Who I turn to for strength when I feel overwhelmed

November 4, 2019 | 16 Comments

The meditation begins at 4:40
Audio only version is here.

Hello, wonderful Open Heart Project,

I end every weekly meditation by thanking you for practicing with me, and for practicing together. Those are not empty notions. I get so much from knowing that you and I are doing this together.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune to interview the wonderful vipassana meditation teacher, Tara Brach. In addition to teaching around the world, she has a large community in the Washington, D.C. area. Every week, hundreds show up to practice and study with her. She is also a psychotherapist, so she has a very nuanced view of how to be of service.

Though I managed to avoid turning her into my personal therapist throughout most of the interview, at the end, I asked her what was actually my own most pressing question:

Tara Brach, what do you tell your students who suffer from “compassion fatigue?”

I imagined she would answer with a quotation from a sutra or a teaching on equanimity. But without hesitation, she said “sangha.” (Sanskrit for community.) As soon as she did, I realized what may be most important about our practice: it joins us to a community of people we can draw strength from. And love! And irritation! And confusion! And the possibility of healing! We’re human, after all. There is something about this great mix held within the context of meditation practice that is able to pick us up when we can’t do it for ourselves. So, who do I turn to for strength when I feel overwhelmed? You.

THANK YOU. And you and you and you.

For more on this topic, please check out this week’s video and then let’s practice together.

So much love, Susan


PS! Creativity, Spirituality & Making a Buck

My friend David Nichtern has a new book: Creativity, Spirituality & Making a Buck. I know that many of you are interested in all 3. A big part of our community is entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and people who want to make a living by doing good. Dave is the perfect guy to offer help–he’s a long time Buddhist practitioner, musician (he wrote Midnight at the Oasisi!) and entrepreneur who has worked with Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Garcia, Lana Del Rey, and Krishna Das. I asked him if he would jump on Zoom with me to talk about how we can bring together what is often considered incompatible… Enjoy!


  • Posted by:  Karen Swanson

    yes, yes, yes! I am SO with you on this, Susan. Excited to be going on my first 3 day silent shamatha retreat this weekend, at a place near me that I never even knew about before now…. thank you thank you thank you. Doing the meditation teacher training with you broke through my mental barrier around the idea that I could actually feel genuine connection with others via an online class. We CAN! I DO! and, I am super grateful for that, as well as the opportunity to sit and study together in the flesh. I love you. ~ Karen

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Karen, I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to hear about your retreat. Sending much love.

  • Posted by:  Renee Jones

    Such timely teaching today. I have felt so unmoored recently. Very hard to have meaningful conversations and connect with new people. The only place I feel truly at home is with my Saturday meditation Sangha. They are compassionate, like-minded people. I also think that after belonging to another Sangha and meditating for over 10 years now, my mind has changed so much that I really cannot connect with most people. I thank you so much for reminding me how important Sangha is to our well-being. I am with your for this journey. Renee

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad you have such a sangha. I am also with you, Renee. xo S

  • Posted by:  Farid

    Hello everybody
    Thank you Susan for reminding us the importance of Sangha for meditator,I am really pleased that I am part of this Virtual Sangha

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I am pleased you are, too!

  • Posted by:  Kevin J Waters

    Hello Susan, Your Response to the feeling’s of being “Overwhelmed ” Reminded me that often I can’t ” Proceed on my own ” You Brought out an other Meditation Teacher / Mentor, ( Tara Bach), which is someone I also turn to for “Insight” ….. But must of all over the years of trials, Sadness, Confusion, &, Joy, I’ve turned to my “Fellows, My Community ! Early in struggles I was able to find Strength in Numbers, ( Recovery Groups, Therapy Groups, and of course “Sangha Community’s ” To be alone with myself can be a very “Dangerous Place” …….. Now listening to your other post ……. Peace

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yes, community is everything… So glad we have each other.

  • Posted by:  Kevin J Waters

    Susan Your Interview with David Nichtern, or conversation follows so closely to the earlier thought of feeling “Over Whelmed”….. A very wounder full a follow-up today’s “Open Heart Project”

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So happy you enjoyed!

  • Posted by:  Pamela Nesbit

    Dear Susan and meditation community,

    Thank you for this present moment, wonderful moment to “be peace” individually in community.

    In beauty, blessings and breath.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I share your gratitude!

  • Posted by:  Johanna

    Thank you so much Susan for the interview with David Nichtern. I’m so grateful that you bring to us the wisdom of many good people. I feel nourished and stimulated. I already ordered his book, and look forward to reading it. One question that stood out for me from your interview is: “What is my offering?”. It struck a chord, and I now am contemplating that question.
    Thank you

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad you enjoyed! He is wonderful. Please enjoy your contemplations. xo S

  • Posted by:  Erica

    I have noticed that in many of your videos you mention that it’s a crazy world out there!
    Yes, it can be, however I’m hoping and wishing for you and for others that you also take notice how beautiful it is. People are good and kind. I sometimes feel that the media will portray such negative images of people, and we end up believing it. There are way more stories of good being done and it’s unfortunate that we don’t hear about them more.
    Thanks for all that you do, keeping us connected is so important.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Erica, this is so lovely! Thank you for this important (and true) reminder. xo S

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