Dr. Robin Stern: Welcome to The Gaslight Effect Podcast. I'm Robin Stern, co-founder and associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and author of the bestselling book, The Gaslight Effect. I'm an educator and a psychoanalyst, but first and foremost, I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, aunt, and healer. And just like many of you, I was a victim of gaslighting. Please join me for each episode as I interview fascinating guests and explore the concept of gaslighting. You'll learn what it truly means to be gaslighted, how it feels, how to recognize it, and how to understand it, and ultimately, how to get out of it.
Dr. Robin Stern: Before we begin, I want you to know that talking about gaslighting can bring up challenging and painful emotions. Give yourself permission to feel them. Some of you may wanna go more deeply with your emotions. While some of you may hold them more lightly, no matter what you're feeling, know that your emotions are a guide to your inner life. Your emotions are sacred and uniquely you respect and embrace them for they have information to give you. If you want to listen to other episodes of The Gaslight Effect Podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you everyone for joining us for this episode of the Gaslight Effect podcast. I am beyond thrilled and honored to have my friend Sharon Salzberg join us today. Uh, it's been years that I've known Sharon, and Sharon is a, um, just an extraordinary human being and a leader, uh, and visionary in the world of mindfulness. Sharon was one of the first people to bring mindfulness to the West and has written numerous books, including the first that I read, which was Loving Kindness. Was that actually your first,
Sharon Salzberg: That was my first book.
Dr. Robin Stern: That was your first and the most recent, which I have just read called Real Life. And Sharon, I'll, I'll ask you to say a little bit more about yourself, but, um, you have been an inspiration for me and a a light, and I can't even tell you how much our first meeting meant to me years ago. So I will tell you a little bit more about it today. Thank you, Sharon, for being here.
Sharon Salzberg: Oh, well, thank you. I'm so delighted to see you, to be with you. Um, I know that you, you have a few kind of, uh, standard questions that you ask people, including why did you come on this podcast? And I thought because of Robin, of course,
Dr. Robin Stern: You. Thank you, Sharon. So tell us about you and, and your career. Like how did you get into mindfulness? How did you find mindfulness? And, um, and then, uh, I'll, I'll interject when I first met you. Sure.
Sharon Salzberg: Well, I, I grew up in New York City, um, in Washington Heights and like many, uh, products of the New York City public school system, I ended up skipping two grades. So I went to college when I was 16
Dr. Robin Stern: Because you were Smarty pants.
Sharon Salzberg: Oh, shocks, you know, but, um, uh, in my sophomore year in college, there were, there were certain requirements. There was a language requirement, there was a philosophy requirement. I chose Asian philosophy to fulfill the philosophy requirement. And honestly, as far as I can remember, looking back, it was kind of happenstance. I thought, oh, that's on Tuesday. That's convenient. You know, like, let me do that one. And of course, totally changed my life in ways that I think, um, speak to, you know, some of your, your research and, and your, your interests. And, uh, you know, I, like many people had, had grown up in a family with a lot of trauma and a lot of discord. And like for many people it was a family system where none of this was ever, ever spoken about. And it's like, I didn't know what to do with all of those feelings inside of me. And so there I am, this Asian philosophy class. I'm 17 years old at this point, and they start talking about the Buddha and they'd start talking about how the Buddha talked about the suffering that is inherent in life. It's just a natural, inevitable part of life. And for many people, I know that message is a little depressing. And for me, it was this open invitation to belonging. It was like somebody saying, you're not so weird. You're not so different. It's not like you are apart from life, you're separate from life. This is life.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Followed your passion, followed your calling. Yes. I
Sharon Salzberg: Mean, it was an amazing moment because it was, um, it was like including myself, you know, like it would, I, I, I look back at that moment, I'm still surprised I'd never even been to California before.
Dr. Robin Stern: My God, it was so brave.
Sharon Salzberg: Oh, it was crazy. You know, like how I meet 18 year olds now, you know? Uh, cause I was 18 by the time I went, I thought, really? You know? Right. And, and it was so unlike me, or so timid and frightened and, you know, so much in the habit of leaving myself out. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: That's so incredible. And, and where on that path, um, or where on that path as it continued, did you write loving kindness? And what inspired you to become an author?
Sharon Salzberg: Um, I think if you'd asked me as a child probably, what, what do you wanna be when you grow up? The most common answer would probably have been a writer.
