Sylvia Boorstein —
What We Nurture

The best way to nurture children's inner lives, Sylvia Boorstein says, is by taking care of our own inner selves for their sake. At a public event in suburban Detroit, Krista Tippett draws out the warmth and wisdom of the celebrated Jewish-Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. And, in a light-hearted moment that is an audience pleaser, Boorstein shares what GPS might teach us about "recalculating" and our own inner equanimity.

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is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Her books include That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist and Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life.

Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Sylvia Boorstein

Live from the stage of The Community House in suburban Detroit, we bring you the visual of Krista's interview with Ms. Boorstein as it happened.

Lovingkindness (Metta) Meditation

Somewhat unexpectedly, Sylvia Boorstein offered to lead a lovingkindness (metta) meditation in front of a crowd of 350 during the interview. What resulted was a magical experience in which the audience fully participated in this impromptu moment of reflection.

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Sylvia Boorstein expresses her point during a live event in suburban Detroit.

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That the key to nurturing others is often found in self-nuture.

Thank you, Sylvia, thank you, Krista. What a fabulous way to start my mother's day. Synchronicty strikes again! Last night I sent an email to a friend with a link to a interview Sylvia did for the Sacred Awakening series, my first introduction to her. Then talked with my husband about her just before going to sleep. When I woke to Sylvia's voice...I thought, "everything I need DOES come to me easily and effortlessly"!! What a joy, to hear Sylvia and her thoughts on motherhood and "worrying". I will take away the self-compassion prayer: "May I feel safe, may I feel content, may I feel strong, May I live with ease"... AND will share this with my clients in my new clinical counseling practice. Many, many blessings to you both.

I got nostalgic when Krista and Dr. B. were talking about how good news wouldn't be commercially viable and how nice it would be if "there were a channel that had all of the wonderful things in the news". "Somebody, some entrepreneur could do that", said Dr. B.
Well, someone did, nearly 30 years ago, Ted Turner. When I was a fledgling producer and on-camera reporter at TBS in the early '80's, I remember Ted wandering the halls ranting about how he was tired of all the bad news and bad people on the air and how "we should do a show about the good people" and call it "Nice People". Two months later the show was on the air. We traveled the country featuring funny, compassionate, giving people. We won multiple Emmy Awards and loved every minute of it. The show aired for about 5 years, then was replaced with something similar, again Ted's idea, "Good News". That show aired for another 7 years.
Today you can still find these types of stories at the end of the nightly network newscasts and on local TV news. I doubt you'll ever find an entire show dedicated to nice people and good news anymore, though...unless you count the occasional "Oprah" and "On Being".
I loved this interview with Dr. Boorstein and have already incorporated her "Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax, take a breath..." into my life.
Many thanks for all you do and your fabulous show!

When I turned on the program, the voice of the speaker was familiar but I couldn't place it. Then Krista introduced her and I remembered, from a tape I use in the car, "Road Sage." The most beautiful moments for me were the saying "Sweetheart, you are in pain," as a mantra for worry and anxiety, and the Neruda poem at the end. But Sylvia's nature is such that even her voice carries such metta, such kindness. She is so soothing, so reassuring. She teaches very simply, as in that quote from the Dalai Lama, "my religion is kindness." Infinite worlds lie beyond that statement, but it's simple enough anyone of any tradition or none can follow it. Thank you for this - why Detroit? But then, why not?

I am struck with candidness about her own propensity to worry....and her self - compassion which is where loving kindness begins....I enjoyed the meditation and am hoping to find the longer version of it...and her own self nurturing phrasology, "Sweetheart, you are in pain....what are you going to do next?" thank you for this program...

I love her loving kindness meditation to herself - to say to yourself in times of anxiety! "Sweetheart, you're in pain, relax, take a breathe, let's pay attention to what's happening then we'll figure out what to do." Lovely show today especially for Mother's Day. My Mom was a very anxious person who worried a lot. When I was 15, I gave her a string of worry beads. If she could have only viewed her anxiety as a trait one is born with - like being tall, musical or having brown hair - she probably would have lived many more years.

