Memorable Quote: If you really want to be a rebel, be kind. If you really want to break away from the narcissistic expectations of society and be bold, be kind.
Synopsis: Sharon sees kindness and compassion not simply as a tool for seeing for clearly, but also the culmination of practice in itself. Kindness and compassion are easily put down as “goodygoody,” superficial and one-dimensional. Yet in reality, kindness has so many modes of expression and nuance. Kindness, and in particular being a “compassionate witness,” is one of the most powerful healing agents that exists. Compassionate witnesses are present to hear the stories of others, and be connected in their telling, even if s/he can’t fix anything. With a compassionate witness, healing can take place because the sense of isolation that comes with pain recedes, and other things become possible.
In meditation practice, we come our own compassionate witness. We witness our pleasure, our pain, and our neutral experiences. We witness these sensations and experiences, but we are not sucked in or defined by them and we are not pushing them away. We have a full, complete, present connection with them. In this way, compassionate witnessing may differ from empathy, because when one is empathetic, one “feels another’s pain” but may also have the reaction of wanting to run away from it. Not so with compassion. With compassion, we give care, tenderness, and real connection, and through this compassion, we begin to see the universal possibilities of moving forward and becoming whole.
I like: I like the idea of kindness being a fierce, contrarian force.
I wish: I would like to hear more about how being a “compassionate witness” could be effective and forceful in confronting injustice and oppression.
More about the Speaker: 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 ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work. To read more, visit www.sharonsalzberg.com/