One of the best perks of being part of The Path is the opportunity to get to know some amazing teachers and sometimes even getting a sneak peek into their upcoming books. Needless to say this week, Sonali Nigam, a member of The Path team was over the moon to get her hands on a manuscript of Sharon Salzberg's soon to be released book: Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection. Here she shares some of her favorite passages from the book and why she considers it to be one of the most important books of 2017!
I have always thought of Sharon Salzberg as a force of Loving Kindness in our often crazy world. Having taught for over thirty years, written New York Times bestsellers, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, Sharon has created a movement of Loving Kindness and Self Compassion that only gets bigger and bigger with every passing year. And I for one am glad of it.
I am sure each of you reads a book like Real Love for your own reasons. Perhaps to be inspired, perhaps to fix a relationship or perhaps to help someone else.
My personal reason for wanting to read this book is that Sharon as an author always keep it real. Her prior books were not only thoughtful, but also accessible and actionable. Pertinent to real lives... Like mine and yours :)
And Real Love is no different. It speaks to real situations that are common to the human experience. Not only is Sharon asking questions that provoke introspection, but she provides simple tools to attend to the thoughts and feelings that come up as a result.
Sharon tackles a very relevant theme early on in the book, the curse of advertising,
"Have you ever wakened in the morning feeling contented and quiet, and then, within fifteen minutes of checking your phone, felt out of sorts and jealous? Longing for something more?
By asking these questions, Sharon brings awareness to the mindless thoughts and actions we each take without considering their impact. Next she points out,
"Many of us now spend as much time immersed in images on a screen as participating in the world outside our devices. Whether subtly or blatantly, ads tell us that our bodies need making over, our clothes just won’t do, our living room is a mess, and we’re not invited to the right parties—all as a way to sell us more and more. Along the way, what might be a source of pleasure becomes infused with anxiety."
Sharon's wisdom highlights the consequences of our mindless immersion in a seemingly benign medium. Thankfully, she follows up with a set of practical tools to help the reader undo these toxic patterns and develop better ones.
An important tool Sharon describes is the Freedom of Imperfection. She begins by sharing her own struggle,
"When I first started to co-lead meditation retreats, my perfectionism caused me a lot of suffering... I worried that I would lose my train of thought or state something so ineptly that my mind would freeze. The image of me standing there speechless was so vivid that I refused to teach. I was silenced by my own perfectionism. Eventually, I decided I could try to give a talk on lovingkindness and lovingkindness only. I figured that if my mind went totally blank, I could launch into the traditional lovingkindness meditation, and maybe no one would notice my imperfect performance. Then one day I realized that all our talks were basically about lovingkindness. The point wasn’t to give a perfect performance, it was to connect with the people gathered to listen and to extend a sense of inclusivity and care to them.
My ability to share my insights with more freedom came about when I started to connect to myself and to that space of care from within. I shifted my attention away from self-protection and needing to be perfect and focused instead on giving what I had to offer. It was a big shift in intention, a move away from the lonely self to a space of connection. And when I came to this recognition, I found my voice."
The beauty of having Sharon as a teacher is that she walks the talk. Her honesty and compassion make it easier for her readers to believe that the tools she provides are tested and proven. Then she encourages us to give it a shot? And instead of saying eek that's too hard, you probably come away thinking hmm ...maybe these thoughts are easier to overcome than I thought?
Bottomline, Real Love is full of ideas, questions, and tools that can transform the way we love and connect with ourselves and others. Which is why we at The Path highly recommend that you pre-order a copy right away. And ping us to let us know what you think about the book too!
Interested in learning more about Real Love and Sharon's teachings? Join The Path for an in person celebration of Real Love with Sharon this weekend at Primary and Neuehouse!