"How can I have a mind that is energized to do something about it but not reacting in anger but responding in firm kindness that things need to be different."

Wow! Our little city is on the edge of great change and I find myself in the midst of those who are leaders in our community's direction. Our biggest challenge is not imagining our potential, it's not even finding funding in these tight fiscal times...But rather, its how we treat each other as we move together through this process.

Moreover, I am a mother. And my greatest hope for my children has always been that they know how to be a good friend. Lately, I've added to that prayer...I hope that they learn to have kindness for those who may never be friends. And I hope that I am able to do the same as I make my way.

This conversation with Sylvia Boorstein was a gift to me. Thank you.

First off, I love the program.I mention it often to my friends.
On this program, I heard you mention that it would be interesting if a radio station/TV channel could survive financially if focussed on sharing good stories rather than the sensational grit featured in so much of media.
Actually, BYU-TV does have the motto "see the good in the world". This is an uplifting family TV station. I encourage "On Being" listeners to check it out. Family history, crafts, arts, music, athletics are included in the programming content. One especially moving film I saw on BYU-TV was "The Heart of Texas" highlighting one CHristian family's journey of forgiving following the death of their little girl.

The discussion on fairness was riveting. I work with children in the kitchen and hear "that's not fair!" a lot. It's so hard to let the discomfort of that statement take up its due space. I'm often compelled to give a wise answer in hopes of stumbling on a cure-all, catch-all response, but that just doesn't want to happen. It's an ongoing and rigorous meditation for me. At this point, I think it is one of our first expressions of not knowing in situations where we dearly want control. So, I try to hear it as "I don't know, and I'm SO uneasy with that!" Then, if I'm lucky, I remember to give some space, maybe say "hmmm," and let the process move without my trying to wrap it up. It's as if my head turns to face the same direction as the child so we can create a bigger space and hold something untenable, together.

I reflected upon the concept of the heart. Motherhood for me was based on loss, my own loss and the loss that my daughters suffered to be in a new family, and call me mom. So, I have constantly thought about 'heart,' what is in my heart for my daughters, the locks they and I keep on our hearts as a result of loss, and was so struck by the concept that our sons and daughters hold 'a mortgage on our hearts' for life.

I probably need to talk to a Jungian analyst about this, but after listening to Sylvia Boorstein, I had an incredible dream. I had taken my three-year-old daughter (and apparently a son, who doesn't really exist, but in the dream was named Joshua) to a "play store" (where they can play and climb on things and there are lots of flashing lights, etc.). My parents were there, as were some other people I recognized (who also have small children). I left to go to a store a few doors down, and when I came back, I couldn't find my daughter. I went to the store manager, who said he hadn't seen her in a long time. My parents said they hadn't seen her, and then they left. It seemed no one wanted to help me. I went running out the door screaming for her, running down a forest road at night. I screamed her name three times, but I knew she was gone. Then I woke up. I had to go into her room to make sure she was there. I frequently feel overwhelmed as a parent, and I react with yelling (as did my parents). I swore when I was pregnant that I would never do that, but here I am. I am grateful for the concept that it is just my genetic response, which lifts responsibility from my heart. Another thing that stays with me is the idea that life is of course ephemeral, and it is not useful or pleasant to work myself up. I've had a lovely day, all day today. Not perfect, but my disposition has been markedly lighter. I've reminded myself to think kindly. Thank you, Sylvia. I think that listening to you has started me down a new turn in my life labyrinth.

There was so much wisdom and joy in this so I hope my little reflection on the group meditation doesn't sound silly...

Each year I try to run or cheer for the NYC marathon, I'll cheer whether I know someone running or not. I am often asked why, especially when trying to get others to join me in cheering for strangers.

Here's the thing. The NYC marathon has over 30,000 runners from literally all over the world, country, every age, religion, political stripe, etc. There are also over 1 million people who watch in NYC and over 10,000 volunteers. And no matter how many differences these people might have, for this one moment - or really hours - everyone has the same amazing hope, that each runner should finish and be healthy and strong. I feel like it is the most positive and largest, amazing thing to be part of in any small way. It makes me feel so hopeful for humanity.

