Susan Piver

Susan Piver

Susan Piver is an author and meditation instructor whose books include How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, and the New York Times best-seller The Hard Questions. She has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, the CBS Early Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and other national television programs in connection with her books. She leads workshops and retreats around the country on living an awakened life.

Susan Piver

Susan Piver is an author and meditation instructor whose books include How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, and the New York Times best-seller The Hard Questions. She has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, the CBS Early Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and other national television programs in connection with her books. She leads workshops and retreats around the country on living an awakened life.

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7 Things I Learned As a Beginner to Meditation

You want to improve your health and overall wellbeing, and so you have made the decision to start practicing meditation. A question you now face is: where to begin? What lies ahead? Read what I learned through my experience as a beginner to meditation.

Begging Meditation

By Michelle Ehrensaal

Student Intern, Shambhala Publications

Sit on the ground. Relax. Focus on your breath. This “meditation” stuff will be easy, right? Yeah, my thoughts exactly—before I began my journey down a path I never even knew existed: the path of meditation. Now, you might be thinking: Silly girl, I know about the path of meditation! The journey to enlightenment! The key to peace! But if you haven’t started your journey, I have to tell you, it is impossible to really know.

It was February of this year when I sat down on my closet floor to meditate for the first time.  I had just picked up Susan Piver’s Start Here Now and was reading it in conjunction to taking her online course with Shambhala Publications. It has since been three months and I am truly puzzled still at how my life has transformed. I am living proof that anyone can not only learn how to meditate but can learn to cultivate compassion for themselves and others in a way I had never known to be possible. Again, you might be thinking: I love myself and care deeply for others! This girl doesn’t know me! And I accept both of these things to be true, but in the words of Susan, “You must not take anything I say at face value. Try it out and see for yourself.”

7 things I learned…

1. The hardest part is developing a habit

We’ve all been given this warning before. Our busy lives permit us from developing a number of healthy habits such as sticking to an exercise routine, getting a full night’s sleep, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, and so on. Although I was given fair amounts of forewarning, developing a habit of daily meditation was exceedingly difficult all the same.

In putting my practice first, all of my responsibilities that followed became easier to take on and I felt lighter.

As is true with most things, the hardest part is to simply begin, and meditation requires you to begin again and again each day. It doesn’t only take discipline (of course, it does require this to some extent), but it will take more. The hustle and bustle of contemporary life makes developing and maintaining a habit nearly impossible. So, to overcome this hindrance, you will need a plan.

Morning Meditation

The course I took advised beginners to meditate in the morning due to the simple idea that it is easiest to develop a habit by starting each day with a routine. In my experience, I found this to be true. I set my alarm to sound every morning just 15 minutes earlier than the norm and practiced meditating for 2 to 5 to what eventually became 10 whole minutes. My mornings are the best time for me to practice because I am what one would consider a “morning person,” and because the rest of my day tends to resemble that of chaos.

On many mornings when first beginning my meditation practice, I skipped out on it due to my desire to sleep in (just 10 more minutes!) or because I forgot about meditating altogether. What I have learned is that the key to avoiding discouragement is not to be married to the idea of practicing during one specific time of day. Limiting myself in this way made starting my meditation practice extremely difficult; I now refer to the morning as my “ideal” time to practice. There have been a number of days since I established this new approach that I have skipped meditating in the morning but have carved out time to practice just before bed. I call this time my “back-up” time.


My recommendation to you is to find a time that best fits your general schedule. It can be any time of the day. Think of it as your “goal” or “ideal” time. If you know beforehand that your ideal time to practice won’t easily fit into your day, find a “back-up” time when you have 10 free minutes. This new time might be just before lunch or dinner. Whenever the time may be, it creates consistency in a way that is not so limited-- and what I have come to understand most about meditation is the importance of developing even the smallest form of consistency within your practice!

2. Make your meditation practice your priority.

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy. Below is my first week’s record of meditating, which reads as follows:

Week 1

Monday: Completed 2 minutes of meditation.

Tuesday: Completed 2 minutes of meditation.

Wednesday: Thought about my meditation space, almost sat down to meditate, did not meditate this day.

Thursday: Forgot to meditate this morning, thought about meditating later in the day, did not meditate this day.

Friday: Scorned myself for the past 2 days. Completed 2 minutes of meditation.

Saturday: Forgot all about meditation.

Sunday: Scorned myself for how week 1 turned out. Completed 2 minutes of meditation.

My second week looked something similar to what you see above. The point is that it is too easy for countless responsibilities to come between ourselves and our practice. I decided that If I was serious about beginning this journey, I needed to take serious action! So, what combat method did I choose to take? I made a vow to myself. On Monday morning of Week 3 I looked in the mirror and said to myself:

 Self, my practice is my priority. No other task, whether it be related to work or leisure, will come before my meditation practice because loving myself is the most important thing.