Dr. Robin Stern: Hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: Every once in a while, I'd say a playwright. I don't know why I got that in my head. And, uh, occasionally I'd say geneticist, cuz that was, that was something I was interested in. But, um, mostly I'd say I wanna be writer. I never thought I could do it. And, uh, I went to India as a student. I stayed as a student. Um, I stayed a little bit longer than my allotted year, but I, I got back to Buffalo, ended up with two years of independent study credit, went back to India to continue my study and practice. And I had one teacher, a woman, um, who was, uh, an incredible model for me. She was a person who had tremendous personal loss in her life. Uh, she ended up in the course of her life, losing two children. And then her husband died very suddenly.
Sharon Salzberg: And, um, she was living in Burma at the time because her husband had been in the civil service there. And, uh, she was known as Deepa Ma, which is a nickname like Deepa's mother. Her surviving daughter was Deepa. And, uh, when her husband died, she was so heartbroken. She, she developed a heart condition and she, she went to bed. She couldn't get outta bed. And the doctor came and said, you're actually gonna die in her broken heart. Unless she'd do something about your mind, you should learn how to meditate. So she got up outta bed, went to the retreat center, and when she emerged, she had such an extraordinary compassion for everybody.
Sharon Salzberg: Hmm. It's just like she knew, like, our lives don't look the same. We don't suffer the same degree or the same way perhaps, but the fragility of life, the vulnerability is something we all do share. And she had so much caring and compassion for people. So 1974 came around and I decided I was gonna living India for the rest of my life, and I had to come back here to the States, uh, to do some things. And I went to see her deep in mind, Calcutta, to say goodbye and get her blessing for my very short journey back to the us. And she said to me, when you go back to the States, you'll be teaching. I said, no, I won't. And she said, yes, youll, I said, no, I won't. And she said, yes, you'll, I said, no, I won't. You know, it's ridiculous. And she just like, yeah, you will. Uh, and she said two things, actually. They were amazing. She said, you really understand suffering, that's why you should teach.
Dr. Robin Stern: Hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: Which was the first time I really, I'd ever thought about my earliest life, you know, was, uh, having given me that mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern:
Sharon Salzberg: And then she said, you can do anything you wanted to, which you're thinking you can't do it, it's gonna stop you. And I left her room, which was like, up on the fourth floor and walked down those stairs. And I thought, no, it won't. That's absurd. I came back and as life unfolded, of course, it's just what happened. So, uh, and in 1985, I went to Burma for a three month period of intensive immersion in that particular meditative technique of loving kindness. Everything before that had been mindfulness and excite all wonderful and important. But I had this fascination for this other thing I'd heard about, which is a practice that's dedicated to connection and fostering connection. And, uh, so when I came back in 85 from Burma, I began teaching it right away. I'd been teaching for years,
Dr. Robin Stern: Of course you had. And,
Sharon Salzberg: Uh, never thought I could write a book about it, but I mean, for one thing, nobody I knew had a computer. You know, really, this is like, I'm very, I'm old. Like, and, uh, you know, cutting and pasting in those days meant getting a pair of scissors and cutting out the paragraph. You were interested in moving and moving it up and down the page and getting roll scotch tape and anding on. Yes. I
Dr. Robin Stern: Remember
Sharon Salzberg: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Just the most incredible book, um, changed my life. So what, before I get into that, in our first meeting, um, what happened for you while you were in India? What was that transformation? What was that that, um, knowing that called you to loving kindness?
Sharon Salzberg: Um, it was, it was a number of things. You know, uh, somebody once asked me if I thought I, they asked me very sheepishly if I thought I reparented myself with somebody like Deep Ma. Mm-hmm. It's the kind of loving presence that could basically hang in there with me no matter what I was going through. Um, and be caring, and yet not destabilized by my own experience. Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: But also, uh, it, you can call meditation, the ability to do that for yourself as well. Um, you know, people think of meditation, good meditation as wiping out all thoughts or having a totally blank mind, but we don't think of it that way. It's all about relationship. How am I relating to this sensation in my body, this pain, for example, am I adding blame and shame and all these things to it, uh, making it worse? Am I imagining this is the only thing I'll ever feel in the future making it worse? Or can I be with it in a more kind of balanced way right now as it is with a kindness toward ourselves? Same with emotional pain, for example. Um, you know, when I see my own fear or jealousy or whatever it is, can I not call those states bad or wrong or terrible, but see them as painful and or to create an environment that it doesn't dismiss them, but also isn't necessarily, uh, defined by them either, you know?
