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Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection

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You are a person worthy of love. You don’t have to do anything to deserve all the love in the world.

Real Love is a creative tool kit of mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques that help you to truly engage with your present experience and create deeper love relationships with yourself, your partner, friends and family, and with life itself.

Sharon Salzberg, a leading expert in Lovingkindness[GR1] meditation, encourages us to strip away layers of negative habits and obstacles, helping us to experience authentic love based on direct experience, rather than preconceptions. Across three sections, Sharon explains how to dispel cultural and emotional habits, and direct focused care and attention to recapture the essence of what it is to love and be loved.

With positive reflections and practices, Sharon teaches us how to shift the responsibilities of the love that we give and receive to rekindle the powerful healing force of true connection. By challenging myths perpetuated by popular culture, we can undo the limited definitions that reduce love to simply romance or passion, and give the heart a much needed tune-up to connect ourselves to the truest experience of love in our daily lives.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2017

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About the author

Sharon Salzberg

89 books1,217 followers
One of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors, Sharon Salzberg is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 207 reviews
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
July 4, 2017
If you are familiar with Sharon Salzberg (perhaps you took her free meditation course through email or listen to her podcast), you will not be surprised at the way this book is organized - self-help plus meditation exercises plus personal stories. It is a gentle overview tying psychology/analysis to mindfulness, all to the end goal of improving relationships. Although much like most Buddhist practice (hmm, I don't believe they ever specifically use the word Buddhist, but that's what it is) the focus is first on the self and getting rid of personal barriers. Lovingkindness meditation, forgiveness meditation, these are practices that start with the self and move outward.

For me, books like this are skimmers. I don't need the testimonial type stories to reinforce the points being made; I'm most likely to look for bullet points and read the practice sections the most carefully. I imagine people of various backgrounds and needs would approach it a number of ways. I have encountered most of what is inside these covers before, but Sharon Salzberg has done some work to pull it all together.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Katy.
243 reviews4 followers
May 24, 2017
Sharon Salzberg has written another beautiful book. Real Love isn't about romantic love, but rather about meeting the world with love. It's a radical concept. Just like anger isn't personal, neither is love. We tend to focus our love on a romantic partner or family, but this book broadens our notions of what real love is. In order to do that, Salzberg explores all the ways in which our habits of mind block us. Starting with stories we tell ourselves and working with self-criticism, each chapter explores a dilemma in one of Salzberg's circle of friends and students' lives. The chapters conclude with practices and exercises that can develop new habits.

The book is clear and helpful. It's also detailed and comprehensive. I'm not a big fan of self-help books, especially ones that rely on anecdotes about "my student Samantha," but it works here. I actually know some of these people, so they aren't entirely fabricated.

It's hard to imagine readers faithfully working their way through every exercise, but a reading group could. And an individual could pick and choose what calls to them. This is a great book for beginners, and a good book for everyone else.

Definitely worth reading.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Profile Image for Kate Savage.
659 reviews114 followers
June 9, 2021
There are some lovely ideas and practices in this book. And yet I found myself feeling distanced from it as I read.

A lot of western lovingkindness literature spends the vast majority of its time talking about humans. Every human, they explain, is precious and deserving of infinite love. With discipline, you can learn to love difficult humans. As an afterthought, they speak of love for "all beings," as a kind of vague warm blanket covering non-humans.

How would it change our sense of our own preciousness if we said that one specific wasp was precious and deserving of infinite love? An earwig? A slug? The sugar ants swarming your kitchen counter? These are members of the "all beings" cohort, no? The thing is: I actually do believe those creatures are precious. But I think when we incorporate them fully into our lovingkindness, that alters what preciousness means. Sure, you're special, but also every earthworm is special. You are as special as any earthworm.

I bring this all up, because I think widening the focus to all kinds of creatures brings us to an awe-struck humility -- or maybe even a kind of 'self-indifference' -- which feels so much more delicious to me than an anthropocentric 'self love.' It gets me much closer to the experiences that feel sacred to me. The intense focus on human preciousness feels like a Judeo-Christian hold-over that leaves me a little bored. Being is so much bigger than this.