Over the weeks that followed, I learned what it truly means to put meditation before all other things in my life. In putting my practice first, all of my responsibilities that followed became easier to take on and I felt lighter. In fact, I developed such consistency in my practice that on any day when I pushed meditation aside, I felt overwhelmed. As weeks have now turned into months, from time to time I go back to my mirror and recite my vow to my reflection to ensure my priorities are in order.

The instructions will tell you to sit this way and look that way, but the point is to just do it.

3. Start small

The easiest way to bail out early on your meditation practice is by getting discouraged. Meditating for this magic number of 10 minutes a day may sound like an easy feat, but I advise you to proceed with caution in approaching your practice with this mindset. In my experience, this exact mindset is what caused me to beat myself up during the first two weeks of my journey.

Pro Tip: Magic number… 2?

After what I experienced, I believe it to be fairly impractical that as a beginner to meditation one is able to sit down and practice for 10 whole minutes. Yes, 10 whole minutes! In Susan’s course, she suggests that in your first week you try practicing for 5 minutes each time. While this is a much more practical starting point than 10, I still struggled immensely and was frustrated every time I sat down to meditate, which is the opposite point of the practice. At the start of the second week, I changed my set practice time from 5 minutes to 2. This may sound like a backwards step, but I promise it is not because my gratification levels took a huge leap forward! In making this simple alteration, meditating went from discouraging to illuminating. Seriously. It was that simple.

4. Don’t overthink.

At the start of my practice, I really struggled to escape the four corners of my mind. Each time I sat down I would evaluate my posture and the positioning of my hands on my thighs and my eyes on the floor and then re-evaluate it 15 times over. When I finally started to practice, I’d think: How do I know if I’m doing this right? I can’t be doing this right. After wasting precious minutes overthinking things that ultimately weren’t very significant, I realized I was allowing my practice to have the opposite effect than it was supposed to be having, which was making me anxious rather than relaxed.

I have learned that there is no point in getting caught up in the “technicalities” of the practice. The instructions will tell you to sit this way and look that way, but the point is to just do it. I created a rule for myself to help with the trouble of overthinking and that is to never use the word “correct” in reference to my practice, ever! This simple rule has taken a huge weight off my shoulders by relieving me of pressure that should never be present in meditation.

5. Keep a journal – or have some outlet to discuss your experience.

Sitting down to meditate everyday eventually became very difficult without an additional form of external support. Start Here Now emphasizes the importance of finding a supportive, like-minded community to help maintain your practice, which I initially found to be rather odd because meditation seemed to me to be a highly individualistic practice. After my second week in which multiple bail-outs on meditating occurred, it was easy for me to understand the significance behind this idea of “community.”  I needed somebody to keep me “in-check,” and to talk about my thoughts and experience with. Unfortunately, living in a house with four other busy college students did not provide me with such support. By “support,” what I really mean is an outlet that would allow me to reflect upon my practice in a space that goes beyond my mind.

The entirety of my journey thus far has resulted in a strengthened relationship with myself because I feel that I know myself better than I ever did before meditating.

Since the time I was twelve years old, I have kept a journal. I find it to be the most useful way for me to express my thoughts and ideas. My journal is a space where I can unload with no expectations from the world around me and, most importantly, from myself. I decided that while I lacked a community of like-minded individuals around me, my journal would serve as a support-system all the same, as it always has from the time I was a little girl. A simple piece of paper and a pen allow me to unload my thoughts about my practice, as well as the benefits I’m receiving during my every-day life. I often write about a time that day when I experienced the benefits of my practice, like remaining focused throughout a lengthy exam or helping me kick anxiety before a presentation.

6. Be open to experiencing your emotions.

It is strange to think that meditation can lead you to become emotional, but it really can have this effect. The entirety of my journey thus far has resulted in a strengthened relationship with myself because I feel that I know myself better than I ever did before meditating. I don’t really know what it is about sitting with myself and listening to my breath—the audible inhale and exhale—that connects me to who I am. I feel like I am listening to myself for the first time, and this can be emotional.

The openness I have allowed myself to feel has resulted in a happier and more positive “Me!” It is difficult to explain why such a small amount of time spent listening to my breath each day has led me to become head-over-heels in love with myself; it just has. For this reason, it feels as though meditation has completely transformed my life.

7. Always come back.

If maintaining a meditation practice was easy, there wouldn’t be countless books and an online course designed to guide individuals through the practice. Carving out 15 minutes of my day has been more difficult than I ever could have anticipated; but the good news is, only we ourselves have control over our fresh start—so get used to starting over! Meditation is always ready to welcome you back; no matter how long it’s been since you’ve sat down to practice.

Learn more about Susan’s online meditation course here.


