Sharon Salzberg, World-Renowned Meditation Teacher (#277)

Sharon Salzberg smiling in front of a large window.

“Do the good that’s in front of you, even if it feels very small.”

– Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg (@SharonSalzberg) is a central figure in the field of meditation, a world-renowned teacher, and New York Times bestselling author.

Sharon has played a crucial role in bringing meditation and mindfulness practices to the West and into mainstream culture since 1974, when she first began teaching. She is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and she has written ten books — from her seminal Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness to her latest, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection.

Sharon offers a secular and modern approach to Buddhist teachings, making them more accessible. She is a regular columnist for On Being, a contributor to Huffington Post, and the host of her own podcast: The Metta Hour.

Please enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Sharon Salzberg, World-Renowned Meditation Teacher

Want to hear another podcast about meditation? In this episode, we hear from Chase Jarvis as he explains his top priorities for feeling fulfilled. I talk transcendental meditation with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I cover a wide spectrum with Sam Harris, and ask him about everything from hallucinogens to meditation techniques (stream below or right-click here to download):

#201: The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour: Meditation, Mindset, and Mastery

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Sharon Salzberg:

Website | Podcast | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Show Notes

  • Sharon tells us about the string of experiences early in her life that helped chart her course. [07:02]
  • How did Buddhism enter Sharon’s life? What impact did it have on the suffering she had known since such an early age? [10:31]
  • What priceless guidance did Sharon receive from Buddhist meditation master Chˆgyam Trungpa before traveling to India? [13:09]
  • Sharon explains how this guidance played out during her travels. [14:44]
  • How Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman helped Sharon find her way. [15:57]
  • What happened when Sharon went to Bodh Gaya. [17:07]
  • Sharon’s advice for anyone going into an intensive ten-day silent retreat. [18:46]
  • How would Sharon guide a room full of type A personalities who are convinced meditation won’t “work” for them? [21:50]
  • Mental frameworks helpful for beginners to keep in mind as they’re trying to establish meditation as a regular practice. [24:58]
  • Self-compassion as a secret ingredient. [27:11]
  • Does Sharon believe there’s a “minimum effective dose” when it comes to meditation? [28:55]
  • For a beginner, what would the format of twenty minutes of daily meditation look like? [32:22]
  • Have I been practicing what Sharon considers loving kindness? [35:25]
  • Reframing the lens through which we look at our daily experiences. [39:47]
  • How does Sharon suggest we think about the word “love” at a time when it’s almost lost its meaning through overuse? [42:04]
  • How can someone defuse or divert a drift toward anger? [45:15]
  • Why you may want to avoid email if you’re trying a fast for the first time. [48:10]
  • On self-assessment after meditation (or medication) has become part of one’s routine. [48:37]
  • Some love is 50/50. Here’s a story where it’s 100/100. [54:17]
  • How does Sharon define success? [56:51]
  • What are Sharon’s biggest challenges at the moment? [58:53]
  • How does Sharon make progress with her own desired behavior changes? [1:01:20]
  • Overcoming a time of despair and reestablishing connection. [1:01:49]
  • Do the good that’s in front of you. [1:06:01]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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35 Replies to “Sharon Salzberg, World-Renowned Meditation Teacher (#277)”

  1. Sorry Tim this pertains to your 5-Bullet Friday posts.

    Quite often when I click on something you’ve linked to it comes up Service not Available? Thanks keep cranking out the great content !

  2. Hi there, appreciate your suggestions every Friday.

    Your podcasts and blogs as well.

    I have two ideas for you-

    Kenkoh sandals: I have zero connection to this company but love these reflexology sandals.

    Neurofeedback: I’m a retired counsellor & for decades studied/or tried many therapeutic approaches to resolve anxiety/trauma issues. NF has changed my life.

    All the best Tim.

  3. That is the essence of meditation Tim; as Sharon says, do the good that is in front of you.

    People crave massive platforms to change the world but realize not it is the seemingly tiny acts that help you manifest the big platforms.

    I gobble up all opportunities to help folks. From commenting on blogs to promoting other bloggers to assisting people through email and Quora, I am about the acts of kindness and doling them out whenever I can.

    Meditation helps you see that all of it matters, yet, is no big deal. It is about doing things with love, not fear, and especially doing those seemingly small things with love…..those things folks look past because they are fearful they will not get a return on the act.

    Thanks Tim as always.


  4. Hi Tim, love your books and all the stuff ! So I thought to give you a small suggestion 🙂 I (and many other people) have a problem which is especially troubling when meditating – tinnitus. There is very little knowledge about it out there and practically no treatment. If there is someone that could “hack” this really common issue, it’s probably someone you know. Please, think about it a bit, I believe this “hack” would help a great many! Best of luck!