Thank you for the insights as I work daily to be a better person, wife, mother, daughter, teacher, friend.

I loved her analogy to the GPS system's way of addressing and correcting a wrong turn: "recalculating". I think it's a perfect metaphor for when something doesn't go the way we want, rather than stewing over it and fretting, if we are able to "recalculate" and take it from there, it is a road to less frustration and more peace.

I woke up this early morning wondering what I was going to be when I grew up. As usual, I put on my walking shoes, grabbed my nano and started listening. This interview with Sylvia spoke directly to me and will set the tone for my new life with adult children. I'm sure the other folks on the bike path wondered what I what I was smiling about.

I am a 53 year old mother, wife and homemaker with a part time "paycheck" job. My husband and I just returned from Chicago where our youngest child graduated from college. Like Sylvia, my greatest work has been to be a part of raising two kind, loving and open mined people. I share this accomplishment with my lovely "co-parent" husband, the Unitarian Church and the community of family and friends here.

Thank you Krista for always seeming to know what I am needing...your podcasts have helped me during many joyful times and a few very hard times.

Several years ago I had my mother home with Hospice. We helped her live the last few months of her life in her home surrounded by her children and grand children. I would walk out every morning and just try to take a BREATH. On one of those first walks, I listened to your interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. That was the moment when I could really help her die and not let my grief get in the way.

The interview with Sylvia has had a similar life changing effect on my path going forward. I still plan on taking this opportunity to have a mini mid-life crises, but now I can do it with a bit more grace.

The story about getting the phone call and knowing something is wrong is such a universal parental experience. My son was arrested last year (he and a friend had climbed a building on campus to look at the full moon). When he called the next morning I could tell from the tone in his voice something was up. My first and only question to my children during those calls is "Is your body broken in any way?" They have both expressed gratitude for the non-hysterical way my husband and I react.

You and your show are a blessing,

Elizabeth Nance

THE SOLID comment to a child at the other end of the phone "Is your body broken in any way?" reminds me of the night my son called ... "I'm gonna need some help here." For the second time in two months a deer had crashed into his car totalling the vehicle. This car was in his possession only 7 days. I arrived at the scene, found him leaning back on the car. I feared looking beneath his hooded jacket. It is not just the body broken that I fear, it's the mind. Sylvia words have surfaced often, wrapping tough moments with gauze 'n tenderness. We 'recalculate' daily. I understand I have mortgaged my heart. Hardest job I've ever had and most rewarding.

This interview helped move me to start practicing Insight Meditation, which is in the Buddhist tradition. Like Ms. Boorstein, I am a Jewish wife and mother. I feel very strongly that the meditation practice is what I need to be doing. It will complement my Judaism. Thank you, Ms. Boorstein.

I got a new job at the library where I work in January. Now, I'm in Special Collections where I have more freedom. Last month I curated an art show exploring the extinction of tigers because of an interview I heard right here with Alan Rabinowitz. Yesterday I was a guest speaker teaching a class on Pet Companion Nutrition and Management. I've had an aviary for the past 25 years with as many parrots as I could handle--usually 20. I created a powerpoint with 90 slides and I printed this article really really big. Then I taped it together page by page. It made two rows of landscape pages about seven feet long and I told the students to READ THIS ARTICLE from the NY Times.

It was just published this weekend. So now seeing your interview again with Boorstein I'm thinking THIS is the cutting edge of psychology! Keep up the good work!

When Sylvia said that she uses a measurement for how clearly she is thinking by how kind she is, it made me reflect on the idea of goodness and kindness as conscious. You are not just a good person but the actions and words that you bring into being actually change these attributes. Therefore you have control over being a kind person.

This interview helped move me to start practicing Insight Meditation, which is in the Buddhist tradition. Like Ms. Boorstein, I am a Jewish wife and mother. I feel very strongly that the meditation practice is what I need to be doing. It will complement my Judaism. Thank you, Ms. Boorstein.

