Sharon Salzberg cofounded the Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein.
Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Well, I hope we can talk more about social networking in a bit, but first I wanted to ask you about Real Happiness. Well, that’s an interesting and vital dialectic to me because it seems like more and more, we’re seeing these communities and groups of practitioners expressing feelings that all this emphasis on things like faith, lovingkindness, happiness, and so on means that things are getting “too soft.” And yet, when things like the national conversation we’re having right now in the aftermath of the horrible shooting attack in Tucson happen, it seems to highlight the crucial importance of the kind of work you and others do. I am very curious about your specific thoughts around Tucson and the attention and energy being placed on civility in the U.S. Well, I think it’s always interesting to look at it when we cast someone else as “the other,” and why. Going back to Real Happiness, I’m wondering if you could talk to us a little about the structure of the book. I don’t know if you’ve looked at my website, but right now we’re doing a retreat for the month of February, a 28-day challenge, where a number of people have agreed to blog about their meditation experience, and then everyone is invited to join and comment. So, yes, the book is arranged over four weeks, and emphasizes sitting with the breath over to a broader mindfulness and walking meditation and lovingkindness meditation as well. There’s a wonderful section towards the front of the book where you essentially explain to readers what neuroscientists, psychologists, and other scientists have been learning about mindfulness and meditation in the last several years. One thing, and this is kind of a meta thing — M-E-T-A — is that this conversation exists at all. This whole concept of neuroplasticity is fascinating to me too, because when I was younger, like in high school, we were taught that when you reached adulthood the size and the circuitry of the brain were fixed. All the attention on these studies has been extraordinary too: just in the short time since the book has come out, there have been significant articles. In terms of teaching, I think the first thing I ever did with technology — anything other than face-to-face or writing — was probably a tele-teaching.
I follow a lot of Buddhist practitioners on Twitter, and I think it can be kind of funny sometimes the rollercoaster they go on with it. Now that you’ve spent some time working with Twitter and getting to understand it, I’m curious about any advice you have on using it, especially for those cycling between extremes like these.
Actually, Ethan Nichtern just had a post about this on The Huffington Post — the mindful use of Twitter and Facebook. On a previous book tour, for Faith, eight years ago, the publisher put me up in a hotel somewhere. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. In addition to Real Happiness, she is the author of eight other books, including the bestsellers Lovingkindness and Faith.
Her new book, Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (which also includes a CD of guided meditations), has just been released, and she will lead a half-day retreat based on the program for InsightLA on February 26th (tickets are still available, and you can register here).


The form that I use involves repeating certain phrases that usually begin with, “May I be happy, may you be happy…” So that brings up a lot of really interesting issues to consider right away. I handle all the virtues in my titles, and Pema [Chodron] handles all the anxieties in hers.
I often say that we — not everybody and not always, but by and large — live in a time of blunted aspiration. I see it as a great experiment — this goes back to what I was saying before how we tend to feel stronger when we’re strident. It seems to me — and please tell me if this is right or not — that the four foundations of mindfulness are at the heart of the arrangement here. So to see neuroplasticity demonstrated, and that earlier notion disproven, again and again, is just amazing. You know, it used to be that I’d go to a party or something, and someone would say, “So what do you do?” I’d say, “I teach meditation.” Then they’d say, “Oh…” and sort of sidle away. Of course, there’s also this very distracting element in the social networks to contend with; in Real Happiness, you mention this aspect of the internet in a few places, like how we can find ourselves unmindfully checking and re-checking our email or social feeds. You know, I follow you and Bob Thurman, and because of that I’m able to hear about Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma and the things the Dalai Lama is doing. I thought it was very good advice, like notice your intention, notice when it’s taking up too much time, set some boundaries, go on “tweet fasts” or whatever he called it — have those days where you give it up for a while.
When the driver came to pick me up and take me to the bookstore, he said, “I noticed that everybody sitting in that very nice lobby was talking on a cell phone.
A teacher for 40 years, she has been a contributing editor at O, The Oprah Magazine and has written for Time, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Self, Yoga Journal, More, and others. We tend to equate happiness with being happy-go-lucky (and maybe kind of stupid), seeking pleasure endlessly, and all those things. We don’t imagine that well how things can be better or the lovingkindness we’re capable of or the power of compassion. The particular publisher, Workman, is very interested in something practical, and very inclusive, so that people of all faiths and no faith tradition might pick it up and find it useful in terms of beginning or sustaining a meditation practice.
I’m always curious to ask people involved in all of this what they find have been the most significant discoveries.
The basic idea is that the brain will rewire and reshape itself in response to the environment, and somebody eventually thought of the internal environment, in terms of meditation practice, because that’s what it essentially is: reshaping the internal environment. Yet there’s also great possibility and some very positive qualities to the social networks too. Meditation connects us to our inner-most feelings and challenges our habits of self-judgment. When I wrote my book Faith, one of the things motivating me was a desire to help reclaim that word, “faith,” because so many people had a negative reaction to it. Does it come from that burst of momentary anger, or does it come from a different kind of sense, like compassion?


Originally, in my mind, at any rate, the book was going to address the question, “Why meditate?” with a small section on how-to. I’m hoping that years from now they’ll be able to look back fondly on this as they’re going on a long retreat or something. I’ve found a tremendous diversity in terms of what these scientists and Buddhist teachers find most exciting in all of this work. I’m too involved in this, too distracted!” Then the next day, they’ll say that they’re having a Twitter renaissance or renewed love affair with it.
Meditation helps protect the brain against aging and improves our capacity for learning new things. Meditation helps protect  the brain against aging and improves our capacity for learning new things.
So one of my hopes in focusing on the virtues is that it might help us open just even the scope of what we believe is possible and what we’re capable of—and I mean “possible” not in an abstract way.
One of the firemen wrote that he was on a call and was overworked because of the department budget, and he had to sit by this manhole for three hours so he decided to do his meditation then. I appreciate seeing those worlds displayed and knowing I have the ability to pursue or not pursue something with a click.
I thought, “Well, you know, it’s kind of in the same vein; let’s take a word that can be used in so many ways and see if we can reclaim its potency. We are capable of these forces and understanding that can make a very big difference in our lives.
The changes many of us hope to see in society do not seem to be happening overnight, and so we need a power of endurance and sustainability that really is a power and not just make-believe that everyone gets along. I can get something in 140 characters, but also pursue things in greater depth with links and things. There is no better person to show a beginner how to harness the power of meditation than Sharon Salzberg, one of the world’s foremost meditation teachers and spiritual authors. There is no better person to show a beginner how to harness the power of meditation than Sharon Salzberg, one of the world’s foremost meditation teachers and spiritual authors. Cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, author of Lovingkindness, Faith, and other books, Ms.
Salzberg distills 30 years of teaching meditation into a 28-day program that will change lives.
It is not about Buddhism, it’s not esoteric—it is closer to an exercise, like running or riding a bike. From the basics of posture, breathing, and the daily schedule to the finer points of calming the mind, distraction, dealing with specific problem areas (pain in the legs?



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