Sharon Salzberg: And so, um, it was actually doing the work, it was developing the skill cuz it's like a skills training. And not only that, you know, that's, that's one whole side of it and very important, but remembering to take in the joy, you know, it's so hard in a world of, uh, either your own pain or, you know, I work a lot with caregivers, people who are really on the front lines of suffering, either in their families or professionally. And it's so hard to feel like it's okay, you know, to enjoy the sunset or, you know mm-hmm. Whatever it is, it feels so superficial or, or he gets some rest. You know, something like that. Uh, but it's so important. And, and so there was that whole side of things too that was very much encouraged. Another one of my teachers, a man named Menin, was a very, um, scholarly sort of person. And he'd gone to Burma, he was Indian. He'd gone to Burma for I think nine years to study. And one day we were asking him, you know, way back in the early seventies, like, why did you wanna learn how to meditate? And I thought it was gonna be a very kind of ponderous answer, you know? And instead he said, uh, I didn't wanna miss the, the beautiful purple flowers growing along the roadside. And I, oh, look at that.
Dr. Robin Stern: So simple, so important, so profound, actually. So I, I wanna, um, jump into when I first met you and, uh, I, I had read your book because we of course both knew Naomi and, and she had recommended it. And, um, I think you were working with us at Woodhall, which was for the listening audience, a woman's institute that, that I was part of founding with Naomi Wolf and a few other amazing women at the time. And Sharon, I believe you were on our board and was, were an advisor for us at that point. And I was struck by the invitation for people to constantly include themselves in the circle of people they give compassion to. And, um, and to wake up every day or to wake up as many times a day as you can or to, to wake up actually as many times a day as you choose to practice, to bringing compassion to not only to yourself, but to people you love and people who are neutral in your life, but to people who either drive you crazy or people who you're really having a tough time with.
Dr. Robin Stern: And I remember seeking you out at that time, personally, or to have a, uh, individual meeting cuz I had trouble with that. And, um, and I remember having conversation with you about forgiveness, which was in your book. And I remember, uh, thinking, and I, I guess at that time I was also thinking about gaslighting and very difficult relationships and, and, um, I was probably in, uh, the throes of my, um, uh, maybe being challenged by the marriage I was in at that point. I can't remember exactly the timeline, but thinking, no, I, there are things I can't forgive and what does this mean? Like, will I, will I be a whole person if I can't forgive? And, and what does forgiveness and mean? And I, and I remember you're talking to me about it and saying, it doesn't mean you erased what happened. Um, it's a completely different thing entirely.
Dr. Robin Stern: And I remember taking away permission from, from, and comfort from our meeting, and I remember, and I, I want you to know that I taken you with me through these years and that message. And, um, and it still, um, haunts me a little bit because I work with people who have been so badly manipulated, so badly, psychologically tormented by, gaslighting by the, the, uh, somebody seeking to take the ground from under them seeking to, um, drive them crazy. And I, and I think like, where's the, where's the role of forgiveness in here? Does forgiveness mean then that I will allow that to continue? And I, uh, fee and I get concerned with people when they say, well, maybe, you know, maybe I'm being too hard. Maybe I need to have more compassion. Maybe I need to forgive that person. And then they're right back into where they were. So I wonder if you could share with our listeners, um, within the context of a relationship and perhaps a relationship where you are suffering and struggling to write your own reality. Um, what, what's the role of forgiveness?
Sharon Salzberg: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: Which I tend to think it does. So, um, so I'll approach, I think what you said from a couple of different angles. One is, I'm fascinated sometimes by people who use the very phrase you use something like, um, uh, I, there's some things I could never forgive, because sometimes those people are really reacting to the word, not what's happening in their own hearts. Cuz I've heard people teaching in Israel once, for example. And, uh, there was somebody in the retreat who you could tell was very physically uncomfortable. Just, I had a terrible time sitting still. And my colleague gave a talk using the word forgiveness, which I would not have ventured to do. So he was very upset about that. And he came up to complain to me and he said he'd been in a terrorist attack. His body, you know, was trashed, wasn't a lot of pain all the time.
