Sharon Salzberg

Making Friends With My Thoughts

To Sit with Discomfort

by cheryl on February 5, 2016

in Meditation

When I first tried meditating several years ago, I remember struggling between trying to still my body and my mind.  At first, I found it incredibly difficult and physically uncomfortable to sit still, which was then followed by my many thoughts,  “My knee really hurts . . . My back aches . . . I am feeling restless . . . I am uncomfortable,” which only made my physical discomfort more deeply felt. Other days, I would have no problem physically sitting still,  but my mind was the source of my discomfort, refusing to be still.

Over the years,  I have learned that it is best to “make friends” with my discomfort.  I try not to struggle against whatever is distracting me, or figure it out or beat myself up for having these distractions.   I use them, instead, as an important part of my meditation.  I try to approach my discomfort or distraction with a sense of curiosity and interest, no longer trying to do anything with it.   I simply observe what I am experiencing with a friendly, loving and gentle attention.   I look at my experience, whatever that may be, as an opportunity for self-awareness, rather than an obstacle to it.

It would be nice to report that each time I sit down to meditate I find myself enjoying twenty minutes of sheer bliss.   What I have found, instead, is that each meditation is different.  Somedays I have an ache or a pain, some days my mind is extremely busy, and other days my mind and my body are peaceful and still.   In essence, this is what the practice is all about.  Learning to sit and simply get to know myself, to have some sense of control over where I place my  attention, and when I feel out of control, to simply let it be and watch without becoming overwhelmed by it.

Just like my meditation practice, my days are not all the same, and certainly not always peaceful – – – people can annoy me, my children don’t always listen to me, my house is not always clean, my back sometimes aches, people close to me get sick, and the evening news continues to report great tragedies around the globe.   I find that I can now look at all of these things with a sense of presence, openness and curiosity, just like I practice on my cushion each morning.  Instead of getting swept away by what is happening, overwhelmed by it, or trying to figure it out, I can connect to my own inner stillness and allow myself to feel whatever comes up fully (anger, sadness, frustration and, yes, great joy) and just be with it.  All this from simply sitting on my cushion for a few minutes a day.

On to Week 2!

 

This blog is part of Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge.  In the month of February, you can join over 12,000 people around the world who have committed to sit each day and give meditation a try!  You can learn more about the challenge, join in and read what people are saying by clicking  here.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

by cheryl on October 22, 2013

in Meditation

Happiness is a big topic these days.  There are many happiness blogs and books that explore how we can achieve greater happiness in our lives.  The emerging field of Positive Psychology, the study of happiness, has produced a large body of scientific research that helps us understand how we can be happier.  Major universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, have their own Positive Psychology departments that conduct research on what makes happy people happy.  Dr. Martin Seligman, thought to be the father of Positive Psychology, heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  Where traditionally the field of Psychology focuses on mental illness or psychological problems and how to treat them, Dr. Seligman and his peers examine how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  So, why is happiness such a “hot” topic these days? Research on the mental health and wellbeing of Americans may shed some light on the answer.

Statistics show that anxiety and depression affect many Americans and that those numbers are growing.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in our country, affecting over forty million adults in the United States (18% of U.S. population).   An estimated one in ten adults reports being depressed.  In addition, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children in the United States and rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past fifty years. Today, five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or an anxiety disorder when compared to half a century ago.  These statistics suggest that in the United States, a country in which we have greater material wealth and individual freedom than most other countries in the world, we are increasingly unhappy.

So, why aren’t we happier?

Perhaps it is because we live in a culture where we never feel that we have enough, or that we are enough.  We are always looking to get more, be more, have more.  Our culture values extreme individualism and ambition as characteristics needed to achieve success, creating a culture in which the fear of failure runs rampant.   In such a culture, we think that happiness is conditional upon our achievements.  Although our goals are often quite concrete (being promoted at work, buying a new car, moving to a bigger house, winning a race, making a team, getting into an ivy league school, fighting for social justice), if we press further in our investigation, we will usually find that our ultimate goal is simply to be happy.  As Tal Ben-Shahar, Harvard Professor and author of several books on Positive Psychology explains, “Wealth, fame, admiration and all other goals are subordinate and secondary to happiness; whether our desires are material or social, they are means toward one end: happiness.”

What the research shows is that the attainment of a particular goal to achieve greater happiness is misguided.  The  achievement of our goals may bring temporary joy, but it does not impact our overall level of  happiness.  For example, studies of both lottery winners and people who have been paralyzed reveal that people return to their same level of happiness (or unhappiness as the case may be) one year after the event.  Our projected happiness (or unhappiness) after certain events is not what we actually experience.  We have all experienced a situation where we work very hard to achieve a goal, are overjoyed in accomplishing that goal, only to emerge a short time after our goal is met asking ourselves, “What’s next?”  We quickly realize that the happiness we felt after achieving that goal was merely temporary.  We may even feel depressed when we realize that the achievement of our much-anticipated goal did not bring us the lasting happiness we desire.