(50% chance this response is just my inability to fully embrace self-love. But listen slugs are so cool! and I'm like a slug but with limbs! Who needs more self-love than this?)
Profile Image for Ruchita Nemade.
216 reviews12 followers
August 21, 2021
I was honestly bored reading this book.
I'm not saying that it doesn't have some great points but after a while, I felt it dragged.
Profile Image for Viv JM.
692 reviews153 followers
March 27, 2018
I love Sharon Salzberg - she is my go-to for guided meditations, gentle wisdom and all-round loveliness. This worked as an audiobook, in as much as I enjoyed the gentle lull of her voice. However, for full absorption, I think I would have needed a print copy.
Profile Image for Tom Cummings.
56 reviews7 followers
January 3, 2019
Lovingkindness – also known to Buddhist practitioners as “metta” – has no more enthusiastic proponent than the much-admired dharma teacher and author Sharon Salzberg. In her newest book, Real Love, she draws on her expertise in the practice of metta/lovingkindness and elevates its scope from a personal form of meditation practice to a more interpersonal mode of being in the world.

Salzberg describes the actualization of real love as being in “a state where we allow ourselves to be seen clearly by ourselves and by others, and in turn, we offer clear seeing to the world around us”. As with the practice of metta, in cultivating real love as a way of being, we move in a continuously expanding direction – we begin by practicing real love with ourselves, then we incorporate it into our relationships with the significant others in our life, and then finally we extend our efforts so as to include real love in our dealings with every single person we encounter.

This three-step process gives the book its three-part structure. In the first section, we are encouraged to go “beyond the cliché” of the often-distorted narrative we have constructed around our own life, and to develop the kind of self-compassion that allows us to let go of habits and beliefs that no longer serve us. In Salzberg’s words, “what we really need is to change our relationship to what is, to see who we are with the strength of a generous spirit and a wise heart.”

Moving beyond ourselves, in the second section we are urged to consider “love as a verb”, rather than as a noun signifying the romantic connection that we all ardently seek to possess. Much of what Salzberg shares with us here is deeply rooted in the teachings of Buddhism, especially in the profound realization of the impermanent nature of all things. Embracing this simple fact – that everything and everyone (including ourselves) exists in a constant state of change – makes it impossible to treat love as anything other than an ongoing and unending process, or to see a relationship as anything other than “a collaborative effort to make life better for each”. Real love for another “recognize[s] the unpredictable ebb and flow of each person’s emotional needs, and doesn’t seek to control it.”

In the third and last section, we are invited to see the entire world through “the wide lens of compassion”. Once again, Salzberg grounds these chapters in foundational Buddhist principles, in particular those of mindfulness and compassion. And in what was for me the most relevant chapter in the book, “From Anger to Love”, Salzberg makes a powerful case for meeting social injustice with real love rather than raised fists. Here’s a brief, slightly edited excerpt from what she has to say on this topic:

“When anger becomes chronic, we start to see everything through a narrowed lens. Though the energy of anger might lead us to action, it can be so interlaced with fear and tunnel vision that we recklessly lash out. Paying attention actually dissolves anger’s toxicity and allows us to detect the fear and feelings of helplessness that a surge of fury often masks. Finding a way to let go [of the toxicity] doesn’t mean [we] stop feeling angry, [but it] is a radical act of love in and of itself. We aren’t necessarily transforming anger into activism, but we are using the energy of our anger toward collective well-being.”

Every practitioner who engages in political activity of any sort in these polarized times can benefit from reading and reflecting upon the ideas Salzberg has put forward here. In fact, I would argue, anyone – practitioner or not, political activist or not – can benefit in one way or another from developing the habits of “real love” in their life.

As an aid in developing such habits, Salzberg concludes each chapter with a number of suggested exercises – some of them directly involving Buddhist meditation practices (such as, not surprisingly, variations on metta), while others have no particular connection to Buddhism, but are simply pragmatic ways to enhance self-discovery and self-awareness. Readers can pick and choose which of these exercises will be of most benefit to them.

Another helpful feature comes at the end of the book, where Salzberg lists the main “takeaways” from each of the three sections. Perusing this list is like reviewing the notes you may have taken while reading the book – only you’re reading the author’s notes, so you’re getting the authoritative (in the truest sense of the word!) version.