Sharon Salzberg: And he said something like, um, I'll never forgive. But what I've learned is essential is that I learned to stop hating. And I thought, I'll take that. You know, like, you don't have to call it forgiveness. Uh, you know, it has something to do with our own liberation, our own arts. Um, not wanting to be consumed by the actions of another, even if they had dominated our lives. At one point, um, one of my friends describes himself as a, I think rightfully so, it's a kind of obsessive type. Like something happens and he'll go over it and over it and over. It wasn't that person terrible. And they're awful and they're you. And so he, he went through a bout of that for a while and he emerged, I think it's an AA thing actually. He said, I let him live rent free in my brain for too long.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: You know, and I, I fully understand and support anyone seeking that kind of freedom. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern:
Sharon Salzberg: You know, um, I guess we used to say, uh, living well is the best revenge, you know, and it, it's a little bit like that. And I've even heard, you know, like this great Tibetan lama said, uh, um, if you really are consumed with the actions of an enemy, which is what they, the word they use an enemy, um, you can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't enjoy anything. And he said, why give him that satisfaction? You know,
Dr. Robin Stern: That is so true, um, in gaslighting relationships that gas people who are being gaslighted, um, give over their power to someone else. And they're completely stuck either in the back and forth of who's right or who's wrong, and, um, and begin to not pay attention to what's actually happening inside of them. That's right. Their own feelings and, and, um,
Sharon Salzberg: And their own needs.
Dr. Robin Stern: And their needs,
Sharon Salzberg: You know, so I mean, the another thing I was gonna say, well, two other things. One is I think there's always gotta be a balance. You know, like if you're talking about compassion for someone else, compassion for ourselves has to be in the mix.
Dr. Robin Stern: How do we cultivate that for our listeners? How do we cultivate compassion for ourselves if we're not used to it?
Sharon Salzberg: Well, very few of us are used to it, you know, and so that makes it a kinda adventure, really. You know, like, uh, sometimes it's a model. Like I had this teacher
Dr. Robin Stern: Favorite strategies, right?
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah. Like, people often conflate it too. Like people say to me, were, I, I don't know about developing more loving heart, cuz were I to do that and I can only give them more money. I can only let them move back in. I can only let them speak to me that way without protest. I can only smile and be sweet. And I've heard a range of things, including do I have to visit them in jail even though the reason that they're in jail is that they molested me before I was two years old. Do I have to, you know, let them move back in even though? And the answer is no. There's no have to, there's no behavior that's mandated, uh, because we bring in a lot of elements, discernment, understanding, maybe counsel, like I have a, a friend who's, uh, friends or saying to her, you can't go on a date anymore without this person meeting. Like, at least four people that we can approve or not approve. Like, forget it, you know, you're not on your own anymore.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. And I think that's a beautiful and powerful way to, to put that. And, and I wonder, um, as you were talking, I was thinking, how do you help someone to um, or guide someone to, for lack of a better way to put it, it at the moment, not to do it again. So people work towards having compassion for themselves and, and, um, and getting rid of the person taking up all that space and they're renting that space in their mind and, and they get out of this bad relationship. And then, um, how do you help someone to either, well, to both prevent to pick up on those cues, trust themselves, or, and or to not take the hangover of that relationship into, um, into another relationship and be open instead?
Sharon Salzberg: Um, I think in a few ways, and one, not to be discouraging, but you probably will do it again, you know, whatever it is. Or you'll come very close at any rate, uh, and probably do it. But I find that the lapses or the, the being overwhelmed by the past and the imperatives of the past, they just don't last as long.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: I bet, you know,
Dr. Robin Stern: I would read Sharon's book, but I'm still gonna do it again. Like, where does that leave me?
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah. Well, I, I'm, again, I don't wanna be discouraging and, and then it depends on what it is also. I don't think you have to get involved in a horrible relationship again, you know, but you may feel very strong attraction
Dr. Robin Stern: Yes.
Sharon Salzberg: For that very pattern. Well,
Dr. Robin Stern: That vulnerability.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah. And, you know, so not to feel you're bad or wrong or feel ashamed of that yearning, but to recognize it for what it is and it will not last as long.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg: You know, because the discomfort of it and the weirdness of it, um, like I've done that in my life. There's certain, um, elements of chaos that I find normal, uh, because it's Holy brook
Dr. Robin Stern: Of your past. Yes. Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg: You know, and so I know that I was talking to a friend once whose son was gonna jail, and she was like completely freaked out and something in me settled like, oh, this is how life's supposed to feel.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm.
Sharon Salzberg: And I looked at that feeling and I thought, oh, it's not
Dr. Robin Stern: Right.
