Friday, February 12, 2010

How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life

As my sense of burnout and fear has come to a head, I was very fortunate to find this book at the local library. The full title is as follows,

How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy, by Susan Piver. First Edition, April, 2007.

In my opinion Susan Piver is a wonderful author- I have not read a book written with her clarity, empathy, and precision in a long time. I am not going to go into an exhaustive summary of the book, but just wanted to point out several gems I discovered while reading.

The first thing that intrigued me was the very strong connection Susan makes between Fear and the root sufferings of Attachment (which she calls Passion), Anger and Ignorance. She outlines what causes and dissolves fear, and provides antidotes to the root sufferings, which she describes as 'mistaken reactions' to fear. She then links examining and dissolving our fears to meditation, which she also describes in an excellent manner. I especially enjoyed her explanations of Maitri (loving-kindness, Chapter 5) and Shamatha (breath awareness, Chapter 3) meditation, and her instruction to 'dedicate the merit' of our meditation practice (Chapter 3). It really is beautifully done.

Some of my favorite passages:
"Each of us is born seeking a meaningful life. We have a natural ability to sense what is significant, live in peace, and surround ourselves with love." (page 1)
"So in love, there is also great capability. When you extend this love toward yourself, you allow for the subtle unfolding of your own vulnerability, you can develop friendliness toward yourself, stop living your life as an ongoing self-improvement project, and just relax." (page 90)
From Susan's teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, "The first thing you need to do when presenting a spiritual teaching is to create confidence in the mind of the person studying it." (page 129)

I don't know if she'll ever read this, but I thank Susan Piver for her insightful, clearly written words, rich with compassion and wisdom.

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