Here is my own favorite takeaway, which I include here as an appendage to the author’s list, and as the closing piece for this review. Recalling an incident that actually occurred to her, Salzberg tells how she was once in Taiwan, travelling by taxi to visit an elderly, ailing, and much-loved teacher from her past, and thinking with sadness “This could be the last time I ever see him.” Then, the taxi driver got lost, and facing the prospect that she would not get there in time to see him at all, her thoughts shifted to the more hopeful stance of “I’d give anything to see him one more time.” Later, she draws from this experience the profound lesson “that, in reality, what we might have in this moment with a friend, with a place, with a dance, with a poem, IS the one more time. Treasure it.”

For me, this lesson sums up everything we need to know, and to practice, in order to meet the world from a place of “real love”. Right here, right now, is always “the one more time”.
Profile Image for Ali.
Author 7 books198 followers
December 4, 2018
A treasury of compassionate wisdom and transformative practices

With a voice like a wise and compassionate aunt we all wish we had, Salzberg conveys principles of lovingkindness, mindfulness and deep connection through stories and simple exercises. One of the centerpieces of the book is the RAIN protocol when dealing with negative emotions: RECOGNIZE it, ACKNOWLEDGE it, INVESTIGATE it with a sense of openness and curiosity, and NON-IDENTIFY with it - it's not you! This is not just one of the foundations of Buddhist psychology but also of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - i.e. excellent life advice that totally works.
The exercises are not just sterling but also easy to implement, e.g. for practicing lovingkindness, forgiveness, and handling anger. I felt their effects immediately and intend to incorporate some into my daily routine, such as the one to extend love to neutral passersby.
And finally there's the final five pages in which she summarizes the whole book - the most concentrated wallop of wisdom to hit my face in a long time. If you feel like you could use more love in your life, here's the recipe book.
Profile Image for Angela Natividad.
516 reviews15 followers
August 23, 2018
I think I knew this book made an impact on me when, one day, I overworked, ate too little and came home feeling like garbage. Instead of being self-recriminating, I was instead filled with sorrow and remorse. I actually apologized to myself and felt it was critical that my body not take this day to mean I did not love it.
211 reviews7 followers
February 7, 2019
Section 1 was pretty helpful for me. I took a lot of notes. Section 2 was deep work for me. I skipped Section 3 because it was a little too hippy "spread the love" for me. I didnt get too much from the exercises either. They were nice but not very practical. Im not at the stage where I can just stop mid argument or emotional breakdown and go into meditation
Profile Image for Ghadi.
28 reviews
June 2, 2019
كتاب مُلامس للروح قبل القلب.. يجعلك تدخل في أعماق نفسك الإنسانية، وتُحب نفسك، ومنها تنطلق لحُب الحياة والعالم أجمع!

يختصر فلسفة الحُب الحقيقي الغير مشروط، الذي يجعلنا أحرارًا، الحُب الشافي..
أعتبره كتاب للتأمل، وتستطيع قراءته أي وقت، ويجب قراءته أكثر من مرة، كي تنعم بالحب الدائم..

يبدأ بالتدريج، بدايةً من حُب الذات، إلى طُرُق تساعد على فعل ذلك، فهو يختلف عن كتب تطوير الذات أن المؤلفة تمنحك طُرُق تأملية واضحة كي تسير عليها وتصل للسلام الداخلي والمحبة والوفرة.
Profile Image for April.
525 reviews9 followers
February 9, 2018
One of the first books in years that I've read about mindfulness and meditation. And the first Sharon Salzberg book I've read, and the first time I've heard about her. I think I read a book back in 2003 about Zen meditation. I like the lessons, research, and the stories presented in this book to relate real life situations/examples to the lesson being talked about. I did some of the exercises and will come back to a few others. I learned the phrases to use for lovingkindness meditations, which are, "May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease." In the past few days, I've done meditations with these phrases and also one about decreasing a chronic pain I have.