Sharon Salzberg: But remember this feeling cuz this is important information when you have this very feeling, you know, that you're, you kind of not thinking clearly. You're not, you know, not as balanced as as you need to be. And so this is not the space from which to say, I'm coming down to dc you know, I'll go with you when he, you know, turns himself in. It's not the space.
Dr. Robin Stern: Right. So that, that important information that you choose to honor when you have that is, is some artifact, would you say, from your past? Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Um, and then, uh, and then understanding that as we would say, name it to tame it, that then Yeah. Naming it Yeah. Um, allows you to say, all right, so it's here, but um, I'm not gonna act on this.
Sharon Salzberg: That's right. I know what it is. I, you know, I recognize it. Uh, all of which is part of a skill of mindfulness, you know, by the way, just to be able to be present with something not consumed by it. And also not hating it, afraid. It's like, okay, here it is. I see it. I see it for what it is. Um, but I find people get very upset. Like, it's back, it was still like, um, uh, the same little provocation that got me all upset or, and, and to realize, yeah, that's conditioning. That's okay. You don't have to be so freaked out and, uh, you can handle things now that maybe you could not handle when you're a child, or, you know, longer ago or in some particular heightened crisis. You know, that's too much to ask. But now you can. And just not to add that element of judgment to it and realize, yeah, I will get overwhelmed. I will feel exhausted, I will feel drawn mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: And let all that be.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah. And sooner and sooner it, you kind of feel this isn't right. So this isn't what life's supposed to feel like.
Dr. Robin Stern: Exactly. So it becomes, um, uncomfortable as you were saying, rather than, oh yeah. You know, let's, let's go with it. So in your travels, um, and because this is a podcast about gaslighting, have you witnessed, um, people struggling with moving, moving in positive directions because of gaslighting and have people come to you because they've lost their reality? And, and how do you, how do you meet them there? And um, can you speak to that a little bit?
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah, I mean, I think in terms of the skill of mindfulness, the first place is the body. You know, like what do you feel like in your body? And, um, because so sometimes the signal is really much quicker there, you know, this is wrong, there's something wrong. And, um, you know, I, I mean, it, it's such a range of things. Sometimes I say to people, depending on the circumstance, the thing that concerns me about your life is you're presenting it, is that you've got a bunch of secrets. You know, there are things that you feel you can't talk about to anybody that, that just concerns me. Um, you know, not that your life is bad or wrong, your choices, but, and then there are things, there are times when it's more like, um, it's very hard for us, many of us to honor boundaries that there need to be some boundaries that needs to be some limits.
Sharon Salzberg: Because gaslighting, I mean, you just have to really honestly look at the political climate, you know? Yes. And is very strong. And I feel very sensitive to it. I think that the secrets of my childhood, or the deceptions of my childhood, um, were not 11 malevolently motivated, but some of it was, uh, conditioning. Some of it was, you know, like my mother died when I was nine. My father had already been gone. Yeah. So sorry. And I ended up living with my father's parents who I hardly knew who were Eastern European immigrants, uh, from Poland. And uh, that I think factored into some of the choices for me, one of which was to never mention my mother's name again, thinking that it would upset me too much, you know, she harm me. So, um, so this weird her. Oh my god. Yeah. You know, so that there was that.
Sharon Salzberg: And then my father came back when I was 11 because his father died, my grandfather. And, uh, he was not the person I remembered as having left when I was four. You know, he, uh, was drinking, he was really depressed. He was pretty crazy actually. Um, took an overdose of sleeping pills and survived, but, you know, went away in an ambulance and for the rest of his life, lived in some kind of mental health facility or another, um, if he was not on the streets. And so, um, I was in college, which was some years later, you know, uh, five, six years later, it suddenly struck me. Oh, that's odd. Cuz what they told me, my, my family was, it was an accident. He took a pill, he didn't remember, he'd taken a pill. So he took another pill and that's why he had to go away in the ambulance.
