Posts Tagged ‘Susan Piver’

This is a program I’m co-teaching with two people I really respect and thought that Drinking to Distraction readers might be interested!


Yoga. Meditation. Nutrition. We each know these are the building blocks of true health, yet it seems impossible to stay with it all amidst the craziness of everyday life.

Three teachers have put together a completely doable method for restoring you to the path of inner and outer fitness. In just 21 days, you can begin to detoxify through this simple but comprehensive yoga, meditation, and nutrition program. Constructed to slot into daily life with minimal to no hassle, this video-based immersive experience will guide you day by day to a more vibrant and peaceful sense of being.

On May 16th, you will gain access to the following:

Eight yoga videos from Pranavayu founder David Magone

David is known for both the physicality of his practice and it’s focus on relaxation. If you are a beginner, don’t worry, you will be carefully led into the practice. And if you’re an experienced yogi, don’t worry either! There will also be flowing sequences to really get you moving, twisting, and sweating. In addition, David has created a yoga video just for relaxation: a complete Savasana experience designed to help you experience a relaxation response.

An introduction to meditation from Open Heart Project founder Susan Piver and four videos to support your practice

Learning to settle and balance the mind goes hand in hand with settling and balancing the body. New York Times best selling author and Buddhist teacher Susan Piver has created four videos especially for this program, to bring meditation into your life easily and comfortably. They are meant to be used throughout the program and include a 10-minute fully guided meditation suitable for both beginners and more experienced meditators, a 20-minute meditation for those times you want to sit longer, and a special loving-kindness meditation video for use as we relax and encounter our hearts. In addition, there is a 20+ minute talk on the benefits, joys, and misconceptions about meditation.

A mindful nutrition program and three videos about “eating to love” from nutritionist and author Jenna Hollenstein

Along with yoga and meditation, you will be supported to eat foods that support mental clarity, emotional calm, and physical vitality. Jenna is known for her “Redefining Fullness” counseling, which is about bringing mindfulness to your relationship to food—the way you think of it, prepare it, consume it, and relate to it in general. One video introduces the nutrition approach to the mind-body detox, a second guides you through a mindful eating exercise, and the third is a simple five minute discussion of reconnecting with your body.

A comprehensive workbook to guide you

There is a suggested schedule for each day of the program and guidance for entering it as easily as possible. In addition to the schedule, the workbook contains journaling exercises, suggested readings, and place for you to keep a “Practice Journal.”

Three group check ins with the group and teachers

Each week, the group will meet online with all three teachers discuss progress, ask questions, and share reflections. It will be recorded for those who cannot participate live and a link sent out.

Private community page

A place to check in 24/7.

Upon completion of this program, you will have learned lifelong skills for inner and outer fitness.

Cost: $324 USD Payable in full or in three weekly installments of $108 USD each.

Early bird sign-up begins April 14, 2014 – Save 10%

Regular price sign-up begins: April 29, 2014

No cancellations

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER: As with any exercise, eating, or meditation program, please consult your physician before participating in the 21-Day Mind-Body Detox. This program may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly those with an alcohol or drug addiction, an eating disorder, or individuals undergoing medical or psychiatric treatment for these or any other conditions. If you are taking prescription medication for these or any other conditions, do not discontinue them unless indicated by your physician. The exercise, nutrition, and meditation instruction herein is not a substitute for medical attention, examination, diagnosis, or treatment.

Not all exercise is suitable for everyone and this or any exercise program could result in injury. To reduce the risk of injury, never force or strain. Always take care when determining your ability to do the exercises offered in class, particularly if you have a specific injury or condition. If you feel pain, discomfort, or dizziness, discontinue and consult a medical professional.

The creators, producers, participants, and distributors of this program disclaim any liability or loss arising out of or in connection with the services, instructions, exercise, and advice herein.

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“To Be or Not To Be”

At some point, perhaps years before the night of my book party, alcohol and drinking began to occupy an increasing amount of my mental real estate. During the workday I eagerly anticipated cocktail hour. Or I perseverated over where to purchase a bottle of wine on my way home from work. Among my shopping criteria were selection, price range, and distance from my condo. But most importantly, how frequently or recently I had purchased from a certain place. I feared becoming recognized as a “regular” so I rotated my patronage accordingly.