There was a weird phrasing in a quote by someone about how all people are conditioned to stereotypes and unconscious expectations, not just white people, on pg. 236, "none of us is immune: Black people may be as conditioned as anyone else by stereotypes and unconscious expectations." It's just weird that it pits this as a white and black thing, not an everyone thing.

"Real love comes with a powerful recognition that we are fully alive and whole, despite our wounds or our fears or our loneliness. It is a state where we allow ourselves to be seen clearly by ourselves and by others, and in turn, we offer clear seeing to the world around us. It is a love that heals." pg. 4

"When we experience inner impoverishment, love for another too easily becomes hunger: for reassurance, for acclaim, for affirmation of our worth. Feeling incomplete inside ourselves, we search for others to complete us. But the equation doesn't work that way: we can't gain from others what we're unable to give ourselves." pg. 15

"It's important to recognize that self-love is an unfolding process that gains strength over time, not a goal with a fixed end point. When we start to pay attention, we see that we're challenged daily to act lovingly on our own behalf. Simple gestures of respect--care of the body, rest for the mind, and beauty for the soul in the form of music and art or nature--are all ways of showing ourselves love. Really, all of our actions--from how we respond when we can't ft into our favorite pair of jeans to the choice of foods we eat--can signify self-love or self-sabotage. So can the way we react when a stranger cuts us off in line, a friend does something hurtful, or we get an unwelcome medical diagnosis." pg. 15

"Real love allows for failure and suffering. All of us have made mistakes, and some of those mistakes were consequential, but you can find a way to relate to them with kindness. No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn. Real love is not about letting yourself off the hook. Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love." pg. 16

"If we neglect our authentic selves, we risk being dominated by others, instead of being in loving relationships with them. But when we open our hearts to the breadth of our experiences, we learn to tune into our needs, unique perceptions, thoughts, and feelings in the present moment, without being trapped by judgments based on the expectations of others. That is how we eventually sense our own worthiness." pg. 46

"This kind of integration arises from intimacy with our emotions and our bodies, as well as with our thoughts. It arises from holding all that we know and want and fear and feel in a space of awareness and self-compassion. If we reject or resent our feelings, we won't have access to that kind of intimacy and integration. And if we define ourselves by each of the ever-changing feelings that cascade through us, how will we ever feel at home in our own bodies and minds?" pg. 46

"RAIN is an acronym for a practice specifically geared to ease emotional confusion and suffering. When a negative or thorny feeling comes up, we pause, remember the four steps cued by the letters, and begin to pay attention in a new way.

R: RECOGNIZE. It is impossible to deal with an emotion--to be resilient in the face of difficulty--unless we acknowledge that we're experiencing it. So the first step is simply to notice what is coming up. . . You don't try to push away or ignore your discomfort. Instead, you look more closely. Oh, you might say to yourself, this feels like anger. Then this might be followed quickly by another thought: And I notice I am judging myself for being angry.

A: ACKNOWLEDGE. The second step is an extension of the first--you accept the feeling and allow it to be there. Put another way, you give yourself permission to feel it. . . Rather than trying to dismiss anger and self-judgment as 'bad' or 'wrong,' simply rename them as 'painful.' This is the entry into self-compassion--you can see your thoughts and emotions arise and create space for them even if they are uncomfortable. You don't take hold of your anger and fixate on it nor do you treat it as an enemy to be suppressed. It can simply be.

I: INVESTIGATE. Now you begin to ask questions and explore your emotions with a sense of openness and curiosity. This feels quite different from when we are fueled by obsessiveness or by a desire for answers or blame. When we're caught up in a reaction, it's easy to fixate on the trigger and say to ourselves, 'I'm so mad at so-and-so that I'm going to tell everyone what he did and destroy him!' rather than examining the emotion itself. There is so much freedom in allowing ourselves to cultivate curiosity and move closer to a feeling, rather than away from it. We might explore how the feeling manifests itself in our bodies and also look at what the feeling contains. Many strong emotions are actually intricate tapestries woven of various strands. Anger, for example, commonly includes moments of sadness, helplessness, and fear. As we get closer to it, an uncomfortable emotion becomes less opaque and solid. We focus less on labeling the discomfort and more on gaining insight. Again, we do not wallow, nor do we repress. Remember that progress doesn't mean that the negative emotions don't come up. It's that instead of feeling hard as steel, they become gauzy, transparent, and available for investigation.