Quiet Mind

$14.00 - Hardcover

By: Susan Piver

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

$19.95 - Hardcover

By: Shunryu Suzuki

Susan Piver is an author and meditation instructor whose books include How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own LifeThe Wisdom of a Broken Heart, and the New York Times best-seller The Hard Questions. Learn more. 

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Q&A with Kimberly Ann Johnson of The Fourth Trimester

John Spalding & Kimberly Ann Johnson

Fourth Trimester

What made you to decide to write The Fourth Trimester?

I didn’t set out to write a book, but I have been a harbinger of a message that is to speak about the unspeakable, and I realized that this information had to become common knowledge. When I was a new mother and struggling with a birth injury (although I didn’t even know that was a category), I combed Google to find holistic resources for the postpartum time. Time and again all I found were hundreds of thousands of entries on postpartum depression validating it. I couldn’t find anything on the impacts of the physical injuries and symptoms I was experiencing or what I could do about them. It was such an incredibly long healing journey for me, I wanted to write the book I never had and make it easier for other women to have all the information in one place, together with stories of women they could identify with.

What is the biggest unexpected challenge new mothers face in the first three months?  

We place such a high value on autonomy that most women have the ideal that if they can do everything alone during the fourth trimester, they have succeeded and are a legitimate superwoman. In fact the opposite is true, this is a time when women have to learn how to receive help or they end up isolated and lonely. It can be very challenging for high-achieving, self-sufficient women to ask for help and receive it.

Another big challenge is no secret to new mothers: many relationships struggle after the baby arrives. What can couples do?

Before baby arrives, couples can troubleshoot what they might anticipate as difficulties and share with each other the support they imagine they might need. They can also recommit to themselves as the center of the family unit. This book offers suggestions of ways to check in and stay connected on verbal and physical levels during this sensitive time, so that it can bring couples closer together.  Yes, it is possible to experience more intimacy with your partner through this transition.



You write that, like a lot of new mothers, you often felt depleted the three years after you had your daughter, and that you turned to exercise hoping to feel better. Instead, it always left you feeling more exhausted than energized. Finally, you found help in traditional Chinese medicine. Can you tell us about that?

On the most fundamental level, recovering from childbirth requires that we preserve and replenish our life force. Because of the extenuating circumstances of my recovery (a severe birth injury, living in a new country without friends or family, breadwinning for my family, breastfeeding challenges) and without any knowledge of the physiological postpartum needs, I was severely depleted. Exercise, which would have normally given me energy, drained me. So I learned that I needed to go back to the basic foundations of deep rest and nutrient-dense, collagen-rich food so that my system had energy to build from.

What does your book offer readers they won’t find elsewhere?

The information on women’s experience after having babies is sparse. We go from pregnancy books galore to baby books about sleep training and raising kids- we leave out the experience of women completely. Never before has information on the physical, the emotional, the physiological, the relational, the sexual, and spiritual elements of this transition to motherhood been put together in one place in a digestible, easy-to-read practical format.

What do you most hope new mothers will take from your book?

I hope that new mothers understand that there is good reason for however they are feeling. If a woman is receiving advice that everything is normal (her body, her mood, her relationship) but she doesn’t feel normal, that she knows help is out there. I want women to understand the profound shift that occurs, and that this transition and the mother herself is every bit as important as the baby. The cultural adage that as long as mother and baby are alive, then it’s all good needs to be updated. We want mothers and babies to not just survive, but thrive, and this book offers the inner and outer resources for families to do just that.

Kimberly Johnson/Magamama’s The Fourth Trimester promo


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The Mindful Way through Pregnancy

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Kimberly JohnsonKimberly Johnson is a birth doula, certified Sexological Bodyworker, Somatic Experiencing practitioner, postpartum care advocate, and single mom. She is the cofounder of the STREAM School for Postpartum Care, where she trains birth professionals, bodyworkers, and somatic therapists to help women with prolapse, incontinence, painful sex, and other pelvic floor and gynecological issues.

She has private practices in Encinitas and Los Angeles, CA, specializing in helping women prepare for birth, recover from birth injuries and birth trauma, and access their full sexual expression. You can find her online at

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The Mindful Way through Pregnancy

The audio download below, taken from the companion CD to the book The Mindful Way through Pregnancy, features a guided medita­tion to help you achieve deep relaxation. This body-awareness meditation can be used during pregnancy and after giving birth. It provides a simple way to relax anytime-some­thing invaluable both during the stresses of pregnancy and afterward.