    1. Hello Niko ! I have tinnitus too for many years and I do meditate every day, in my experience tinnitus do not bother me (no need for a complete silence if that is the issue ), moreover you could even use the tinnitus sound as your focus or just “observe” it for a while, the problem may disappear.

  5. This is not related to the episode but I wanted to let you know that I coopted your 5 bullet Friday for my classroom. I use a similar format to inform my children’s parents about what is going on in our second grade classroom. Thanks for this really great idea. I appreciate it.

  6. Tim Ferriss! I have such a major crush on you. For years, I’ve been listening to your words, following you online, experimenting with and changing my life because of your influence. I have a proposition: I fly to wherever you are, and you share a bottle of wine with me. Deal?

    Thank you for this episode! Meditation has played a huge role in who I am today. I love how pleasantly segatious Sharon is. Thank you for bringing people like her, and their words of wisdom into my life. Thank you, Tim, for the eloquent and very effective work you do. You are superbly awesome and much appreciated.

  7. Hi Tim. Love your podcast and most of your guests. It’s refreshing to hear someone with an immense hunger for curiosity geek out over the intricate roads you can take when questioning, and speaking with, your guests. I write to you from Germany while on a three week health detox from American culture, world politics (but specifically U.S. politics), processed foods and “organic” produce, alcohol (although I’ve been sober for 7 months), social media, technology (aside from a couple of emails), and a total separation from work (I am type A – but who isn’t these days). In this clarity which I’ve found through twice-daily meditation, yoga, walks without earbuds or companionship, strict diet, balanced sleeping schedule, and more or less isolation, I’ve come upon two thoughts. 1.) As a person who experiments with things, this place might be of interest to you. 2.) I’ve often wondered if in my Father’s lifetime there would be a human to properly interview him and dissect his legacy, skill, and really ‘je ne sais quois’ which propelled him to where he is, and I thought of you. Perhaps, your genuine curiosity would be something that would intrigue him and would allow him to open up his incredible story to the world. Many, many journalists have tried – the closest I’ve seen is an attempt by Mitch Albom which only scratched the surface – but something tells me the two of you could make it work. I don’t know. Something to think about. I’d be happy to make the connect + help facilitate.

    Keep doing you and never shy away from that child-like curiosity.



  8. I enjoy the your 5 bullet Friday every week and I have almost all your books, except that last one which I will get soon. I have a question unrelated to this post. Do you have any new suggestions for an endurance hard surface running shoe? The Inov-8 shoes you recommended in the past are no longer made. Thanks!

  9. Tim, thanks for this amazing podcast. Maybe it is late already, but you might like Dan Harriss’* hilarious description of his experience at a long retreat in his book 10% Happier.

    Please, interview Jack Kornfield some day! He is also fun and full of wisdom..

    Good luck at the retreat.

    Saludos from Argentina, Ariel

  10. What a tremendous interview. Thank you Tim! Sharon’s comments along with your own, with regard to being compassionate with one’s self in the process of returning from distractions when practising meditation, provided wonderful insight.

    “The healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with”.

  11. Dear Tim,

    I read that the best way to get a hold of you is to leave a comment or tweet you… seeing as I don’t have twitter, a comment it is!

    I wanted to thank you for all the time, energy and effort that you put into adding value to this world. I find it very admirable that you challenge yourself to write and share your/others’ knowledge with people like me vs. focusing your energy on solely monetary gains. Your work (at least the pieces that I can make time to explore) have spoken and inspired me as an entrepreneur, mother of 4 children 4 and under, and even as a wife. There have been ideas that I have come across in your content that have caused me to reflect and course correct, that have inspired, that have bridged the gaps that caused divide, and that have made me feel like there are other people “in the arena” as well. So thank you. There is so much that you and your guests offer without a price tag. I wish there were more hours in the day to listen to more podcasts and read more content… but for the ones I have been able to take in, my life has been touched and I am grateful!

  12. Tim – Very good session w/ S. Salzberg. What do you know about Ayahuasca and the Rythmia resort in Costa Rica. I learned about them by watching a piece (and by “piece” I mean a well-done sales pitch) titled “the Reality of Truth.” I’m the last guy you’d think might be interested in “plant Medicine” (i.e., drugs), but the reported experiences and impact on one’s life (if done correctly and under proper supervision) seem pretty appealing. I’d like to hear what you know about the drug its efficacy. Keep up the good work. Jim

  13. Tim,

    What an absolute joy it was to hear Sharon on your podcast. I have been extremely fortunate to have been on retreat with her. I have also taken classes with her and Tara Brach through the Nalanda Institute in NYC. I am so thrilled to see that you have had both of these amazing teachers on your show and how you have presented meditation. You should also look into bringing Robert Thurman on your show. He presents often with Sharon and is a teacher at Nalanda along with other world renowned mediation teachers. I too just completed my first long silent retreat(7days) and look forward to you talking more about your experience.

