June 12, 2014

Proust Meets Salzberg: 26 Questions for the Queen of Lovingkindness.


On a Friday afternoon full of sunshine in Toronto, I had the privilege of spending time with Sharon Salzberg while she was in town on one of the last stops on her book tour for Real Happiness at Work.

Our half an hour together at a downtown hotel stretched into a ride across the city to Breathe Yoga Studio for her talk—and in those moments together, we sat mostly in quiet, my head and heart full of wisdom, aware of my breath and hers, in slight wonder of the gentle woman sitting beside me.

Sharon’s presence invites slowness, stillness and kindness—and you may not know this, but she has the most delightful, warm laugh.

I’m not as well-practiced in the art of the interview as Waylon is (see his most interview with Sharon here), so for ease and for fun, I asked Sharon questions from the Proust Questionnaire…here we go!

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  (Laughter) I’ll go back to the Buddha who said: There is no higher happiness than peace.

2. What is your greatest fear?  Dying too soon.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  Procrastination.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Dishonesty.

5. Which historical figure do you most identify with?  Dipa Ma. 

6. Which living person do you most admire?  Ai-jen Poo.

7. What is your greatest extravagance?  Books.

8. What is your favorite journey?  It’s too coy to say the inner journey, I guess; (laughter) so I’ll say a train journey through Europe.

9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Sweetness.

10. On what occasion do you lie?  I try not to lie.

11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  Poignant and compassion.

12. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  I’ve got two—my two teachers who have since died: one is Dipa Ma and one is a Tibetan teacher, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. 

13. When and where were you happiest?  India in the early 70s.

14. Which talent would you most like to have?  Art—painting.

15. What is your current state of mind?  Happy but tired.

16. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?  Poverty.

17. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Introducing loving-kindness meditation into the US—I’m not solely responsible for that—but within my tradition.

18. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  I’d like to come back as a second generation Buddhist, like Waylon or Ethan Nichtern—people I know whose parents were Buddhist practitioners.

19. Where would you most like to live?  New York City.

20. What is your most treasured possession?  A shawl that belonged to my teacher, Dipa Ma—whom I identify with more than anything.

21. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Not being able to take care of your children.

22. What do you most value in your friends?  Humor and commitment.

23. Who is your hero of fiction?  Jo in Little Women.

24. Where is your favorite place to meditate? At IMS, in Barre, Massachusetts

25. How would you like to die?  In bed.

26. What is your motto?  Keep breathing.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: Bryonie Wise

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Bryonie Wise  |  Contribution: 8,680