The Secret to Unhappiness

May 27, 2024   |   19 Comments

Audio only version is here
Meditation begins at 16:11

Hello, welcome to your meditation practice! Before today’s 10-minute sit, I share some thoughts about the third noble truth of Buddhism, the cessation of suffering. As a reminder, the first noble truth says that life is suffering (meaning impossible to stabilize). The second noble truth posits grasping as the cause. Now, with the third noble truth, we begin to open the door to what we could do instead of suffer.

As I was thinking about this short talk this morning, I wanted to be sure to mention that I do not know any secrets to happiness…however, I have uncovered some secrets to unhappiness. Sort of joking? In any case, when we stop to examine our unhappiness we may discover something that alleviates suffering—not because we have crafted a solution but perhaps because we have opened up to tolerate the discomfort that gives rise to unhappiness. When we open, we create space around something that may otherwise read claustrophobic. Meditation is essential in this regard. It shows us how to pause. 

Also, I share a story about what happened to me a few nights ago when I woke up in an abject state of terror. 

Have a listen and let me know what you think. 


PS! Remember that you are warmly invited to join the Open Heart Project sangha, our membership community. The conversations go deeper and we have more time together. Please check it out, it would be great to see you there.

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  • Posted by:  Anne holloway

    Thank you again for all your great work! You are just one of the best teachers and I’m grateful for you. Quick question, you always start by saying “sit up straight” so I feel like kind of a failure since I have a terrible back and I have to do these Meditations lying down. in every other way, you’re always so sensitive and accommodating, but I’m wondering if you could incorporate including “or find a position that’s comfortable for you”so I don’t feel so inadequate from the start! I know it’s just a small thing – and I am probably being oversensitive- but it feels more inclusive for those with disabilities of one type or another. Thank you!!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      it’s not a small thing. sometimes i say “sit up straight–or your version of straight.” please feel free to lie down and find your own way to feel uplifted. and if you feel like a failure, label that “thinking” and let it go!! wishing you well. Susan

      • Posted by:  Anne holloway

        Thanks for that! I think I was having a particularly bad day with a bad back, but I do appreciate your response!

  • Posted by:  Alison Date

    You revealed 2 qualities of suffering:
    1. Bewilderment : don’t know
    2 Fixation: do know
    3. ????
    Whats # 3?

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      It is suffering itself, the result of bewilderment and fixation.

  • Posted by:  Lynne Bannerman

    I was also waiting for #3.

    And thank you Susan for not describing suffering as a “gift”.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      haha! no need for reflexive positivity if you ask me. <3 s

  • Posted by:  Laura

    Dear Susan, thank you for sharing your story. It’s moving for me to see how – despite cultural and geographical distances between us – humans share so much similarity of experience. I really appreciate you, your bravery, your humour and your teaching. Much love.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Laura, many thanks for the kind words and i send love to you as well. xo s

  • Posted by:  Betsy Loeb

    Ditto what others said. In particular, your story was super helpful and resonates with me. Sometimes in my waking hours I have those feelings. As you know, now that I’m 75 yrs old, aging & death are upmost in my mind. Though I have children & grandkids, I don’t have a partner to process all this with. And, I don’t won’t to burden my kids with it. How would that be of benefit to them or me, really? Your description was so helpful and to see how you processed it to bring more space around such a terrifying feeling and vision. I always look forward to receiving your teachings. It’s like a wonderful gift coming in the mail (email). Love to you. Betsy

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Love you, Betsy. xo

  • Posted by:  Melinda

    Your “chasm” story so helpful !! —- I’ve been there with exactly the same terrifying thoughts/ worries . It’s definitely a brutal face-plant. Hearing your suffering story somehow comforting, to know I’m not alone and realizing, through awareness, that these are just thoughts and this too shall pass.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      you are definitely not alone! sending love. s

  • Posted by:  Megan

    These teachings came at just the right time for me! I was suffering , wishing very much that things were not as they are, and then I remembered the four noble truths. I thought I would look for a teaching- and your email landed in my inbox the very next day! Thanks universe. And thank you, it has been very helpful.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      i also thank the universe! very glad we can practice together. xo s

  • Posted by:  Beth

    Hearing you talk about that night of despair was such a gift. I am 55 and single-no children. I’ve been supporting my 91 year old dad and it’s triggered all of those same fears anticipatory grief and terror thinking about his death, my own death, can I afford to get old, my work and one and on and on.

    Nights of terror have turned into random thoughts of the worst case scenario in random circumstances. This plane is going to crash…I am going to get into a fatal car accident.

    There is a conflict in all of this – they feel real, but they are not actually happening. I’ve begun to say – yes, it’s possible (anything is possible), but the current evidence is that it is not happening.

    I appreciated hearing you articulate your experience – there are fears that we all experience at certain phases of life because it’s the human experience. And appreciated hearing how you navigated thru that night of despair.

    I’d love to hear more about this.

    Thank you for being here!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      thank you so much for sharing something of your story here, Beth. it is great–though not pleasant, i understand–that you are observing the inner landscape in this way. and please remember that ll thoughts come and go–even the thought, “all thoughts come and go…” to notice the thoughts is at least as important as working with them. xo s

  • Posted by:  Phillip

    What a kind, personal, honest and helpful story. I’m 77 and live alone and no children. My health is pretty good for now and for now I have a home and enough to live on … but I know it can’t all last and will end in old age (if I’m lucky 🙂 and death, so I occasionally experience the sort of fear and despair you spoke of. The think that has been most valuable relating to that experience has been my limited experience with the Dharma, and you have helped me to establish a regular practice the last two years, That practice is now becoming the central focus of my life.

    Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing all of this with us in such a deeply personal manner. It somehow make you and your teaching more real to me.

    I send you love and wish you well. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can help you, too.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      What a kind and caring message! Many thanks. <3 S

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