N: NON-IDENTIFY. In the final step of RAIN, we consciously avoid being defined by (identified with) a particular feeling, even as we may engage with it. Feeling angry with a particular person, in a particular conversation, about a particular situation is very different from telling yourself 'I am an angry person and always will be.' You permit yourself to see your own anger, your own fear, your own resentment--whatever is there--and instead of spiraling down into judgement ('I'm such a terrible person'), you make a gentle observation, something like, 'Oh. This is a state of suffering.' This opens the door to a compassionate relationship with yourself, which is the real foundation of a compassionate relationship with others." pg. 52-54

"Mindfulness helps us see the addictive aspect of self-criticism--a repetitive cycle of flaying ourselves again and again, feeling the pain anew. The inner critic may become a kind of companion in our suffering and isolation. As long as we judge ourselves harshly, it can feel as if we're making progress against our many flaws. But in reality, we're only reinforcing our sense of unworthiness." pg. 57

"Still, while under the tyranny of the critic, we believe that self-love depends on constant striving, success, and the love and admiration of others. In other words, we'll be lovable only when we get that promotion, master public speaking, drop fifteen pounds, and never lose our temper, exhibit fear, or cry in front of our children." pg. 58

"Students ask me, 'If I constantly practice self-acceptance, aren't I just allowing myself to be lazy?' The key here is to recognize the difference between self-preoccupation and love. Often when we believe we are practicing self-control or self-discipline, we're actually confining ourselves inside an overly analytical, self-conscious mental chamber. This precludes us from giving and receiving love both from others and ourselves." pg. 58

"Perfection is a brittle state that generates a lot of anxiety, because achieving and maintaining unwavering standards--whether they're internal or external--means we're always under threat. We become focused on avoiding failure, and love for the self cannot be a refuge because it has become too conditional, too dependent on performance." pg. 66

"The illusion that supports perfectionism is the notion that, with superior self-control, we can sustain a perfect life. But of course this is impossible. We may believe self-criticism will help make us 'better,' or more lovable, or even liberate us from suffering. But this is a displaced--and unproductive--use of our energy and attention." pg. 66

"Loving ourselves calls us to give up the illusion that we can control everything and instead focuses us on building our inner resource of resilience. When we learn to respond to disappointments with acceptance, we give ourselves the space to realize that all our experiences--good and bad alike--are opportunities to learn and grow. This itself is an act of love." pg. 66-67

"My ability to share my insights with more freedom came about when I started to connect to myself and to that space of care from within. I shifted my attention away from self-protection and needing to be perfect and focused instead on giving what I had to offer. It was a big shift in intention, a move away from the lonely self to a space of connection. And when I came to this recognition, I found my voice." pg. 68

"There is something profoundly healing about reengaging with our bodies, remembering and rejoining who we are. Just as we need to integrate our emotions in order to love ourselves more fully, so, too, do we need to be reunited with our bodies." pg. 73

"Awake, asleep, or dreaming, your brain is active night and day, a magic lantern. Its neurons interact in constantly shifting patterns of electrical energy and are deeply attuned to others and the outside world. Not only that, but your brain is capable of self-awareness." pg. 75

"It has been wonderful to see how feeling badly betrayed by one's body, and the alienation and humiliation born of that, can transform into a sense of alliance. A newly minted friendship with our bodies brings genuine peace to us, laced through with love." pg. 77

"Rely on guiding precepts:
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the precept to protect life.
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the precept to be generous.
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the precept to protect the sexuality of myself and others.
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the precept to be careful with my speech.
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the precept to be free of intoxicants for a clear mind and heart
." pg. 93

"The idea is that cultivation of positive emotions, including self-love and self-respect, strengthens our inner resources and opens us to a broader range of thoughts and actions. In turn, we gain trust in our resilience and the ability to face whatever surprises life may throw our way. Indeed, life can be stressful, with periods of peril, but we can have confidence in our capacity to meet it, instead of being torn apart by it." pg. 96