So, how can we be happier?

Research suggests that 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics, traits we are born with such as temperament.  The good news is this leaves us with 50% to work with.  Many researchers are looking at the effects of mindfulness practices and other cognitive exercises that can help us shape our reactivity and perceptions of ourselves and the world we live in.  In other words, instead of looking externally at what we can accomplish next, what we lack and what we want to gain so that we can be happier, we can change our perception of who we are, what we want and how we react to our circumstances.

This pursuit of happiness is what Sharon Salzberg explores in her book Real Happiness.  She explains,  “Because the development of inner calm & energy happens completely within and isn’t dependent on another person or a particular situation, we begin to feel a resourcefulness and independence that is quite beautiful—and a huge relief.”   In the practice of mindfulness meditation, Salzberg teaches people to look inside themselves in moments of quiet and accept things as they are.   Those quiet moments help us to connect to our own inner strength, our compassion for ourselves and for others, and our ability to ride the tides of our own emotions.  These qualities, which we all possess, can be fostered and strengthened simply by recognizing that they are already there.

Once we take the time to reconnect to who we really are, value our inner strengths and find a sense of peace and contentment in ourselves as we are, we are able to feel more happiness in our lives.  We can foster our own feelings of optimism and gratitude, which will enhance our sense of well-being.   With this new perspective, it is not the achievement of goals in which we seek to attain happiness; we already have a sense of happiness along the way as we pursue our goals.  The relationship between happiness and success is reciprocal – not only can success contribute to happiness, but happiness also leads to success.

 

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We are thrilled to welcome back Sharon Salzberg to our mindful community for a fall evening exploring Lovingkindness in the Face of Adversity

Wednesday November 13th from 7:00-9:00pm

Mamaroneck, NY (location to be sent upon confirmation)

 

Sharon is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors.  She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.

During this evening we will explore the power of lovingkindness when we face our own physical challenge or illness, emotional upheaval, negativity from others, or unfairness in how we are being treated. We will look at lovingkindness and compassion as strengths rather than as submissive states, and talk about joining them with discerning action, wisdom, and our often untapped capacity for resilience. We’ll practice meditation along with dialogue and discourse.  Suitable for both beginning and more experienced meditators.

To Register Click Here

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Back to Reality

Back to Reality

by joanna on August 8, 2012

in Meditation

It’s been a glorious summer for us at 2bpresent.  We took time from the normal school year schedule and lived weeks in a very unstructured unscheduled manner.  As we are now in August, we have been struck by the reality of returning to a school and life schedule that is drastically different from the way we have lived for several weeks now.  In pondering this shift that is going to have to take place the following lyrics from En Vogue seemed apropos to share with all of you.

Back to life, back to reality.  Back to the here and now, yeah.  Show me how, decide what you want from me.  Tell me maybe I could be there for you.
However do you want me? However do you need me?  How, however do you want me?  However do you need me?
Back to life,  back to the present time.  Back from a fantasy, yeah. Tell me now, take the initiative. I’ll leave it in your hands until you’re ready…

Summer is a break from the reality of the hectic schedules that we have during the school year.  People asking of us and us pouring ourselves out to those we love and the causes that we support.  We are wanted and needed and needed and wanted 24/7.  By breaking from that for summer we are able to refuel and come back recharged.  The transitions from one to another are not without anxiety for us or for our children.  For our children they have shifted from school schedules to summer (camp or unstructured chill time) and now what they focused on so much is coming to a close and the hectic school schedules that they have are approaching them once again.   Can we incorporate the best of what they love from the summer into their normal school year schedule?  Can we put a little less on all of our plates this year and have more time to just be together as a family?  Will they miss something if they aren’t as busy?  Will we?

September also coincides with a climatic shift as the sweltering warm days start to turn cooler.  We go from shedding clothes to adding layers to stay warn.  As we look toward this transition, can we add mindfulness and meditation into the layers we wrap ourselves in?  Incorporating a mindful practice into the way we interact with those we love the most and those who we just barely touch.  Mindfulness can make those shifts be they seasonal or from summer back to school smoother and easier for ourselves and our families.

If you are interested in learning more about beginning a practice of mindfulness and meditation, please join us as we once again journey to find Real Happiness following the work of Sharon Salzberg and other experts in this field.  Click here for more information on this upcoming course and on our event hosting Sharon Salzberg in our community.

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Join 2bpresent for an evening with

Sharon Salzberg

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sharon is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors.  She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts.  She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.

Happiness that is not shaken by conditions begins with imagining that such stable and open happiness exists, and could exist for us. We also need wisdom in order to know how to make such happiness real. This implies patience, perspective, and an ability to see things as they are. During this evening we will explore our notions of happiness, strength, aloneness and possibility. We’ll practice meditation along with dialogue and discourse. Suitable for both beginning and more experienced meditators.

To register for this event click here

 

For more information about Sharon please visit: www.sharonsalzberg.com

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