The Cultivation of Freedom and Happiness

Sharon Salzberg

with Sharon Salzberg

Author, Meditation Pioneer and Teacher

The Cultivation of Freedom and Happiness

The Cultivation of Freedom and Happiness 1000 1000 33Voices

‘When we can combine our urge to be happy with wisdom instead of ignorance it becomes a homing instinct for freedom.’

This is one of the insights I was most eager to explore with renowned Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg from her new book, Finding Your Way: Meditations, Thoughts, and Wisdom for Living an Authentic Life. I was curious why, despite devoting so much time to learning about happiness, I continue looking for it in the wrong places.

Sharon introduced us to the yearning held within our grasping in our last conversation and I was similarly moved by her wisdom in this one.

“In most strongly emotional times, we’re not looking at the emotion itself to try to see what’s at the heart of it and understand it more,” she says. “We’re looking at what the emotion is about; The story, choice, or circumstance.

For example, I really wanted to buy a new car. I would spend my time thinking: Do I want that color or that color? Do I want that feature or that feature? I wouldn’t pivot my attention to ask myself: What does it feel like to want something so badly?

These emotions tend to be very complex. You might look at desire and see a lot of loneliness in there. You might look at anger and see a lot of sadness. If we can make that pivot and be with the emotion, we come to understand many things because that’s the right relationship for wisdom or understanding to grow.”

Sharon’s question—What does it feel like to want something so badly?—now arises as a moment of pause amidst my own grasping. Then, I reflect on a second question she shared while exploring the Buddhist concept of holding hope lightly: “There are some teachers who would say that desire is not the problem,” she explains. “It’s that what we want is so small. How about wanting to be really free?”

Sharon offers us a new lens to view our life experiences in this conversation. From using physical pain as a model to navigate emotional pain to detaching from our expectations and desire for certainty, her perspective shifts help us navigate our lives with equanimity.