Monday, March 9, 2015

Meditation Monday: Meet Sharon Salzberg

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC

In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates a weekly meditation group at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

Noted author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg was born in New York City in 1952. She became interested in Buddhism while in college and shortly thereafter traveled to India to begin intensive meditation training. She started teaching meditation in the United States in 1974 and throughout the years has become a leading figure in incorporating meditation into Western culture.

Salzberg co-founded Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts where retreats and meditation classes are held. She is also a New York Times best-selling author, which highlights her ability to explain in plain language the benefits of mindfulness in everyday life. She takes an abstract and potentially elusive practice and makes it accessible to everyone.

In a recent Washington Post interview, Salzberg detailed the benefits of mindfulness, emphasizing the distractions we experience in our plugged-in world. She also addressed some of the misconceptions and obstacles to meditation. 
When we realize our mind has wandered off like a monkey, it’s in that moment we have a chance to be really different, instead of reinforcing old habits. Instead of lambasting ourselves that we didn’t meditate perfectly, we let go and start over. And if your mind wanders in the next ten seconds, you let go and start over. And let go and start over. That’s strength training. We’re practicing resilience.
Frequently, clients tell me that they find meditation frustrating because they cannot “turn off” their minds. But, as Salzberg emphasizes, completely shutting down thoughts is not the goal—being aware of distractions and then reorienting to the meditation is a key component of healing and re-connecting to the world.

Meditation does not have to be time consuming and can work with any lifestyle, philosophy, or religious tradition. Learning to quiet the mind facilitates physical, emotional, and mental healing.

In Sharon Salzberg’s own words: 
Each of us has a genuine capacity for love, forgiveness, wisdom and compassion. Meditation awakens these qualities so that we can discover for ourselves the unique happiness that is our birthright.

Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC is a staff therapist and the intake coordinator at The Awakening Center. In addition to seeing clients for individual therapy, she leads the weekly meditation group and co-leads the Somatic-Experience-Informed Trauma Healing Group. Nancy also writes for ChicagoNow, a media partner of the Chicago Tribune. Check out and subscribe to her blog All Shapes and Sizes.

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