A few nights ago I attended the first of several meditation classes with Sharon Salzberg at the Tibet House in New York City. There was a packed house with well over a hundred people crammed in on chairs and pillows, and the current exhibit of Tibetan art was moved up agains the walls.
Sharon Salzberg was a wonderful teacher. You barely felt like you were being taught. It seemed more like a friendly chat from a down-to-earth person. She was humorous, relaxed and open. Not surprisingly, the crowd was incredibly attentive. No cell phones, fidgeting, or any other behavior that you tend to see at lectures or conferences of the ways that nces.
She spoke a lot of about judging your meditation and gave examples from her own experience. She mentioned that one of her teachers liked describe meditation as practice in letting go. One of the ways that Salzberg teaches is to share her own experience. When she tells stories of how she experienced specific thoughts, everyone can relate to it. She speaks through a thought process, showing how the mind jumps from one thing to another and eventually you end up with a thought so unrelated to the firt one that it is funny. For example, she would say she was walking down the street thinking, “where should I go for dinner?, maybe I should try a new vegetatrian restaurant, or maybe I should take the idea of becoming a vegetarian more seriously. I could stop at the bookstore and pick up a few vegetarian cookbooks and give it a try. I really prefer Indian food. Last time I was in India, I especially enjoyed this particular food. I think I should plan another trip to India”. . . and so on. From trying to pick a place for dinner, to a visit to India, all in a few seconds.
Everyone laughed, recognizing what many of us could relate to. As she pointed out, this was a rather innocuous, lighthearted example, but often times the thought process takes us to a place that is not so lighthearted.
Salzberg spoke of how the body reacts to what the mind is thinking and if you stop to recognize where your mind is going, you will also see what is happening to your body at the same time.
She spoke very easily through the 2 hours, with a very brief break in between and two separate meditations lasting perhaps 20 minutes each. In fact, she said that she doesn’t like to tell people how long to meditate but as a reasonable, random number that makes some sense, she suggested 20 minutes. It’s important, though, to do something regularly. Even if it is as little as 1 minute or 5 minutes every day and possible at the same time every day. You won’t realize the effects immediately but others might notice something different about you after a period of time and ultimately you too will notice.
- Sharon Salzberg: Can Happiness Make for Great Art? (huffingtonpost.com)