    I am so grateful for all that you bring to me and so many others.

  14. Hi Tim, you are my last hope( yes I have been meditating for 20 years, My dad was a communist head in Poland (one whom the olimpic champieon run away from)who I run away from when I was 18. I have a business that will help 50% of women in the world, yet I have been told by even business women that I need to stop being naive when investors want to invest and ask for fun. I am uncomfortable with having physical connection with a man that is not my husband and I am not sure if I want to get married and I am pretty sure they are not interested in that. I however feel that my idea is so important to women I am happy to give it anyone who will make it available for women. I have been standing up for values for my entire life( I have been tortured in one country for speaking up against persecution) and feel disgusted how bullied I am by men and women into what feels unethical to me. Yes I know it sounds weird, but my life has been even more out there then yours. Maria

  15. Great podcast! Meditation, as I see it, is not intendet mainly for relaxation, it is a technique to “control the mind” , that means, to learn to be aware of yourself and to learn to distinguish your “thinking” from your true self. Relaxation will eventually appear as a byproduct.

  16. Hi Tim, this was a great episode. Been following you, and your podcast for a few years now.

    I want to quickly draw your attention to a large project coming up on November 26th 2017. A WorldWide Meditation through the Le Ciel Foundation – – please give it a look when you have a free moment and if you would like an introduction to connect to the founders I would be happy to do that. Their missions are of high importance.

    Thank you for your service,


  17. Hi Tim! Amazing stuff as usual, just want to thank you for writing your book (and sharing your insights with the world) and the amazing community that you have built. If you ever stopover Singapore, please know that you have friends here who are ever ready to bring you around to the local hotspots 😉

  18. Concerning meditational titans, what about Ole Nydhal who established 600+ !!! meditation groups, world-wide starting since 1973!!! currently one of biggest Buddhist ( like Sharon Salzburg ) organization on West.!!!

  19. just came back from my week long meditation retreat and such a nice surprise! 🙂 love Sharon! have been a couple of times to her IMS retreat. Would be amazing if you could interview the co-founder Joseph Goldstein 🙂

    So much looking forward to your impressions on your retreat!!

  20. Loving your podcasts! I view mediation as exercise for the brain. Since my brain is even more important to running my business than my body, and my brain influences the health of my body, daily meditation is my #1 priority.

    High recommend Jack Kornfield and his 10 day retreat. He not part of my regular meditation practice, however one of his books touched me deeply so I did do a 10 day retreat with him. Can’t wait to hear what you think about it. You’re going to get to experience consciousness like you never have before.

  21. This was such an amazing post to read. I love seeing how other people are helping the world become a better place. [Moderator: additional text and link removed.]

  22. I really enjoyed your interview with Sharon Salzberg. In the podcast you mentioned a lot of type A personalities have difficulties with irritability, anger, impatience and I think meditation is an excellent practice to help relieve some of those issues. I was also thinking of Ayurveda when you mentioned the issues associated with this personality type. Ayurveda offers a way to also relieve these issues through herbs and the types of food we eat. Irritability, anger, and impatience are signs of Pitta imbalance in the body and you can change that by changing what you eat. Ayurveda may be something you want to explore.

    Keep up the great work. I really enjoy your podcasts.

  23. Really enjoyed this episode especially since I recently started getting into Meditation as well. You mentioned that you were planning on attending the 10-Day Meditation Retreat in November. Have you completed the retreat and what are your thoughts and experiences with the retreat? Would love to hear your insight!

  24. Tim your sincere thank you of Sharon Salzberg literally brought tears to my eyes – quite possibly I’m an overtired undercaffeinated single father – Regardless, I wanted to leave you my absolute and most sincere thanks for bringing to the world these inspiring insights. You are literally doing life changing work you do. Kind Regards and wishing you all the best!

  25. For me, this episode was one of the most important episodes you’ve ever done. Did you ever follow up with Sharon? Is there a part 2 in the works? Thank you for all of this amazing work and content.

  26. The Happiest day in 7 years story is quite compelling and uplifting, and I had a similar experience this past week on Valentine’s day, corny, I know, but the fact is that it’s true. The more I thought and pondered on the periphery of me, what I was experiencing inside was reaffirming my state of well-being. That the sun was shinning and warming the bodies near me while I enjoyed coffee on an outdoor terrace, I was enjoying sharing this space in time with these other four strangers and that all these factors that we were sharing were synchronizing us for bliss, for delight (I can’t use the word happiness, it doesn’t set what was occurring). And I did ask myself: Why am I so full of bliss? I’m certain that it was more than 10 seconds that I wished these strangers bliss.

  27. Sharon Salzberg’s teachings have transformed my meditation practice. Her wisdom, compassion, and clarity shine through, making her a truly remarkable and inspiring guide on the path of mindfulness. Highly recommended!
    [Moderator: Link to website removed.]