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Lions Roar : September 2019
PHOTOBYMICHAELLAVINE SHARON SALZBERG : I had never considered that—the relative worthiness of the voice of my inner critic. I named mine “Lucy” after the character in Peanuts comic strip. In one cartoon, she says to Charlie Brown, “You know what your problem is? The problem with you is that you’re you.” Then poor Charlie Brown says, “What in the world can I do about that?” Lucy responds, “I don’t pretend to be able to give advice. I merely point out the problem.” The problem with you is that you’re you. The Lucy voice was so dominant in my earlier life that I mapped my understanding of mindfulness and my progress with it by how I related to her. Very soon after I saw that cartoon, something great happened for me, and my first thought was, “Oh, but it’s never going to happen again.” But this time, I responded with, “Hi Lucy,” followed by, “Chill out, Lucy.” I con- sidered this a triumph because it was so different from, “You’re right, Lucy, you’re always right.” It was also different from my other usual thought, “Oh my God, Lucy’s here. What a disgrace. I’m so ashamed. I can’t believe she’s still here.” I was always trying to be nice to her without letting her take over. But I never actually thought about sitting down with her and say- ing, “Okay, now everyone’s calmer. You can talk now.” ROSANNE CASH: Once I painted my inner critic. There were these ten evil little creatures I called “The Committee.” I actually made a T-shirt of The Committee so that I could really get them out. But I realized that what they actually want is a job. If you bring them back at the end of your process to help you edit, then they’re happy. SHARON SALZBERG : In the beginning of my teaching career, I was terrified of public speaking. I could never give a talk. The first retreat I taught in this country was with my colleague Joseph Gold- stein. It was thirty days long, and he had to give every talk. I was petrified. I couldn’t do it. My big fear was that my mind would go blank, and I’d just sit there and be completely humiliated. But people kept yelling at him, “Why won’t you let her have a voice? Why won’t you let her speak?” And he kept saying, “I’d love a night off. Talk to her!” Then a year went by and I felt there was this one topic, loving-kindness, where there’s always a guided meditation you can do. So if my mind went blank, I could launch into the guided meditation. I did that and I thought, “You know what? It is all about loving-kindness. That’s why we’re in this room together. It’s not about my expertise in something— it’s about connection.” That was the moment I could begin to give talks. I told Pema Chödrön that and she said, “I was always terrified of speaking because I was afraid I was going to detour into some topic that was com- pletely tangential.” And then she said, “In all these years of my doing just that, no one has complained. No one’s come up and said, ‘You started out talking about one thing and ended up talking about some- thing else. How could you?’” I think of it in terms of balance. For many of us the strongest voice is that sense of blame and failure. Bal- ance is moving away from that and having some kind- ness toward yourself and being able to begin again. It’s resilience training. You acknowledge, “Yeah, I blew it, I made a mistake.” But you start over, rather than col- lapsing or blaming yourself for the next fifteen years. In Buddhist psychology, there’s a difference between remorse and guilt. Remorse is the genuine pain of seeing that you blew it or could have done better, and you want to move on with determination to see more clearly. Whereas guilt is not having the ability to move on, it’s being stuck. “I’m only that.” It’s being frozen in time, which is what trauma is. To get unstuck requires wisdom, an understand- ing that the guilt isn’t serving anyone and it’s an old habit. You need to see what you can do in terms of making amends or discovering lessons learned and moving in a more positive direction. ROSANNE CASH: I’ve learned that myself when performing. My idea and understanding of per- forming has changed over the thirty-eight years I’ve been doing it. In the beginning, I thought that you went on stage to be judged, and that “perfection” was what you were attempting. Over time I’ve come to realize it’s not about that at all. I used to have dreams about forgetting lyrics, but every time I’ve forgotten a lyric, that’s the moment the audience loves the most. Your humanity is revealed, and they feel connected to that. They don’t want perfection. It’s also about energy exchange; it’s about feelings. Bob Dylan said an audience doesn’t come to feel the performer’s feelings. They come to feel their own feelings. They want you to open it up for them so that they can feel it. We’re all human. We all suffer. That’s what we have in common. Art and music are there to reveal our lives to us and reflect ourselves back to us, and it’s not all pretty. That, to me, is love. ♦ This conversation between Rosanne Cash and Sharon Salzberg was hosted at the Rubin Museum in Ne w York and was titled How Love Resonates, celebrating the release of Salzberg’s book Real Love. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 54