Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 177 – Bonnie Pitman

For episode 177 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks with Bonnie Pitman.

Bonnie is a nationally recognized leader in the museum community. Her museum career spans 50 years of service in the museum, education, and university fields. Since 2008, Bonnie has been living with chronic illness. In 2011 began her daily practice to “Do Something New,” inviting the exploration and celebration of making an ordinary day extraordinary while dealing with chronic illness.

In this episode, Bonnie shares about her work in the art world and how she sees art as a doorway to contemplative practice. She and Sharon talk about how differently art is looked at in Eastern culture and what role suffering has to play in the creation of art. They discuss the history of Bonnie’s “Do Something New” initiative and what that looks like for her today while still facing chronic illness. Lastly, they discuss the role gratitude has played in her well-being and, in particular, her chronic disease. Bonnie closes the conversation with a guided lovingkindness meditation.

Learn more about Bonnie and try the “Do Something New” practice at 
Art & Mindfulness // Temporary & Timeless

Welcoming Bonnie Pitman, Sharon invites her to share her extraordinary journey in the realms of art, meditation, and chronic illness. Discussing paintings that inspired her at an early age, Bonnie reflects on how art museums are visual encyclopedias, how artists tell stories through their work, the deep soul resonance that art can evoke, and what role that plays in our lives. From here, they explore observing art as a mindfulness practice and discuss the temporary, but timeless nature of Buddhist art.

“Art is temporary, but its meaning is timeless.” – Bonnie Pitman

Jack Kornfield shares how we can begin to guide our own practice, on Ep. 138 of the Heart Wisdom
Meditation, Pain, & Chronic Illness (12:00)

Prompted by Sharon, Bonnie shares how she first found formal meditation practice, and how she was inspired to collaborate in the ‘Awake’ series bringing together artists and meditation teachers in a direct connection to art and Buddhism. From here, she explores her mindful walk along the path of chronic illness, offering insight into using pain as a way to remember presence, joy, novelty, and the loving heart.

“That pain of breathing is a source of life for me. It keeps me aware always of what is present in my life. My choice is not to live in pain; my choice is to live in joy. I think the illness has given me gifts that are way beyond anything that I could have ever really understood. I’ve learned to live with the pain and I’ve changed my relationship to it.” – Bonnie Pitman

RamDev reflects on how pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional, on Ep. 36 of Healing at the Edge

Do Something New // Novelty & Resilience (26:00)

Next, they discuss Bonnie’s ‘Do Something New‘ project at the Center for Brain Health. Sharing how ‘doing something new’ and sporadic novelty helped her through difficult experience like her chronic illness. Through this lens, Bonnie describes novelty as one of the primary factors in neuroplasticity, growth, play, joy, and staying sharp. From here, they discuss Bonnie’s exciting intention to write a new book around resilience.

“There can be a lot of obstacles in front of us, and bad stuff happens to all of us, but you can learn to accept it and to move forward and to start again. Just like meditation, in life you need that ability to take two steps forward and four back. It’s not a straightforward path, but it is a path that can be beautiful and inspiring if you allow yourself to open your heart to it and to others that are around you.” – Bonnie Pitman

Ethan Nichtern shares on how every moment is the New Year, on Ep. 64 of The Road Home
Gratitude & Guided Reflection (40:00)

Engaging the landing gears, they discuss gratitude’s connection with novelty, meditation, compassion and living a happy life. Sharon invites Bonnie to close with a guided lovingkindness meditation.


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