The Tim Ferriss Show: Sharon Salzberg, World-Renowned Meditation Teacher

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Sharon’s Family
  • Sharon’s mother died when she was 9
  • Her parents divorced when she was 4
  • After her mother died, she lived with her father’s parents, as her father was for the most part out of her life
Her First Encounter With Buddhism and Mindfullness
  • As a sophomore in college she took an Asian philosophy course, which introduced her to the subject
  • From this class, she learned there is something we can do about this suffering, besides just holding/withstanding it
  • “Suffering is a part of life, it’s not just me” 
  • For an independent study program, she went to India to study meditation
    • Before leaving, she went to a talk given by a teacher of Tibetian Buddhisim
    • She asked him where in India she should go to study, he said: “I think you had best follow the pretense of accident” 
      • Have no set plan, allow things to unfold but stay close to your intention
Any advice for someone going into a 10-Day Meditation retreat for the first time?
  • Many people are nervous about being silent for that long
  • “For once in our lives, we can truly be ourselves”
  • The first day and a half is pretty rough
Any advice to Type A personality people who are having trouble meditating?
  • It’s impossible to fail at meditation. The question is not, “What is happening?” but “How am I relating to what’s happening?”
  • Just be kind to yourself, no matter what’s happening
  • Tim – “Don’t judge the session based on how many times you lose focus, the practice itself is how many times you come back to focus”
  • “The healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with”
  • The secret ingredient is self-compassion and kindness towards yourself
What is the minimum effective dose of meditation?
  • Tim has noticed 20 minutes a day, for 5-10 days straight works very well for him, then he can dial back if need be
  • 9 minutes a day will cause changes in the brain, but Sharon also recommends 20
    • However, do what you can do, just be consistent
  • The intensive retreat serves as a tool to deepen confidence and clarity in your practice
How to Meditate
  • Start by choosing an object (a mantra/the breath) and settle your attention on it
  • Then just be mindful of your emotions, fears, desires, feelings etc.
  • “Mindfulness is the basis for insight”
The Loving-Kindness Meditation
  • How Tim does this – Just think of two people and wish them to be happy, really put all your thought into it
  • This trains us to pay attention differently
  • Sharon suggests starting the meditation by radiating loving-kindness towards yourself, then neutral people, then towards people you find it difficult to do this too, then finally all beings everywhere
  • People tend to have a bad habit of only seeing the bad things/mistakes we made at the end of the day…this helps us see the good things
  • A good analogy – this is attuning your attention to the good/happy. It’s kind of like buying a new car. and then constantly noticing that particular car on the road.
The Word Love
  • It’s lost a lot of meaning, as it’s used very often
  • In Buddhism – ‘Mettā’ means ‘loving-kindness’
  • Love is about connection. The loving kindness meditation is about connecting more deeply to ourselves and others
How to Deal with Anger
  • Pause, maybe its better to wait before responding
  • Remember your intentions, what is the goal if the interaction?
  • Tim – If you’re experimenting with fasting, never email on the second or third day
With meditation – others see the changes in us, before we see the change in ourselves
  • Don’t examine the meditation practice itself to quantify progress, look to your life instead
  • Tim describes a friend who began taking low does Lithium Orotate (5mg) to reduce anger. Other people noticed the benefits before Tim’s friend himself had.
  • For Tim, when he meditates consistently, he is less likely to lash out
How does Sharon think about success?
  • A lot of people talk about scaling (effect as many people as possible). Sharon just tries to impact as little as 3 people in an audience of 100.
  • Focus on impacting one person at a time.
What challenges is Sharon facing at the moment?
  • She says yes to too many things causing her to be tired
  • She has trouble taking breaks
How does Sharon deal with being overwhelmed/face dark periods?
  • One book she wrote, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, is relevant to this
  • In dark times, she looks for connection
  • Her mantra – “Do not be frightened if a sadness greater than you’ve ever known before comes up, life has not forgotten you”
  • Everybody suffers, it’s part of life, you haven’t been abandoned
Closing Thoughts
  • Tim highly recommends Real Love
  • Sharon’s parting thought
    • Let love be apart of the conversation
    • Do the good that’s in front of you, even if it seems very small
    • Your problems might seem massive or insermountable, but just do the best you can step by step