Sharon Salzberg: So then I, I was like, you know, six years later thinking that's strange. You don't take a couple of pills, uh, by accident in a row and then end up in a psychiatric facility. Do you, you know? So I feel a lot of sensitivity to the issue, which is one of the reasons I admire your work so much. Thank you. Um, you know, and, and learning to pay attention to what you, yourself feel and what you need, and realizing there's a behavioral boundary. There was a point in, uh, my political life in, in the US where I just thought, I cannot watch the news anymore. You know, I need to take care of myself in a different way. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: So I, I wanna ask you something, um, about, and thank you for, for your personal sharing, but back to that moment where you were in college and you thought, wait a minute. That doesn't sound right. Did you have a, um, as people who, uh, someone else is trying to gaslight often do, like an inner knowing that you Yeah,
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: That you had a disavow in order to go with it.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. So you then, did you feel, um, like you couldn't question anybody or just maybe like, you just dismissed it cuz you didn't wanna deal with it? Like what, what happened to that inner voice for the before? You said, wait a minute.
Sharon Salzberg: I think there was no, there was no response, you know, on that level. It just wasn't happening. And so I, I either, um, dismissed it or sought to dismiss it or figured it must be wrong or mostly just, I kept it for myself. Cuz the other part of it when I was much younger than college was, um, life can look different than this. I just knew that, which is why once I had some sense of a path to making that real, uh, I just went for it.
Dr. Robin Stern: So where do you think that strength came from? That confidence that life could be?
Sharon Salzberg: That's very interesting. You know, like the universe, I don't know. I mean, I just knew, I've always known, and maybe we all do, you know, that it's what helps people get through all kinds of situations. And, uh, we spend, you know, too much time disavowing that voice or certainly feeling torn because it doesn't make sense that we see the world one way and that the world is around us is saying, no, no, not right.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. Yeah. So what do you think allowed you to hold onto that? I mean, that's, that that feeling that, you know, like, there it is gonna get better. It's, it's a different, I have hope. I I mean I, um, I can see a different time even if it's not now.
Sharon Salzberg: I just always knew, you know? Uh, and I, I would say, you know, the people around me, someone asked me once they was just gimme a talk and it was a question period. And the question, uh, was who loved to Mm, young. Cause I don't usually frankly talk about these things I have written about them, you know? But, um, so I don't know if you'd read those books or whatever, but
Dr. Robin Stern: I haven't read many of your books in between. But I will go back to them now because I'm loving real life. I mean, I just,
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. Um, you know, and so, uh, I think they all loved me. They really did love me. It's just, it was all strange, you know? And it was truly the best they could do. So I think that love was there, you know, and I felt that, so
Dr. Robin Stern: I wonder since I'm somebody who, uh, knew from an early age that, I mean, sorry to quote these or not, sorry, but, um, quoting some lyrics from some song Love is the Answer. You know,
Dr. Robin Stern: But, but maybe they loved you and, you know, and love and love can hold a lot. And, and when you were loved, you can love and if you were not loved, you can cultivate that for yourself. And so those are all just incredibly powerful, beautiful messages. And, and, um, I'd love for you to tell us first of all why all of your last books are called Real Something
Sharon Salzberg: Not my last book,
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. But your most recent book, real Life. So Why Real and why Real Life,
Sharon Salzberg: Uh, real was accidental, but now I like it, you know? Yeah. I had a book called Real Happiness like more than 10 years ago, and it was originally called Why Meditate cuz that's actually what it's about. And, uh, I got an advanced copy of a friend's book that was gonna come out before mine called Real Why Meditate
Dr. Robin Stern: Love it.
Sharon Salzberg: Suddenly I was on the real train, you know, it was real happy, real happiness at work. Uh, and then real, uh, love, real change. Um, and, and finally real life. But the reason I like it is that, uh, I was doing somebody's podcast one day and, and they said to me, uh, tell me why you meditate. Like, what happens when you meditate? And I said, I sit down and get real.
Dr. Robin Stern: Mm-hmm.
Sharon Salzberg: And it was very, it was unplanned. It was on rehearsal. The words that came outta my mouth. I sit down and get real and they loved it. You know, they voted it to me every time I see them. Remember when you said you sit down and get real? And there's something very precious to me about that. And it's also a little bit, uh, different. It's a little bit provocative cuz most people don't think of meditation as that. They think of it as entering a kind of lovely
Dr. Robin Stern: Serene, right, right. It's much fu more fuzzy and Yeah, exactly. Vaporous and all this, and like get real, you know? Yeah. Get real very different. Yes. I love it too. Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg: So that's what we do. And Real Change was interesting, the one before this one, um, because it came out, uh, it was a little bit postponed. It came out really in 20, uh, 20, that famous year. Um, and so it was different, you know, than, than other books. Um, and then real life, um, I, I had traveled all of February, uh, 2020, and then I came back, uh, to New York City where, where I am now, where I, I also am when I can be, you know. And, um, it was early March, 2020 and, you know, anxiety was really growing and things were getting really rough. People's parents were getting sick, you know, it was the first wave and it was just like, uh, it, it was really a hard time. And I had the thought, you know, it, it's really difficult here. I have a retreat center still open at the time, uh, and a house up in Barry, Massachusetts.
