Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 49 – Contemplating Intentionality


Live from the Garrison Institute, Sharon contemplates the role of intentionality in our actions.

Joined by the co-host of the evening, Ethan Nichtern, Sharon explores the different components of our actions and how intentionality affects each of them.

Show Notes

The Process (Opening) – Spiritual teacher, Ethan Nichtern, addresses how so many of us look at love as an idealized state; as a feeling that we search for and arrive at. Everything we are doing on the path of spiritual practice is reframing this as a process that can be applied. Ethan discusses this concept and introduces the idea of hanging out with yourself as a metaphor for doing so.

Intentionality of Action (5:30) – Sharon reminds us that despite the iconography and language, Buddhism is about wisdom. That wisdom does not require tradition or faith, it is about the human experience and potential we all share.

In Buddhist psychology, when we look at an action it is said to have different components. The first part of an action is the intention or motivation behind it. Even if the motivation is positive, there are still strings attached. Understanding the motive behind an action is a critical part of understanding that action.

“We use mindfulness just to see. It is said that if you do something like cultivate Loving-Kindness, through meditation, the arena of your psyche that will transform is the motivational sphere.” – Sharon Salzberg

Skillful Action (16:00) – The next phase of an action is the skillfulness or unskillfulness of its execution. Sharon makes the distinction between skillfulness and motivation which can be easily conflated when it comes to saying no. To approach a delicate situation skillfully with right intention does not mean we have to always say yes to others. “Fierce compassion” or “tough love” needs the discernment and clarity that comes with skillful action.

Generosity (32:00) – Showing this kind of generosity requires putting effort into personal practice and loving ourselves. There is no perfect way to love ourselves, but with the persistent practice of Loving-Kindness, we begin to slowly change our interactions with the world.

“The best kind of generosity comes from a sense of inner abundance.” – Sharon Salzberg

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Photo via Sharon Salzberg