"To see and be seen--this very notion might fill us with an expansive sense of satisfaction and ease. We might feel joy at the prospect of being affirmed because of who we are, rather than as a result of any achievement or effort on our part. Too, the thought of seeing and accepting another person for who he or she is might also make us happy. Such mutual recognition feels good, solid, balanced, authentic, and real." pg. 101-102

"From our first breath to our last, we're presented again and again with the opportunity to experience deep, lasting, and transformative connection with other beings: to love them and be loved by them; to show them our true natures and to recognize theirs. In concert with them, we open our hearts to give and receive. We share joy and compassion, struggles and sorrows, gains and losses. And we learn in our bones what it means to be part of something bigger than ourselves." pg. 104

"Centuries ago, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu described a profound and empowering love: 'Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.' And though the earth has spun on its axis countless times since then, we can still hear that truth if we listen for it. As a character in Toni Morrison's novel Jazz says, 'Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it.'" pg. 104

"Love is defined by difficult acts of human compassion and generosity." pg. 105

"In my own teaching, I find it helpful to describe the parallels this way: the secure attachment of Western psychology is actually akin to Buddhist non-attachment; avoidant attachment is the inverse of being mindful and present; and anxious attachment aligns with Buddhist notions of clinging and grasping." pg. 107

"Increasing the quantity of micro-moments supports the function of the vagus nerve, the long cranial nerve that wends its way from the brain to the abdomen, enhancing the body's ability to slow a racing heart and regulate inflammation and glucose levels." pg. 109

"You don't have to love yourself unconditionally before you can give or receive real love. This turns the quest for self-love into yet another self-improvement project--an additional barrier to feeling whole and deserving of love." pg. 112

"Yet this balancing act between self-regard and love for others is delicate; we suffer when our sense of worthiness relies too heavily on what we give or receive. Some of us give away too much of ourselves and call it love. Perhaps we've been told that if we love others enough and sacrifice more, we will ultimately be fulfilled. Some of us try to possess others in order to feel whole. Perhaps we've been told that if we feel control in our relationships, we are more empowered. But when we come from a place of inner impoverishment, love becomes merely hunger: hunger for reassurance, for acclaim, for affirmation of our being." pg. 113

"One foundation of loving relationships is curiosity, keeping open to the idea that we have much to learn even about those we have been close to for decades." pg. 121

"Whatever the source of our imagined ideal--whether we've conjured it from books, songs, movies, real-life role models, or all of the above--it's essential that we bring our notions into the light of awareness. It's only when we start to distinguish reality from fantasy that we can humbly, with eyes wide open, forge loving and sustainable connections with others." pg. 125

"And so we begin with an intention: to stay open to the present, available to curiosity and awe, and to pay attention to the beings the universe sends our way, knowing that we might come to deeply cherish them." pg. 126

"Kindness is not a fixed trait that we either have or lack, but more like a muscle that can be developed and strengthened. We exercise kindness in any moment when we recognize our shared humanity--with all the hopes, dreams, joys, disappointments, vulnerability, and suffering that implies. Such simple but profound awareness levels the playing field. We are all humans doing the best we can." pg. 132

"In conscious relationships, we set the intention to investigate the old stories we tell ourselves and our habits of thinking and behavior. Practically speaking, this means that we take responsibility for our actions and reactions, as well as for defensive strategies such as withdrawing, keeping secrets, or blaming someone else for our suffering." pg. 132

"If we are really thinking about the 'relational ethics' of our relationship, that means I'm sponsoring you to have the best life you can, and you're sponsoring me. We are co-sponsors. We regard our time together as a collaborative effort to make life better for each of us." pg. 144

"If our tendency is to be anxious and grasping, we might try to fill the space between with whatever we think will hold others to us. We try to become indispensable. We're determined to be the most helpful, the sexiest, the most perfect, the smartest, the kindest, the most interesting. Of course, not only are we being inauthentic but also we're often wrong about what the other person really wants from us. We're making assumptions based on our own needs, and we may even be trespassing on the other person's autonomy." pg. 155