 Body Awareness meditation

When we become pregnant, we receive a great deal of medi­cal, dietary, and lifestyle advice. Of course, it is crucial to pay attention to what we eat, the stages of our baby's develop­ment, and how to stay healthy throughout pregnancy. But we can also pay attention to something else: Within the rush of doctor's visits, changes in our bodies, and shopping trips for maternity clothes, a miracle is occurring. Our bodies are giv­ing rise to life. Our hearts are expanding till we fear they may break. Our identities are shifting and changing. Suddenly, perfectly, irrevocably, we are displaced from the center of our own life. With gentleness, we can also explore these aspects of our pregnancy.the mindful way through pregnancy


The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy invites you to slow down, relax, and cherish this magical and momentous time of life. It features illuminating essays written by experts on mindfulness, spirituality, and parenting. This book and CD also offer step-by-step instruction in yoga, meditation, journaling, and more, to help you make the most out of this expe ­rience and prepare yourself for childbirth and beyond.

Hardcover with CD | eBook

*Audio download also available



Excerpted from the introduction to The Mindful Way through Pregnancy. The audio file also accompanies the book The Mindful Way through Pregnancy, compiled by Susan Piver, © 2012. Published by Shambhala Publications. Please use this file for your own personal use only.

The Mindful Way through Pregnancy

$16.95 - Hardcover

By: Susan Piver


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A Year of Mindfulness: A Reading List

What would you like to accomplish this year?

Have you made New Year's resolutions to start meditating or pick up your practice again? To be more mindful with your children or adolescents? To mend a broken heart or learn to cook? To finally figure out your dosha, prioritize, or simply to relax?

We at Shambhala have books covering all these topics and more to help you have your most satisfying, healthy, and mindful year yet. From favorite authors like Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jan Chozen Bays,  Susan Piver, and others, read up on some of our top picks for turning a new leaf in 2016:



If you want to meditate but have no idea where to begin, this book by best-selling author Susan Piver will help you: it contains everything you need to know to start a meditation practice and, even more important, to continue one.


Mindfulness on the Go

If you've heard about the many benefits of mindfulness but think you don't have time for it, prepare to be proven delightfully wrong. Mindfulness is available every moment, as Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays shows with these twenty-five exercises that can be done anywhere.



Believe what you've heard about meditation: it'll focus your mind, open your heart, and sometimes surprise you with insight. And it's not complicated. In fact, everything you need to get started is contained in the pages of this little book by Lodro Rinzler, founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership.



This introduction to mindfulness for children and their parents includes practices that can help us all calm down, focus, fall asleep, alleviate worry, manage anger, and generally become more patient and aware.



Parenting a teenager is a challenge, to be sure, but Eline Snel has some very good news for those facing that challenge: there's a way to stay mindful, present, and, yes, positive throughout it all by developing a base of mindful awareness as your resource.



This practical guide introduces you to the practice of meditation, explains how it is approached in the main schools of Buddhism, and offers advice and inspiration from Buddhism's most renowned teachers, including Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Sharon Salzberg, Chögyam Trungpa, Shunryu Suzuki, Sylvia Boorstein and many others.



A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of Pema Chödrön's wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties.



In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh distills the essence of Buddhist thought and practice, emphasizing the power of mindfulness to transform our lives. "Mindfulness is not an evasion or an escape, " he explains. "It means being here, present, and totally alive. It is true freedom-and without this freedom, there is no happiness. "



This user's guide to Buddhist basics takes the most commonly asked questions and provides simple answers in plain English.  Buddhism for Beginners is an ideal first book on the subject for anyone, but it's also a wonderful resource for seasoned students, since the question-and-answer format makes it easy to find just the topic you're looking for.



Best-seller Pema Chödrön draws on the Buddhist concept of shenpa to help us see how certain habits of mind tend to "hook " us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction. The good news is that once we start to recognize these patterns, they instantly begin to lose their hold on us and we can begin to change our lives for the better.


Start Where You Are

An indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"-embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives through contemplation of the 59 lojong slogans.



With her love of whole food, chef Amy Chaplin has written a book that will inspire you to eat well at every meal, every day, year round. Part One involves stocking your kitchen, planning weekly menus, composting, doing a whole-food cleanse, and much more. Part Two is a collection of recipes, most of which are gluten-free, celebrating vegetarian cuisine in its brightest, whole, sophisticated form.



Eating natural, homemade foods in accordance with personal constitution and changes in environment is often all that we need to find balance in our lives. In The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook, Kate O'Donnell inspires you to get into the kitchen and explore this time-honored system for health and vibrancy.




The Relaxed Mind  contains instructions for the seven-phase meditation practice Dza Kilung Rinpoche  developed for Westerners, whom he finds have difficulty relaxing due to  the pace of Western life. It's very traditional but adapted to help those of us who live in a culture of distraction.



When taken on mindfully, vows can be a source of surprising wisdom and powerful energy, enabling you to accomplish things you never dreamed possible.  In this guide to the vow-directed life, Jan Chozen Bays provides a wealth of practical exercises for formulating and implementing vows of your own with honesty and compassion.


We hope  these books provide you much support and enjoyment, and we at Shambhala Publications wish you a very happy new year!

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