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Very happy to have been reviewed by Kirkus Indie:


“Hollenstein (Understanding Dietary Supplements, 2007) makes it clear from the start that her book has none of the drama of typical addiction memoirs. She has no harrowing, cinematic rock-bottom moment to report, for example; instead, she focuses on her slow realization that “[a]lcohol numbed both [her] pain and [her] joy.” This quiet process of introspection, however, proves to be just as engaging as any tale of alcohol-induced havoc. Hollenstein writes eloquently of the complex role that alcohol once played in her life, and her insights into drinking’s cultural currency are especially sharp. Of alcohol’s transformative power, for example, she writes: “Champagne with oysters transported me to Paris….I drank whiskey to express my saltier side.””

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P1000078On December 28th of 2012, I was laid off from my job as a medical writer at a biotechnology company. I was with that company much longer than anticipated since the job, at the time I got it, was an escape hatch from the disastrous job I started right after I quit drinking. I planned to be at the biotech company only a year at most while I collected myself and began to understand what life was like sober. One year became four years and, during that time, I had what looked like a promising career with a handful of successes and a solid salary. But I knew there was something else waiting for me.

As the 28th of December approached, I was facing a world of uncertainty when “the perfect job” landed in my inbox. But after a whirlwind interview process, I didn’t get it. I remember getting the call. It was nighttime in Sicily. I walked out of my boyfriend’s parents’ house into the backyard to find a little bit more cellular reception and looked out across the Mediterranean as I heard the words “we decided to go with the other finalist.” But as I walked back into the house and told everyone my news with just a shake of my head, I knew that this was the right thing.

Working one job or another since I was 12 years old, I now had an opportunity to explore my own wants and needs without an obligation to an employer. Between the safety net of severance and savings and, more importantly, a supportive family and partner, I decided not to do what I thought I “should.” Instead I left myself open to the possibilities. And in the last year, those possibilities have included:

  • Traveling back to Sicily and Paris and exotic Upstate New York
  • Taking continuing education classes, attending conferences, and completing a free “How to start a small business” course in New York City
  • Networking, opening up to people, making new friends, and reinvigorating old friendships
  • Visiting friends and family near and far
  • Formalizing my commitment to Buddhism
  • Translating/interpreting a children’s book from Italian to English
  • Taking care of myself physically and mentally, attending ballet barre and yoga classes, going for acupuncture and therapy
  • Volunteering with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger
  • Cooking, sleeping, watching trashy TV, and cuddling with my boyfriend and our fur children, Rufus and Darwin
  • Writing a book based on the Drinking to Distraction blog [Stay Tuned!]

And deciding to start my own nutrition counseling business. Some of you already know that my education and early job experience was in nutrition and that I have long wanted to get back to that field. Given the time and space I was fortunate enough to have during the last year, I came to see starting my own business as a risk worth taking. And about two weeks ago, I launched my mindful nutrition business, Eat to Love, which integrates meditation, therapeutic approaches to addiction, and Intuitive Eating.

Besides taking an inventory of what the hell I’ve been doing for the last 11 months, I’m writing this post to acknowledge that none of the things I have done in the last year would have been possible if I had not quit drinking nearly six years ago. That was the first step out of my own cocoon, my coming out of hiding. A process that was furthered by beginning to meditate, by beginning to write about my experience here, by not trying to keep making all the “right” moves in my life or to please everyone else. Starting this business is taking the next step.

Gradually I will begin to spend more time on this new venture, which opens up new possibilities for the Drinking to Distraction blog. I always viewed the blog as a shared space where readers could post their own stories about drinking, mindfulness, meditation, and coming out of the cocoon. Now, more directly I invite you to submit your story, to experience the therapeutic release of writing your own narrative, and to help others by letting them know they are not alone.

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“All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement”

~Suzuki Roshi

This past weekend, I attended a meditation retreat at the New York Shambhala Center. The focus of the retreat was “The Art of Being Human” and getting in touch with the concept of basic goodness. One of the exercises we did involved recalling a moment of basic goodness, a moment that was remarkable for its detail and brilliance, a moment in which we were fully present. My moment occurred to me immediately. In fact, I’ve written about it here.