I don't understand why you refer to Dr. Boorstein as a Jewish-Buddhist teacher when she teaches Dharma, not Torah.

You won't find Metta meditation in the Torah (specifically the last of its four parts), and you won't find God, revelation before a multitude, a God-given code of ethics, commandments by which a person and nation can become holy, or a covenantal relationship between God and a specific nation, in Vipassana (insight) Buddhism.

She's a very fine Buddhist teacher. But she's not qualified to teach Judaism, and in my experience she teaches things that are antithetical to Judaism.

Every time I have a stress in my life that influences my mind into glitch mode I seem to stumble into the perfect On Being to redirect that energy. I don't know what else to say that could speak on how much I love this show. Thank you Krista and everyone else who is a part of this. My personal wording for this mental/emotional behavior is swimming upstream and I believe it is a significant part of anxiety's fuel. When I am busy I think "how nice when I can do nothing" and when not busy I think "I wish I knew what to do right now". When challenged in an unexpected way, it's anger or frustration or, personally, defensiveness. All wastes of time, but also so human. I repeat a mantra to my nearly 2 year old daughter to "pay attention" and I hope it comes out with the power of millions of ways to pay attention. I rant! Thank you and keep up the amazing work you all do. It is very appreciated.

Good one, if you missed it. "Indignation is seductive."

This was such a wonderful start to my day, thank you.

You both made reference to a TV news broadcast that would be only good news.

I am curious if you know of GNN, which is not on TV, but does arrive st your inbox with good news.

I just tuned in to hear some music and heard your show. Wow! I'm an instant fan of your show and your guest. I'm on this page to binge on your podcasts. And next I'm going to buy a Sylvia Boorstein book. Thanks!

Novelist Steven Pressfield had a similar insight about GPS in his blog post "The Girl from WAZE" (apparently independently of Sylvia Boorstein's insight). See:

Today, I was briefly listening to a locally produced program, Voices in the Family with Dan Gottlieb, while picking up lunch. His guest was Sharon Salzberg. And before I could even gather that she was a meditation teacher and author, her words reminded me of Sylvia. In almost her next sentence, she mentioned her frield Sylvia Boorstein. Wouldn't it be fun if Krista could get the two of them to have a dialog on the show.

Love the show. Can you send me a live link to Sylvian Boorstein's loving kindness meditation? The link online doesn't work. I want to listen to it and share it on my tweeter feed. Thanks!

Trent Gilliss's picture

Hi Megan. Unfortunately, Vimeo had some back-end issues with their embedded video player that appears on this page. You should now be able to watch it without any issue. Please let me know if you can't view it. My email is

thank you for the wonderful sessions online !!

That was one wonderful session by Sylvia Boorstein. Nurturing oneself mentally is essential in today's world. A disturbed or stressed mind can also portray itself into physically prominent issues like grey hair or loss of weight or just plain unhealthy physical state as gaizupath was pointing out the other day. Worry and anxiety can kill. Her voice is so soothing!

Sylvia has a way with words. The hairline difference between distress and de-stress is a major cause of depression around the world. We, at Gaizupath, nurture and help people with stress for a better life. We will definitely share this piece with our clients for their benefit.

How lovely,thank you!

It is amazing who is called forth when our attention/heart is turned to our children/our beloved. Mary Oliver once described Jesus as "tender, luminous, and demanding" in one of her poems.

It isn't easy. Here is a similar "sweetheart" mantra I heard from a teacher, "I can't stop the world from happening but I promise I to be right here with you."

What a lovely, spacious culture in which to abide/offer ourselves, the world.

I ran across this poem today by Robert Bly which strikes me as apropos.
It's called Things to Think. There is a spaciousness in the mind of nurture. A spaciousness that can welcome, that allows encounter. We can witness this in "thinking" of artists, of parents, and children.

There are numerous copies online. Here's one at Kripalu retreat center.