Sharon Salzberg: Why don't I go up there for two weeks and ride this out? So I went up to Barry with my snow boots, you know, thinking I'd be there for two weeks. I was there eight months the first time, and I ended up doing an enormous amount of teaching online, center closed, I think within four days of my getting up there. And, uh, just an enormous amount of teaching. And it was, um, you know, I really felt for people it was so, as you know, you know, so difficult. And, uh, people would write things in the chat, like a resident in a nursing home. I haven't had a visitor in a year ultimately, you know, they'd write things like that or went out to visit my mother in the snow. You know, I stood outside her window so terrible for people, and it was so moved by their experience.
Sharon Salzberg: And the question I kept asking myself was, what's still true for you? You know, expectations have been shattered. You didn't think you'd be here. You're like, your life's work, which is at retreat center, it's closed. You know, who knows what's gonna reopen if, you know, and it's like, what's still true? What's holding you up? You know, what are you counting on? And, and I sort of looked at those fundamentals and just then in all honesty, the publisher, uh, wrote and said, would you like to write another book? Maybe something else in the real series? Um, and then I'll just tell you specifically about that book. I had watched, um, this show on YouTube Saturday Night Seder, which I highly recommend. I really love it.
Dr. Robin Stern: I watch it. Thank you.
Sharon Salzberg: And, uh, it reminded me, um, it has like fabulous musicians and it's funny and I learned a lot. And, um, it reminded me that taking it totally away from geopolitics, symbolically, uh, the word Egypt means a narrow place. Narrow, narrow straits. And so it's the journey of all people at all times seeking freedom from feeling trapped. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern:
Sharon Salzberg: Feeling enclosed, no options. I can't breathe, I'm stuck. You know? And so I thought, okay, that's the narc of a book. And that's it. It's, it's about the movement from feeling back to feeling open and expansive and connected.
Dr. Robin Stern: That's so beautiful. Well, I love it. I love it. And
Sharon Salzberg: Thank you. That means a lot, you know,
Dr. Robin Stern: So of course one of the things that, that, um, I want you to know is that I encourage people to read love and kindness all the time, and I encourage them to do meta. And, um, I talk about it as my own practice, which is actually the truth. I, uh, practice not every day, but three times a week pretty religiously. And it, it has been transformative for me over time. And, and I know it, it nurtures my compassion and for the world, for other people. And, and, um, I, I just recommend it all the time. And in our work from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, we talk about meta and we talk about you, um, in so many of the opportunities we have to bring mindfulness in now, cuz of course when we started this work in emotional intelligence, mindfulness just wasn't as popular. But now it is. And you are. So I thank you for that as well. Yeah,
Sharon Salzberg: Thank you.
Dr. Robin Stern: I want everyone to read you. I want listeners, I really hope you will, um, read Sharon and it real now having been here with us, it will be like she's with you and, um, just can't thank you enough for joining me. I'd love to see you actually, I'm in New York as well at the moment I'm at Yale, but normally I'm in New York, so I'd love to see you. I will reach out and, um, um, please tell people where they can find you and to, and find your work so they can order your books and listen to you. And
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah, I think probably the best thing is just my website, which is sharon salzburg.com. It's very easy.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thank you Sharon. And what a gift you've given the world and continue to give the world and, and what a gift you gave to me today and to all of the listeners, um, with us. I know it's been an incredibly powerful and meaningful and, uh, time with you. So thank you very much and big hug to you. Much love, and I'll see you soon.
Sharon Salzberg: Yeah, thank you.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thanks for joining me for today's episode. I hope you found it helpful and meaningful. If you want to listen to other episodes of The Gaslight Effect podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. And please leave a rating and a review. I also invite you to follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. This podcast is produced by Mel Yellen, Ryan Changcoco, Mike Lens, and me. The podcast is supported by Gabby Kaoagas and Solar Karangi, all of my work and my upcoming book is supported by Suzen Pettit Marcus Estevez and Omaginarium, also by Sally McCarton and Jackie Daniels. I'm so grateful to have many people supporting me and especially grateful for all of you, my listeners.