Just recalling my moment was viscerally calming. I was in a time of transition in my life. Uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear were very present. But I also had a sense of confidence or trust in myself that taking a risk was the right thing to do. I felt very aware of the past and the future, but not pulled in either direction. Instead, I was held by the present moment with a sort of buoyancy, like being suspended in midair without feeling precarious or in jeopardy, like I was hanging out in the most comfortable hammock.

In the exercise this weekend, we used our respective moments to connect with the sense of basic goodness, the fundamental heart of our existence. And as a result, my practice felt very soft, clear, aware, and heartfelt. But connecting with a moment of basic goodness when everything feels OK is one thing. Recalling it when I am sad or lonely or angry or restless, that’s another. When I fear I will be a failure or, worse, that no one will even notice, how can I begin to remember this foundational concept?

When I asked her this very question yesterday, my meditation instructor’s guidance was “to expand and include.” Since then I keep saying the words to myself. Expand and include. I understand them but at what point will I feel them?

In the recollection of my moment of basic goodness, I recognize my desire to be held. Often I try to simulate this feeling by grasping onto events in the past or by fantasizing about the future. I am seeking some ground on which to feel stable but it never seems to work. And never am I more vulnerable to doing this shimmy between the past and the future – never am I less present – than when dealing with strong emotions. My work, therefore, is to connect with that sense of being held, of trusting in the moment, when the going gets tough.

To do this, I will need to cultivate enough space and openness to allow “negative” emotional states to exist without letting them pull me under, similar to how I was aware of past and future in my moment of basic goodness but able to remain in the present. This will allow me to experience the pain that is very real, but also to remember that there is more than pain. That the pain isn’t the end of the story. Holding these two seemingly opposing views is what is so complex about life, where things are never black and white. The idea that in a moment of pain, I could feel as held by the present moment as I did in my moment of basic goodness, that I could feel as well placed, that I am exactly where I need to be, is something I can imagine. And from there, I can begin to practice.

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The other day I was walking to my new gym with a serious case of gym-timidation. I imagined that the other members would all be younger, prettier, and fitter than me, and had therefore procrastinated most of the day. Finally I could delay no longer. I put on my sneakers and headed out, tail already between my legs. About a block before my destination, I was stopped by a young man who asked, “You going to work out?” You might ask why I even acknowledged such a question, and rightfully so, but I was still receptive to any and all distraction standing between me and sweating among the beautiful people.

Besides, he was just brimming with confidence. When I told him where I was headed, he responded that he used to work there as a physical trainer. He didn’t just work there: he dominated (!), such that the management had to redistribute clients among the other trainers so that they weren’t just sitting around while he worked out one adoring customer after the other. He was the best. And since he had broken out on his own, he shared, he was working only with the “elite, elite, elite.” Every time he said this, he made a horizontal slashing movement with his hand that reached higher with each repetition: elite, elite, elite.

My intimidation receptors already primed, I initially took all of this as truth. I didn’t question his presentation, his story about himself, his superiority, because his words and manner were so convincing. It took me a few moments to realize that this apparently confident young man was in fact standing on a street corner, wearing dark glasses, with no formal business presence to speak of online or elsewhere, accosting strangers with his pitch. After extricating myself, I walked the final block to my gym wondering, is that real confidence?

I think about confidence a lot these days. I’m starting a business and am riddled with self-doubt. I realize this doubt is based on fear and uncertainty rather than reality, but I feel torn between a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach and something different, something that would allow me to access confidence more genuinely, from within.

In the November 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine, Sakyong Mipham wrote about having confidence in our basic goodness, which is probably where it all begins:

The energy of splendidness comes from being fully present in whatever we do. My father, Chogyam Trungpa…put it this way: “You are not hiding anywhere.” Hiding means our splendidness is obscured by embedded habitual patterns. One characteristic of hiding is that we are always self-observing. Self-observing comes from not trusting our inherent goodness, and therefore keeping the reins tight on our mind….”Not hiding anywhere” means we have reduced and lightened our embedded habits and tendencies, which allows us to shine.

