Sharon Salzberg’s Inspirations

by: Ko Im


Sharon Salzberg can be credited for bringing meditation and mindfulness practices to the West decades ago. The world-renowned teacher and NY Times bestselling author most recently penned Real Happiness At Work. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, Sharon is accessible in her humor and renowned for her down-to-earth approach to Buddhist teachings. You may find her guiding busy New Yorkers at the Rubin Museum or through The Path and MNDFL. She is a regular columnist for On Being, a contributor to Huffington Post, and the host of her own podcast: “The Metta Hour.” For more information, visit

I’m inspired by my teacher Dipa ma, who is the person who told me to teach meditation. It was 1974, and I was in Calcutta to say goodbye to her and get her blessing for what I thought would be a very short trip back to the US. She told me I’d start teaching when back here. When I protested, she told me two life-changing things: First she said, “You really understand suffering, that’s why you should teach.” Then she said, “You can do anything you want to do. It is only your thinking that you can’t do it that’s going to stop you.” Those words have stayed with me for decades.

I’m inspired by NYC. There’s such incredible resiliency here, and generosity. Despite the reputation of New Yorkers as being kind for perpetually grumpy, I feel I’ve experienced tremendous kindness here. And of course I was here after 9/11, where I witnessed countless acts of goodness and caring. After the bomb went off near Chelsea/Flatiron last fall, I saw people reaching out to others — “Are you ok? Are you anxious? Can I help?”

I’m inspired by a mala (rosary) that someone made me. It has the classical 108 beads, and I wear it looped around my wrist. It is a very simple thing, but a profound reminder. Sometimes I notice the feeling of it on my wrist, my glance will fall upon it, and then I remember to take a few moments right then to practice: to breathe, or offer some lovingkindness, or silently repeat a mantra. So it becomes my entryway to balance many times throughout my day.