Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 131 – Real Change Series: Sylvia Boorstein

Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 131 – Real Change Series: Sylvia Boorstein

For episode 131 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks with her close friend, Sylvia Boorstein for the Real Change Podcast Series.

Sylvia Boorstein has been teaching Dharma and mindfulness meditation since 1985 and is the author of five books. She is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a psychotherapist, wife, mother and grandmother. In this conversation Sharon and Sylvia talk about their initial meeting in the 1980s through lovingkindness practice, and how that practice has shaped Sylvia’s practice and teaching. They discuss their experiences in the pandemic, and what is still true: the three characteristics of existence from the Buddhist framework. Sylvia shares about her experiences working with worry or other unstable mind energies through the five hindrances.

This is the fourth episode of the Real Change Podcast Series, and Sylvia shares her experiences as a longtime activist, and why she considered her spiritual practice in her 20s and 30s to be activism. She also speaks about her arrest in 2003 with Jack Kornfield for the peaceful protest of the invasion of Afganistan. They also discuss Sylvia’s involvement with the Peace Alliance. The conversation closes with Sylvia leading an eight-minute guided meditation practice on lovingkindness.

A Recovering Catastrophizer

Sharon and Sylvia discuss the question of what is still true during these turbulent times, and how it’s a tremendous relief not to take everything personally. Sylvia talks about how she’s a recovering catastrophizer and former professional fretter. 

“Your brain comes with cookie cutters in it – some round, some square, some diamond shape. And you don’t change the cookie cutters, you can’t. You have a diamond shape cookie cutter, it’s not going to cut out stars, no matter how much you cut. But you can say, ‘That’s a diamond shaped cookie cutter, that’s not what’s happening.’” – Sylvia Boorstein

Buddhist Personality Types (17:16)

Sharon and Sylvia examine the Buddhist concept of the Five Hindrances. Sharon covers different Buddhist personality types. She and Sylvia discuss how they both tend towards the deluded personality type, and why that’s not a bad thing.

“There are purified forms and unpurified forms [of Buddhist personality types], which is saying that you may have a constellation of tendencies, and within that constellation there is something to treasure, it just needs to be utilized and transformed.” – Sharon Salzberg 

Dive deeper into the Five Hindrances with Gil Fronsdal on BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 11
Proud Grandchildren (31:20)

Sylvia talks about the work she’s done in the realm of social activism. She tells the story of getting arrested with Jack Kornfield at a protest in San Francisco. She and Sharon discuss how not all activism takes place in the streets.

“So we didn’t disperse, and they arrested us. My grandchildren were extremely proud of me.” – Sylvia Boorstein

Attention and Intention (43:38)

Sylvia closes out the episode with a guided meditation about giving attention to the intention of making a difference in the world. 

“May my own mind and my own thoughts, in some way, contribute to the steadiness of the world consciousness, to the goodwill in the consciousness of the world, to things changing in the consciousness of the world.” – Sylvia Boorstein

This is the first episode of the Real Change Podcast series. In this conversation, Joshin and Sharon discuss some of the themes from her new book, Real Change, exploring the ways that meditation practice can inform social action. They discuss working with anger, pathological altruism, finding long term resilience and joy in activism, and working to find balance. To close the conversation, Joshin leads a ten-minute meditation practice on equanimity.


Images via Sylvia Boorstein