Sharon Salzberg came into my life a few years ago when I stumbled upon her Metta Hour podcast — a chance encounter that revealed the host to be the voice of kindness and compassion in today’s fractured world.
Of all the episodes I’ve listened, my favorite one is called “Foundations of Forgiveness.” Why this particular episode? Because forgiveness is vital for our well-being. When you forgive — both yourself and others — it becomes easier to let go of everything that’s holding you back from the life you want to live.
But how do you do it? How do you even begin to forgive, forget, and let go? From the Buddhist perspective, one of the most effective tools that can help you is lovingkindness meditation. And Sharon Salzberg is the leading expert* in this field.
In this article, I cover three best Sharon Salzberg books on lovingkindness, along with reader reviews.
1. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
No one is immune to the fear of intimacy that keeps us from finding a greater sense of connection: both with ourselves and other people. But this pain and longing can create in us the desire for change and willingness to take up a spiritual path.
In Lovingkindness, meditation teacher and bestselling author Sharon Salzberg draws on Buddhist traditions, her own experiences, and mindfulness exercises to reveal the loving heart in each of us.
Read this book and learn how loving-kindness can illuminate a path to equanimity, compassion, and sympathetic joy, helping us to unearth our capacity for wholehearted living and deep connection with the world around us.
Lovingkindness is a translation of the Pali word “metta”, which is the first of the brahma-viharas, or the “heavenly abodes”. The others – compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity – “grow out of metta, which supports and extends these states”.
The author is open about her own shortcomings and episodes that have contributed to her development, and provides us with many personal stories that add to the book’s readability.
The Buddha presented the metta meditation as an antidote to fear. A mind involved with lovingkindness cannot be overcome by fear. Lovingkindness overcomes the illusion of separateness and all its accompanying states – “fear, alienation, loneliness, and despair – all of the feelings of fragmentation”.
When we feel love, we can allow ourselves to be fully aware of the entirety of life – both pleasures and pains. “Love can uproot fear or anger or guilt, because it is a greater power”.
2. A Heart as Wide as the World: Stories on the Path of Lovingkindness
If you’re looking for a collection of short essays that distill more than twenty-five years of teaching and practicing meditation, you should read A Heart as Wide as the World. In it, Sharon Salzberg shares personal experiences and anecdotes that offer solace and comfort for those on the spiritual path.
The book is full chance moments that shaped the author’s mindfulness practice: hearing a market stall hawker saying, “I have what you need!”; observing hotel guest reactions to a midnight fire alarm; watching Dipa Ma, her teacher, being kind to an aggressive dog.
Overall, I find this book to be a very meditative read that you want to open again and again.
This book is sort of a primer to life. I share sections of it with my class on stress management … and Salzberg makes them come to life with examples from her own experience. She speaks, for example, about how worrying about future pain intensifies current pain, using as an example how she confronted the pain she initially experienced when sitting in meditation.
She gives wonderful examples of how judging ourselves for not being perfect keeps us from making progress…. She tells of how Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, used the time she was put into prison by the Myanmar government as time to practice lovingkindness and found it a meaningful and useful time in her life as a result (what an inspiration!). For me, this book is priceless.
3. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier
So much of today’s news is centered around the “us” vs. “them” rhetoric — a false dichotomy created by the ego that feeds on emotional pain, anger, and defensiveness.
Love Your Enemies shows a way to move past this division by teaching us how to identify four types of enemies we encounter in life and, more importantly, how to transform our relationships to them.
To this end, authors Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman share stories and exercises based on Buddhist philosophy and modern psychology, guiding us towards peace within and without.
If you are looking for inspiration, inner support, or a gift to someone you love, please consider buying this great new book by Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg. A true gift of the authors to their readers.
Whether you are a religious person or you consider yourself not involved in spirituality at all, I am sure you will value the content. In a time where negativity sometimes seems to play a too important role in both our individual lives and in national & global affairs, this book can be of great help to all of us.
Complement these best lovingkindness books by Sharon Salzberg with the podcast episode I mentioned earlier and then revisit our guide on how to practice lovingkindness meditation.
About the books’ author: Sharon Salzberg 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 the author of Lovingkindness and Love Your Enemies.
Hi, I’m Gavril, the guy behind this blog. What you see here is the combination of my three favorite things: reading, writing, and mindfulness. While you’re here, subscribe to my blog updates and gain access to free mindfulness resources for stress relief.