highlight.

Someone asked me what I said in my little acceptance speech. We were actually encouraged to tell a little story about how the book came to be. Here is the gist:

Gasp, sputter, guffaw, inadvertently cuss and stammer…then thank agent and editor for working so hard on my behalf, parents and husband for being so nice to me even when I was super cranky during the writing process. Then this:

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to attend the first public dialog between the Dalai Lama and top Western scientists who had come together to discuss the nature of mind. It became apparent that we in the West have made enormous strides cataloging and treating negative mind states such as depression, anxiety, psychoses, etc. This is enormously valuable. It became equally apparent that over the last several thousand years, Buddhists have spent their time cataloging and cultivating positive mind states such as wisdom, happiness, and compassion. These teachings have nothing to do with religion and when I found that I had the opportunity to write about them from the point of view of a student, I was so happy. This very same Buddhadharma had helped me when relationships ended, money was short, or my aspirations were thwarted. I had been studying it for over a decade and it totally applied to real life—so I could write about it from the point of view of a student, which I did.

Everyone who has written a book knows what torture it can be. I sat down at my desk many mornings and just burst into tears. Half the time it was because I didn’t know what to say. The other half was in gratitude for being able to devote my precious human birth to the task of understanding the dharma and then trying to communicate it for the benefit of others. It was the best experience of my life.

And my jewelry is from the Aaron Faber Gallery of course!!

Just kidding about that last line.

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  • Posted by:  Ellen K

    Dear Susan,

    Congratulations on your wonderful news! I discovered your blog today after coming across your name at the Shambhala Mountain website.

    What a gift this discovery feels like to me. Between you and Elizabeth Gilbert, I’ve discovered 2 wonderful role models for my own writing.

    My heart feels very happy and full reading about your experience. Thanks for being here for all of us.

    May all beings be happy, beginning with you,

    Ellen Kozub

  • Posted by:  Ann

    Yea, Susan! Love the dress and the necklace, and of course loved the book too! What a fabulous night for you and your family!

  • Posted by:  susan

    Thanks Ann & Ellen. Congrats are much appreciated. It’s so nice of you both to be happy for me. And, Ellen, thanks for putting me in a class with Eliz Gilbert. She’s so cool. Susan

  • Posted by:  Michael Carroll

    What a delight
    This adventure.
    And your story –
    A gentle inspiring map.
    Here’s to you
    Good sister!
    Here’s to the vivid dance!
    Here’s to you!

  • Posted by:  susan

    Michael, you are the best of all brothers.

  • Posted by:  Samantha

    Congratulations! How wonderful. I took your weekend program at Shambhala NYC in January and I’m so glad you sent out this announcement. Enjoy!

  • Posted by:  susan

    Samantha, thanks for the congrats. And it was great to meet you in NYC. Hope your writing is going well!

  • Posted by:  Celia Straus

    Susan, congratulations to you, your parents, Duncan 1 and 2. You deserve these accolades. Your book is incredible and I am the better for reading it and knowing you. Love and warmth from my heart. Celia

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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance