This conversation is with Sharon Salzberg on Being Present, Letting Go, and Having Faith.

If you know her name, you know where this conversation will go: Mindfulness.

Sharon has played a crucial role in bringing mindfulness practices to the West and into mainstream culture. She first began teaching mindfulness in 1974.

(Note: be careful who teaches you about mindfulness — it’s a very, very “in” thing to talk about, and just like most skills in any field, the nuances that come with a deep commitment to understanding and living in alignment are imperative for anyone you’re going to trust in the process of progression.)

In 1971, in Bodh Gaya, India, Sharon attended her first meditation course. She spent the next three-and-a-half years engaged in intensive practice and study with highly respected teachers from India, Burma and Tibet.

In 1976, she established, together with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts.

In this conversation you’ll hear depth. You’ll hear the sensitivities that come with a life commitment to the nuances.

We explore how Sharon discovered mindfulness and how it can serve as a toolbox for managing suffering.

When Sharon first encountered mindfulness, she was fascinated that there were actual mental tools available to anyone who wants to practice them.

Sharon’s definition of faith is not about dogma or adherence to dogma, but getting off the sidelines and moving right to the center of possibility, offering your heart to something even though you don’t know how it’s going to work out.

And that’s precisely what she did once she had her first taste of meditation.

For Sharon one of the most important things she learned is the ability to “let go.”

To come back to your intention, to come back to the now, without being disheartened, without blaming or hating yourself, for what occurred in the past.

It’s the eloquent returning to now that is the hallmark of world-class doers and thinkers. This is a skill. And mindfulness is one of the many skills that can accelerate the ability to stitch together moments of full engagement.

We also explore how practicing compassion doesn’t mean you can’t still compete and can still have a mindset that allows you to progress and achieve.

Sharon has great insight – for both the seasoned and those just getting into mindfulness/meditation world.

We are living in a highly digital world that is challenging our ancient brain in ways that we are not fully prepared. I hope this conversation stimulates you to step back and remember what matters most: time — and how we live “on-time” with our self, with others, with nature.

It’s through relationships that we become — and that depth only happens in the present moment.

In This Episode:

  • Childhood was very fragmented and painful
  • Went to college at 16, had lived in 5 different family configurations
  • How an east asian philosophy class in college taught her about meditation and changed her life
  • Having a toolbox to manage suffering
  • How she defines “faith” and why it involves taking action
  • The aha moment for her.. heading to India to better understand what meditation was all about
  • The specific insights – both universal and personal that are revealed from practicing mindfulness
  • What she’s most afraid of and how she trained herself to become aware of when it occurs
  • Learning to “let go” and return to the present moment
  • What she craves most: compassion, space, and personal resilience
  • Why faith, compassion, and love are powerful but misunderstood words
  • Why you can still practice compassion and compete
  • The most important idea in all of meditation: beginning again
  • What occurs when you’re able to live in the present moment
  • How to notice if your meditation practice is working
  • Phrase that guides life: let it be or just be here
  • What she would recommend to someone trying meditation for the first time


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“I define faith not as belief or dogma or adherence to dogma, but getting off the sidelines and moving right to the center of possibility. Offering your heart to something even though you don’t know how it’s going to work out.” “Without some of measure of love, kindness, and compassion during these times, we’re just going to go do down.”

“The ability to let go and start over – the sneaky party of that is some amount of compassion for yourself, or otherwise you’re just going around and you’ll keep identifying yourself as a failure and you can’t begin again.”

“Nothing in life seems to be a straight shot. It’s not like ‘I had a few problems in the beginning and now they’re all smoothed out. Never again.’ We’re always altering and moving and picking ourselves up from falling down. How do we do that? We need a measure of compassion for ourselves.”

On competition: “The idea that we will be finely satisfied with who we are when we have put everyone else down is crazy. If you’re only obsessing about someone’s else’s faults and how superior you are, it takes up a lot of time, it can take up your whole life.”

“The most important idea in all of meditation land is ‘beginning again.’  Everybody can access the state of fullness or wholeness or intactness but our minds just fly off again. It’s learning how to return to that which is the whole process. We may not live there forever but we can get back pretty quickly.”

On how long it takes for meditation to work (joke): “So many times other people notice the changes in us before we notice them in ourselves. If you really want to know if someone is making improvement in their meditation, you need to ask their partner, their colleague, their kids.”

“Pressure comes from having too much to do and not having said no and wanting to do even more.”

“It all comes down to presence.”

“My vision is a world where compassion is understood.”

“Love is connection. Happiness is wholeness.”

“I think of mastery as having the confidence and clarity to have big aspirations and at same time honor the day by day execution of that aspiration so that it doesn’t feel so dreary.”

“I think mastery is when something becomes so much a part of you it becomes natural.”


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Meditation Expert

Sharon Salzberg is a New York Times Best selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. In 1974, she co-founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein.