Real Change:  Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World, Sharon Salzberg 2020

Salzberg is one of the major figures in the mindfulness movement having been one of the three founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA where I did a five day silent retreat a few years ago.  In this book, she revisits familiar territory of agency, awakening, resilience, and balance but stresses the interconnectedness of today’s world. The introduction is entitled, We’re All in This Together, and that’s the primary theme of this book.  There’s a strong emphasis on caring for one’s self as the basis for caring about others, moving from helplessness to courageous action.  Perhaps the most important sentence for me was,  “Remember that you are worth something. Remember that we all are.”  This focus on respecting and valuing others, on compassion, on the inevitability of pain and suffering, on the importance of avoiding self-critical add-ons that we layer on pain, practicing loving kindness towards yourself so that you can practice it towards others.  Her focus on ‘doing the work’ and not focusing on ‘results’ is helpful.  She writes at length about the importance of feeling that one ‘belongs’, something that resonated with me and also dovetails with another book I’m reading, Caste.

This is a fine book, though far from perfect. Too many anecdotes, too much ‘mindfulness’ jargon, but overall, a useful volume to sit with, think about, and take away a few key concepts to apply in everyday life.  At the end of each chapter she includes a meditation practice that some may find helpful.