Single Lady Books: Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg

If you haven’t read this poem from Galway Kinnell, please do. I’m in love with it:

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing,

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on the brow

of the flower,

and retell it in words and in touch,

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

Sharon Salzberg’s book is not specifically about the single life, but what I love about it is the emphasis on living a happy life.

Happiness, like fear, totally fascinates me. I don’t think people should or are even capable of pressuring themselves to be happy if they are really miserable and hating life. For me, true happiness is being content with what I have, accepting that I have enough and that it would be nice to have more but if I don’t have more, that’s also OK.

My meditation practice helps me appreciate contentedness more than being happy. Happy just sounds so…perky.

Meditation is the thing that grounds me, helps me let go of a lot of angst and perceived powerlessness and be present for the people around me. It has also helped me to cultivate self-love and self-care.

Salzberg’s book was a joy to read because she writes about how often selfishness is confused with self-love when, in fact, selfishness can be the most generous thing you can do for others. As I said to a friend a few weeks ago – selfish is not a dirty word. Taking time to do what you need and/or want to do for yourself allows you to have space to be generous with others and fully present for them.

I believe that we are all mirrors for one another. What I work to detach from, especially in a world that is obsessed with couples, is deepening my spiritual and inner life while also relearning, daily, how to detach from my expectations of others and desire. I wish I didn’t have to say that I often fail at this.

Actually, I fail everyday.

Salzberg writes, “This is how we are. There is always something else to want…If we are always looking for some object, person, or place to create a sense of completion for ourselves, we miss entirely the degree to which we are whole and complete in every moment…We practice generosity to free our hearts from that delusion, so that we can find and enjoy the force of essential happiness.”

Her writing on the legacy of separation, which impoverishes the spirit and keeps us from connecting with each other resonated with me. There have been many times in my past when I felt like I was incomplete and utterly alone because I wouldn’t settle for a relationship that was harmful to me. But so much of that perspective was about choosing to focus on my alienation instead of how I could get whole. “It is only due to our concepts that we feel separate from the world,” Salzberg wrote. “We are isolated by ideas of inadequacy, ideas of danger, ideas of loneliness and ideas of rejection…if we do not want to be enslaved by our thoughts, we can choose to transform our minds.”

I think a lot of you will like this book, even if you’re not into meditation. Sharon Salzberg offers a lot of wisdom for the solo life travelers among us.

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