Sharon Salzberg on Faith, Meditation and Cultivating an Ethical Life (#24)

About the Guest:

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation pioneer and industry leader, a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. As one of the first to bring meditation and mindfulness into mainstream American culture over 45 years ago, her relatable, demystifying approach has inspired generations of meditation teachers and wellness influencers. Sharon is co-founder of The Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and the author of eleven books, including the New York Times bestseller, Real Happiness, now in its second edition, her seminal work, Lovingkindness and her newest book, Real Change: Mindfulness To Heal Ourselves and the World. Sharon’s secular, modern approach to Buddhist teachings is sought after at schools, conferences and retreat centers around the world. Sharon is the host of her own podcast, The Metta Hour, featuring 100+ interviews with the top leaders and voices in the meditation and mindfulness movement, and her writing can be found on Medium, On Being, the Maria Shriver blog, and Huffington Post.  Learn more at

In this episode, we discussed:

  1. How Sharon found Buddhism during an Eastern philosophy class in college in the 1960s.
  2. “The Buddha didn’t teach Buddhism. The Buddha taught a way of life.” You can practice meditation without a belief system.
  3. The attitude towards ethics in the Buddhist tradition and how it differs from the Judeo-Christian approach to “morality”. Sharon sees us as needing to reinterpret the concept of freedom as not something “reckless”, but freedom as an adventure in loving kindness, for example.
  4. For those who don’t desire to live ethically, how do we cultivate this desire? Sharon prescribes attention. Start paying attention and wisdom and insight will arise. The power of insight is very strong.
  5. The concept of faith in Buddhism is not like a “commodity”. It’s more like a journey of healthy doubting and questioning.
  6. Thoughts on her book “Real Happiness”: happiness being an enduring present resource.
  7. The difference between vipassana (insight) and metta (loving kindness) meditations.
  8. The breath is universal, therefore if you are breathing, you can be meditating. So often, the breath is offered first as a tool. The breath is generally neutral. But for those with trauma around the breath, the breath is not neutral. In this case, another object is offered as place to begin.
  9. The difference between Theravada and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism.
  10. Sharon offers a meditation at the end of the interview.
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