25 Feb
Posted in: Teachers
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“I Was Like…Whoahhh!”

that's-sharonIn case you missed it, there’s a great interview in the March issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, titled: How Sharon Salzberg Found Real Happiness.

(That’s Sharon, on the right, when she was in India in the early ’70s.)

I particularly like the part of the interview where Sharon tells about the first time she tried meditation, on a retreat in India:

The ten-day retreat was led by S.N. Goenka, a former Indian businessman and famed teacher of vipassana (insight) meditation. He told the participants that the point of the practice was to see, and free themselves from, old patterns. Salzberg was surprised at the emotions that began to surface.

“Did I know I felt afraid? Or angry? Probably not, until I went to India, and then I was like whoahhh!” she remembers. “Even though it was hard, from the moment I started, I thought, ‘There’s truth here. This is it.’ There was a deep sense of rightness.”

Salzberg found a sense of community among her fellow seekers. That famed Goenka course included many Westerners who would become leading figures in the growth of Eastern spirituality in the West, including Ram Dass, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Mirabai Bush, Krishna Das, Dan Goleman, and, of course, Salzberg herself.

[Note: This is the same Mirabai Bush who introduced me to meditation in 1998 and who has become my teacher/mentor/beloved friend.]

Salzberg says, “Many of my close friends are still people I met at my first retreat in January of 1971,” she says. “When I say all beings want to be happy, what I actually think I mean is we all want some sense of belonging.”

Putting her faith in a tradition and a body of knowledge gave Salzberg a sense of confidence. “I took refuge in the Buddha very happily,” she says. “There was an authenticity or integrity to what you were learning. There was a sense that you’re not alone—there’s wisdom here, people have done this, they have walked this path.”

On the final day of the retreat, Goenka introduced the practice of metta, or loving-kindness. “I had never been so at home, never been so happy,” Salzberg says. “This is what I had longed for, not surprisingly—a sense of unconditional love.”


The interview includes a lot more stories about Sharon’s early life and the circumstances that brought her to that first retreat. Click here to read more.

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