Today my guest is Susan Piver.
Susan is a Buddhist teacher and the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including The Hard Questions and the award-winning How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life. Her latest book is entitled The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. She teaches workshops and speaks all over the world on meditation, spirituality, communication, relationships, and creativity. In 2011, Susan launched the Open Heart Project, an online meditation community with nearly 12,000 members who practice together and explore ways to bring spiritual values such as kindness, genuineness, and fearlessness into everyday life.
In today’s episode, Susan and I speak about:
How fear has unfolded in her life and how you can be confident and fearful at the same time
How synchronizing the mind and the body is the key to confidence
Tapping into the power and the beauty of fear
The careful balance of avoiding the “conceptual game plan” while still having action
A story of Susan's own emergence and how to see yourself through the relationships you keep
Here’s my conversation, “Leaning Into Fear and Falling Into Beauty,” with the wise and open-hearted Susan Piver.
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Chantal Pierrat: Hello, and welcome, Susan.
Susan Piver: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.
CP: Yes, I am too. I have lots of juicy questions for you that are relevant to my life, so I’m glad we’ve carved out the time. Let’s start with—well, we had such a great conversation the first time we met last month, and I just wanted to go in a million different directions. But today I want to talk about fear. You have a couple of books on fear, [including] Freedom from Fear, which I think is your most recent book, and then a book with a very interesting title, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy. And I know that one is more practical; Freedom from Fear is a seven-day meditation program.
But I’m curious to see, just in your own life, how this topic unfolded for you, and how it came into this—and you also have some audio that you’ve done with Jen Louden. So how did this come through you, and what do you have to say about fear?
SP: OK, well, I always feel like my biggest qualification is my own fear, because I just experience a lot of fear. I always have throughout my life and I still do. It’s something that each of us has to figure out a way to meet. And I was thinking of writing a book about meditation practice, and I wrote a proposal for that book. And in the proposal, there was a line that said something like, “Meditation is so awesome because it teaches you how to not be afraid of your own life.” And when the publisher saw that line, they said, “That’s the title.” So I said, “OK.” [Laughs]
It was very easy to gear the content around the topic of fear because meditation—in particular, I suppose, in the style that I practice, the Shambhala Buddhist tradition—is seen as a gesture of warriorship. And one of the fruits of meditation practice is courage and wakefulness and curiosity and joy. So those were the things that I wanted to focus on, and in doing so, also had to focus on why these wonderful, wonderful qualities are so difficult for us to find and hold.
CP: So right now, in The Atlantic—and I just picked this up so I haven’t read it—there’s an article, it’s on the cover, and they’re calling it “Closing the Confidence Gap,” just talking about even highly successful women are lacking in confidence in their jobs and in the work that they do, even though they’re seen and rewarded for their work and they’re outwardly recognized as being successful. I know for myself, building a business and feeling confident that I can create this platform that is Emerging Women, and yet the fear and the lack of confidence—it’s like you can be confident and fearful or confident and not confident at the same time. How is that?
SP: Isn’t that interesting?