This concept of no longer hiding resounded with me deeply. In taking this frightening step, I am risking myself in a way that wouldn’t be necessary if I were to keep working for someone else. Being my own boss requires that I take ownership of my decisions, that I make my own mistakes and learn from them, that I blaze a trail rather than following one that has already been worn.

The last time I felt this way – the last time I tentatively came out of hiding – was when I quit drinking nearly 6 years ago. The first couple of months that I approached life without the buffer of alcohol, I felt barraged by reality. That overstimulation took on a physical presence in the form of anxiety, a vibratory sense in my fingers and lips, a slight quickening of my breath, occasional light-headedness. Little by little, I grew to accommodate the stimuli I had previously softened with wine or liquor, at first through less productive means – shopping, eating, and your garden-variety dry drunk behavior – and then through more sustainable approaches: creating space, acknowledging my pain and discomfort and learning to lean into them with kindness. Gradually I grew more confident in my ability to navigate life sober.

Susan Piver recently wrote:

Confidence actually begins with lack of confidence. Without the latter, we would have no idea what the former meant. In some way, when we lose our confidence we could imagine it not as the first step into the pit, but the first step out of it. Just as light would not exist without dark, confidence would not be possible without lack of confidence. So, to begin recovering self-confidence, a great first step is allowing yourself to lean into your doubt.

If confidence begins with lack of confidence, then I got this. As I make my way on this unpredictable path, rather than putting on a false face, I am not ignoring my doubts, fears, and anxieties, but not deferring to them either. And gradually, my hope is that I will gain the type of confidence that is quiet but authentic, one that doesn’t need to proclaim itself on street corners. One that is born of the basic goodness we all possess.


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One of the most helpful meditation instructions I ever received was to regard thoughts the same way as I do sense perceptions such as sights and sounds. In this way, the car horn honking in the street is equivalent to a painful and emotionally loaded thought. I wouldn’t create a story associated with that horn honking 7 flights down as I sit on my cushion: Is he honking at me? But I didn’t do anything wrong! Who does he think he is? I’m going to go give him a piece of my mind. That would be weird. But the thought “What if I grow old alone” could easily provoke a long, involved narrative – I’m too difficult. No one wants to be with someone so complicated. Why can’t I be simpler? Less emotional. Less sensitive. More easy-going. It’s no wonder I’ll grow old alone… Using this instruction, however, when the thought about my fear of being alone arises, I can note it like I do the horn honking and return my awareness to the breath without attaching a story that simply has no basis.

Recently I had a massage. I don’t indulge myself this way often (enough) so when I do, I want it to be purrrrfect. After my massage therapist began to wrestle the knots in my back into submission, I heard a knock at the door. My therapist made no move to answer the knock and then I heard it again, and again. Soon I realized this was no knock but rather construction work going on in the adjacent room, unaware of the relaxing spa treatment that I was supposed to be receiving. Then came the drill. Oy! Interestingly, rather than hardening my knots with the indignation of my less-than-perfect massage, instead I found myself adjusting my attention to focus on the sensation of the massage. Every time the construction workers hammered or drilled, I noted it, and crisply shifted my awareness back to old magic fingers. I felt I was practicing in real time, not ignoring unpleasant things, but regulating just how much they affected me.

Sometimes when she begins a meditation instruction, Susan Piver will ask us to place our awareness on our left earlobes, then to move that awareness to our right kneecaps. In that moment, most of us are able to shift the object of our attention precisely, crisply, in part because we don’t have a lot of noisy narratives about our earlobes and kneecaps. But when meditating – where body parts and sense perceptions are mixed in with complex stories about who we are and who we aren’t, how we have wronged or been wronged – our awareness can become muddled, less precise.

Because all of these things exist in concert, I have found it useful (ok, let’s face it, I didn’t have much of a choice) to welcome them all, to allow all of my perceptions to come and go with a light(er) touch. I can regard what goes on in my mind on and off the cushion as a total shitstorm or I can view it as a Baz Luhrmann movie – a carnival ride of sensation and perception in which all things are welcome, none inherently better or worse than the other. Whether sense perception or difficult emotion, both help me in my endeavor to understand my mind.

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