Sharon Salzberg is one of the leading insight meditation teachers in the world. Read any of her books or her articles, or have the chance to see her speak in person (which I've had the good fortune of), and you'll see why.
Sharon first encountered meditation in 1969 while studying in college, which sparked her interest and took her to India a year later for an independent study program as she was motivated by "an intuition that the methods of meditation would bring me some clarity and peace." Just a few years later, she, along with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, established the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), and the rest is history.
We talked to Sharon about her new book, Real Happiness, the differences between mindfulness and meditation, and what meditation means to her.
MBG: How can meditation bring "real happiness" into someone's life?
SS: We can get so beguiled by the promises of society: if we can only accumulate enough, amass enough, compete enough and control enough, we will be perfectly happy. But meditation helps us look critically at where true happiness is to be found, where enduring strength is to be found. It opens up our realization that it is ok to want to be happy, and gives us a path for the kind of happiness that doesn't shatter as circumstances change.
Can you elaborate on how you discovered meditation in college?
I needed a philosophy course so chose a course in Asian philosophy to meet that requirement. There I heard that meditation might offer a practical set of tools to ease personal suffering. I discovered the possibility of meditation in a college classroom, and then went to India to discover how to actually meditate.