Sharon Salzberg is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, a renowned meditation teacher, and the author of many books. During these uncertain times, when feelings of anxiety, depression and anger can be so frequent, it’s important to remember Sharon’s words of wisdom on the connections between kindness, love and mindfulness.
The power of kindness:
As Sharon says in “The Mindfulness Movement” film (which you can watch here), a key part of her journey of self-discovery once she discovered meditation was, “being kind to myself and compassionate to myself rather than so judgmental. It was only after that the whole emphasis on kindness toward oneself broadened and became a real effort to understand the nature of kindness, and the power of kindness, toward others as well.” Once Sharon was kind to herself she was able to work through her own issues, including a tumultuous childhood, and then be in position to help others.
The connection between love and mindfulness:
Following her insights on kindness, Sharon went on to explore and write books about the even more powerful emotion of love. There can tend to be a misconception that mindfulness and love don’t have much to do with each other. Some people assume love is about the heart and mindfulness about the head. But as Sharon explains in the film about the depression and anger she felt as a child, “I understood that in a way, love was what I was seeking and for me and for many others, that some greater degree of love or loving-kindness is a secret ingredient of mindfulness. To really have an open mind means an open heart.”
By practicing mindfulness we can become aware when certain emotions such as fear or anger, whether it’s anger at ourselves or others, keep coming up as we try to quiet our minds and focus. That awareness creates an opportunity to understand the source of those difficult emotions, then let them go and choose to treat ourselves and others with kindness, compassion and love. By doing that, we can make healthy decisions to take care of ourselves. to stand up for what we believe in, and to help others who are struggling.
A related practice that Sharon is well-known for bringing to the West is loving-kindness. While watching the 100 minute Theatrical version of the film you can try the practice yourself as she demonstrates the repetition of phrases that build the sense of loving-kindness which Sharon describes as, “this profound knowing that our lives have something to do with one another. And the implication of that is that everybody counts and everybody matters. Not everyone’s going to be my best friend, but everybody matters. And so, what would it be like to have a day like that, where we really approached ourselves and others in that way?”
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