Sharon Salzberg

‘Real love allows for failure and suffering. All of us have made mistakes, and some of those mistakes were consequential, but you can find a way to relate to them with kindness. No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn. Real love is not about letting yourself off the hook. Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love.’ (Real Love)


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Sharon Salzberg

‘Most people who come to meditation are looking for respite from what is called the “monkey mind” – the perpetual, hyperactive (and often self-destructive) whirl of thoughts and feelings everyone undergoes. But the truth is that meditation does not eradicate mental and emotional turmoil. Rather, it cultivates the space and gentleness that allow us intimacy with our experiences so that we can relate to differently to our cascade of emotions and thoughts. That different relationship is where freedom lies.’ (Real Love)

When I arrived in London, I helped my host clear out several stacks of books that had accumulated as part of her previous journalist job. I was interested in quite a few of the titles, but none more so than this new book by Sharon Salzberg, the only Buddhist book among them. She was kind enough to lend it to me while I traveled around, and I found something wonderful on every page – I have sent quotes to a number of friends already, and suspect I will have to buy at least  two copies when I get back to San Francisco.

Sharon Salzberg

‘Love and concern for all are not things some of us are born with and others are not. Rather, they are results of what we do with our minds. We can choose to transform our minds so that they embody love, or we can allow them to develop habits and false conceptions of separation.’  (Lovingkindness)

What comes up for me when reading this is also allowing ourselves to do this imperfectly as we try this transformation. I am often brought face-to-face with the limits of my compassion and empathy, but I try to stay with the place of wanting to do better. I will never forget how constantly Blanche worked on this in the final years of her long life.

Silvia Boorstein

‘To perfect my truthfulness I need to be able to tolerate seeing clearly all of who I am and all of what is happening. I need to not feel ashamed or afraid. If I pay attention calmly and steadily, my mind will be unbiased and its secrets will reveal themselves to me in an honest, gentle way. I will not be distressed. The pleasure I’ll experience by not hiding from myself will inspire me to create the intimacy of non-judgmental gentle honesty with everyone.’ (Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake)

Sharon Salzberg

‘Fear is the primary mechanism sustaining the concept of the “other”, and reinforcing the subsequent loneliness and distance in our lives. Ranging from numbness to terror, fear constricts our hearts and binds us to false and misleading ways of viewing life. The fallacy of separate existence cloaks itself in the beguiling forms of our identifications: “This is who I am,” or “This is all I can ever be.” We identify with a fragment of reality rather than with the whole.’  (Lovingkindness)

I might add that often we are very choosy about the fragment we identify with, and make an effort to push away other parts of our selves that don’t fit that narrative. I have many parts of my self that aren’t especially flattering, but I try to keep them with me rather than push them ‘out’ through shame. I also try to keep with me kind things that wise people have said about me, rather than choosing not to believe them because that would not fit my self-story. And also trying to stay with the slippery realisation that all of these are just fragments of an unknowable and ever-changing whole.

Sharon Salzberg

‘It is only due to our concepts that we feel separate from the world. We are isolated by ideas of inadequacy, ideas of danger, ideas of loneliness, and ideas of rejection. While we may indeed face external difficulties, our thoughts can amplify them – or even create them, leading us deeper into delusion. If we do not want to e enslaved by our thoughts, we can choose to transform our minds. In any given moment, do I choose to strengthen the delusion of separation or the truth of connection?’ (Lovingkindness)

Nanao Sakaki

Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing.

Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.

Within a field a hundred meters large
Raise rice and goats.

Within a valley a thousand meters large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables and Amanitas.

Within a forest ten kilometers large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.

Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometers large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.

Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Go to see the southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.

Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Walking somewhere on the earth.

Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometers large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.

Within a circle a million kilometers large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun west.

Within a circle ten billion kilometers large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.

Within a circle ten thousand light years large
The Galaxy full blooming in spring.

Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.

Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing.
You sit, pray and sing.

A Love Letter