Women’s History Month is here! Author Harmony Kent guest posts today, answering the question: Who inspires you in history, and why? Find out how writer Sharon Salzberg changed her life. Harmony is a wonderful supporter of other Indie authors, and it’s a pleasure to have her visiting here.
Author Harmony Kent: How Sharon Salzberg Changed My Life
As International Women’s History Month approached, Christy Birmingham-Reyes—an inspirational woman herself—reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in answering this question. Immediately, one person came to mind … a lady whose experience and only published book (at the time) saved my life and changed my world. So, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to share her with you.
Sharon Salzberg, an acclaimed Buddhist meditation teacher and spiritual leader, has touched the lives of countless people around the world, not least of all mine. In 1999, at one of my most vulnerable times, and when I felt at my lowest ever, a colleague recommended a read to me … A Heart as Wide as the World.
Salzberg’s first published book, its message set me on a path which made me the person I am today. Her words influenced me so much that I ordained as a Zen Buddhist Monk and lived the next 13 years in a Buddhist Temple, where I devoted my life to meditation and learnt how to face my demons and continue to work to become the best person I know how to be. I found a level of confidence, peace, and contentment I don’t believe I would have found otherwise.
This book offers a personal and profound exploration of the power of loving-kindness and how we can use it to cultivate a compassionate and connected existence. Her words helped me recognise my capacity to open up to love and connection and experience the peace and joy which comes with such openness. More importantly, it taught me about taking responsibility for my life instead of blaming a “cruel world.”
Although by 1999, Salzberg had been a Buddhist practitioner and teacher for 25 years, I’d never heard of her or even of Buddhism. Oh boy, did I have a lot to learn!
The opening paragraph in the book’s introduction seemed as though it had reached inside me and grasped the core of my being and existence:
“My own life at that time was characterised largely by fear and confusion. I felt separate from other people and from the world around me, and even oddly disconnected from my own experience. The world I experienced was sharply dualistic: self and other, us and them. This view increased my fear, which of course also increased my suffering.”
– Sharon Salzberg, A Heart as Wide as the World
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Salzberg grew up in a Jewish family. From a young age, Eastern spiritual practices attracted her, and at the age of 19, she set out for India and Nepal to discover more about Buddhism and its teachings. What a brave thing to do at that age and in that era! During her travels, she encountered the Burmese meditation master, Dipa Ma, who became her mentor and encouraged her to pursue a lifelong practice of meditation.
Upon returning to the United States, Salzberg taught meditation and, in 1974, co-founded the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. They established this as a place for people to practice and study mindfulness-based meditation. Through IMS, Salzberg has trained thousands of students and teachers.
In addition to the IMS, and A Heart as Wide as the World, Salzberg has written several best-selling books, including Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, and Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. Salzberg has also worked to study the effects of meditation on mental health and as a method to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Her life emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and kindness. Salzberg encourages us to be mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and actions and to practice loving-kindness. These teachings have had a profound impact on the mindfulness movement and have served to inspire countless individuals to take up the practice of meditation worldwide.
For the lost young woman I was, her book and teachings couldn’t have come at a better time. I hope she inspires you as much as she did me. Thank you for reading! Wishing you all the best, Harmony ☺️
About today’s guest post writer
Harmony Kent began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & multi-genre writer, Harmony loves to review & support her fellow authors.
She is an award-winning Indie author whose newest release is Sorrowful Soul: Soul Poetry Series Book 3. Her other books include Finding Katie (Women’s Fiction) and The Battle for Brisingamen (Fantasy Fiction).
Connect with Harmony Kent online
Find out more about this talented writer at her website, Harmony Kent Online. There you can find a list of all of her books, learn more about her, and follow her blog for a great selection of creative writing, including poetry and short stories.
Thank you for being here today, Harmony! Women’s History Month is a special time, and it’s connections like the one between Harmony and Sharon Salzberg that show the power of inspiration.
Top image: Meet author Harmony Kent. Photo used with Harmony’s permission.