Full disclosure: I teach in Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. So please take my opinion with a grain of salt. Back when I started teaching at the Open Heart Project in 2015 I had never heard of Susan Piver. Now after three years of following her I think she’s one of the best Dharma Teachers around. I’d be happy if there were physical OHP centers spread across this country. Some other Buddhist organizations are able to do that and I think that would be great. That being said, The Open Heart Project is a platform for practicing Buddhism over the internet and 20,000 people use it. That is amazing and something to be celebrated.
When I read Susan Piver’s new book The Four Noble Truths of Love, I immediately wanted to write a review.
This is a book about applying Buddhist teachings to relationships. We talk a lot in Buddhism about things like suffering, desire, worry, anger, etc. Susan has wisely applied these teachings to human relationships, an area where we could all use a little help.
Not that I’m assuming everyone has bad relationships. Plenty of us have good relationships, but good can always be better. We can all learn how to listen instead of waiting for our turn to talk. We can all learn how to see our partner as a person instead of a being that exists to serve our needs. We can all do better, and that’s what Susan wrote about here.
There’s always room for improvement.
Her formulation of the Four Noble Truths of Love is as follows:
1. Relationships are uncomfortable
We think at some point our relationship is going to get comfortable, all fights will stop, we’ll just settle in and love each other. But…
2. Thinking they’re supposed to be comfortable is what makes them uncomfortable.
Like a lot of life, our problems come from expecting something different, expecting something that life doesn’t provide.
“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – fake Shakespeare quote.
3. It is absolutely possible to love and be loved unconditionally.
We can have human relationships without bringing our baggage and our clinging and neuroses into the forefront. We CAN just love each other.
4. There is a path that teaches you how and it really works.
This is about meditation. Practices dedicated to cultivating awareness, compassion, and concentration can help us in relationships.
Here’s a part that really resonated with me. Susan describes being aware and attentive toward your partner as good manners: just caring about the other person and wanting to show them that you care. She says good manners are: “A sign that you’re really paying attention to the other person and showing evidence of that in the way you act and speak…. if you are with someone who doesn’t care about you enough to notice you, who doesn’t think about you, it is hard to imagine how far you could go with that person.”
I’ve long thought that attention was very important in a relationship, so I like the way she described it here.
This book is all about how we can use Buddhist teachings in our everyday lives. Susan explores the six perfections, the four immeasurables, and the eightfold path in down to earth and relatable ways with insight developed from her years of study and practice. Sometimes Buddhism seems exotic and strange. But the truth is that it can be practical and useful. In my view Buddhist teachings should be practical and useful. If it’s not practical and useful…why are we doing it?
In this book Susan does a masterful job of bringing these teachings down to earth and making them relatable and easy to understand for anyone.
She closes the book with some guided meditations for individuals and also meditations that couples can do together.
I think even someone who has no experience with meditation or Buddhism could still get a lot out of this book. I recommend it.
We are going to meet up on the south lawn of the Nelson Museum for some public meditation. I’ll give a very short talk and then a bit of guidance and we will sit together.
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