Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher and author. She is the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, and has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The practices of mindfulness and lovingkindness are the foundations of her work.
Mindfulness meditation quiets the mind and refines our awareness so we can directly experience the truth of our lives with a minimum of distraction and obscuration. Simplicity, stillness and attention are its qualities.
The first pillar of meditation is concentration—stability of mind. We focus our normally scattered energy. The state we cultivate is tranquil, relaxed, open. We let things be; we don’t try to hold on to experiences. Our mind is alert and deeply connected with what’s going on.
The second pillar is mindfulness itself. We are aware of what is happening as it actually arises—not being lost in our conclusions or judgments about it. We pay attention to our pleasant experiences, our painful experiences and our neutral experiences—the sum total of what life brings us.
Lovingkindness is a quality of friendship. Lovingkindness meditation is the cultivation of a steady, unconditional sense of connection that touches all beings without exception, including ourselves. The quality of lovingkindness is associated with three other qualities: Compassion, Sympathetic Joy & Equanimity.
Compassion is our caring human response to suffering. A compassionate heart is non-judgmental and recognizes all suffering—our own and that of others—as deserving of tenderness.
Sympathetic Joy is the realization that others’ happiness is inseparable from our own. We rejoice in the joy of others and are not threatened by another’s success.
Equanimity is the spacious stillness of mind that provides the ground for the boundless nature of the other three qualities. This radiant calm enables us to ride the waves of our experience without getting lost in our reactions.