Omega talks with Sharon Salzberg, who urges us to-
live from love and take care of one another.
Omega: What does it mean to you to be a spiritual teacher?
Sharon: I call myself a meditation teacher rather than a spiritual teacher.
Omega: How do you measure if your students are progressing along the spiritual path?
Sharon: It wouldn't be because of something that happened in their meditation practice.
It would be because they're having a different experience of life.
Life continues, and we gradually notice we're having a different experience of it.
Omega: Are you teaching people the art of being human or how to live meaningfully?
Omega: Meditation, as a way out of suffering, was your initial attraction. Why?
Sharon: I had a very turbulent and painful childhood
Omega: We don't talk to each other about feeling confused and scared and full of self-doubt.
Sharon: When I learned the three noble truths -- I could do something about the suffering.
I couldn't change the circumstances, or make the loss or hurt go away, but I could change how I dealt with it.
I could approach my pain with compassion instead of bitterness, in community rather than isolation.
I realized the same was true of changing my relationship to pleasure. I could be so distracted, I wouldn't notice when something good did happen.
And with neutral things, like my daily routine, I was barely aware of being there.
The Buddha offered a very simple, pragmatic tool -- meditation -- to transform one's relationship to everything.
Omega: The Buddha said meditation is a way to end suffering.
How does the act of sitting in silence, which seems so simple, address suffering, which is so complex?
Meditation can be thought of as:
-sitting quietly and being with what is.
- a process where we train our attention.
Both ways of viewing meditation help us be with whatever we are experiencing.
Concentration helps us steady our attention, which is important, because if we aren't centered, we'll get sucked into whatever painful experience comes along, and we won't be able to see clearly.
Mindfulness helps us refine our attention so we can be with the present moment rather than projecting out into the future or the past, or judging ourselves.
Loving kindness helps us open our attention so we can stop being cruel to ourselves and others in the face of suffering and instead be more graceful and caring.
They are all trainings in attention.
Omega: Perhaps if people understood that this isn't just about me, it's about me and my relationship to everything, they would feel encouraged to do it.
People can start with one minute each morning for a week and see what happens. Then they can add another minute the following week. By the end of the year they'll have a 20-minute practice.
Sharon: Meditation practice has to be realistic for a person, and the thing that's more important than the amount of time is the regularity of it.
Practicing every day is what changes things over time.
Omega Institute: A Way Out of Suffering: An Interview With Sharon Salzberg