"I came to understand that healing has its own rhythm, as does any life transition. Of course, it's not easy to step back and let go; it's human nature to want to seize control when the people we love are suffering. But trying to impose our personal agenda on someone else's experience is the shadow side of love, while real love recognizes that life unfolds at its own pace." pg. 163-164

"Paradoxically, letting go sometimes means allowing ourselves to receive the love and care of others. Our can-do culture has made many of us believe that we should always be self-sufficient. Somewhere along the way, we also got the message that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We often forget that we're interdependent creatures whose very existence depends on the kindness of others, including--with a bow to Tennessee Williams--strangers." pg. 164

"In more ways than any of us can name, love is wrapped up with the idea of expectation. We expect things from the people we love, we expect them to expect things from us. We expect things from the feeling of love itself. And while these expectations differ from person to person, there is a sentiment common among most of us when it comes to love--letting go can feel scary." pg. 170

"The key in letting go is practice. Each time we let go, we disentagle ourselves from our expectations and begin to experience things as they are. We can be with. We can show ourselves repeatedly that letting go is actually a healthy foundation upon which we can open up to real love--to giving, receiving, and experiencing it authentically and organically." pg. 171

"But real forgiveness in close relationships is never easy. It can't be rushed or engineered. The spike of defensiveness we feel when someone advises us to 'forgive and forget' shows just how deep our pain has burrowed. And though people who advise us to do so may have good intentions, forgiveness cannot be achieved on command. That kind of coercive denial could never be healing. When we're told we should simply let go of our genuine feelings of hurt and anger, we may find ourselves defending our pain and our right to continue feeling it." pg. 193-194

"Recognizing that there are many possible forms of forgiveness enables us to explore the possibilities for forgiveness, and what we need to forgive. When we respond to our pain and suffering with love, understanding, and acceptance--for ourselves, as well as others--over time, we can let go of our anger, even when we've been hurt to the core. But that doesn't mean we ever forget." pg. 197

Forgiveness meditation:
To ask forgiveness of others: 'If I have hurt or harmed anyone knowingly or unknowingly, I ask their forgiveness.'
To offer forgiveness to others: 'If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them.'
'I forgive you.'
Forgiveness for ourselves: 'For all of the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer forgiveness.' pg. 205-206

Book: borrowed from SSF Main Library.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Juliette.
353 reviews
January 25, 2020
There are things that I enjoyed about this mediation on lovingkindness. I appreciated that we have to love ourselves first, that we should acknowledge all of our emotions and our past (not bury them), and we should extend that compassion to others and the universe.
But ...
(1) This wasn’t a book that I was excited to pick up and read.
(2) Some of the ways Salzberg described people — “they weren’t your typical boys from the hood” (p 273) after warning against stereotyping — irked me.
(3) I spent a lot of time wondering how the people in this book could travel so much! They were all galavanting to retreats in India, Kenya, Colombia, Taiwan... you name it, they’ve been there. Color me envious.

At least I got to sing Mary J. Blige every time I opened the book.
Profile Image for Owen Cantrell.
135 reviews4 followers
November 1, 2020
Sharon Salzberg is great at translating Buddhist concepts to everyday language. She uses plentiful real world examples to demonstrate the relevance of these ideas. As with all her books, the exercises at the end of each chapter are particularly useful and will require revisiting.
Profile Image for Kate Kinne.
84 reviews
May 25, 2022
I like when stories or quotes are included in books of this type, but there was almost too many throughout this book. Chapters bounced from story snippet to story snippet but I often felt like the stories were unfinished or only partially relevant.
Profile Image for Jack Gibson.
276 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2020
Reading 'Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection' is very much a meditation, not just on how to love others, but first to love oneself through mindfulness and expressing "loving kindness" to everyone you know or interact with, no matter how little or much. The whimsical suggested reply to any awkward interaction of "be glad that I meditate", adds much to not giving up/dismissing human relationships.

'No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.' (Einstein) Packed with real stories and meditative exercises to process thoughts and interactions on our mind, perhaps the "loving kindness" way can provide much in the "life in the fast lane" world kn which we live.
Profile Image for Alex!.
24 reviews5 followers
June 24, 2022

this book was absolutely beautiful and life-changing. this is the first book that i've read and completed on self-love, relationships, and confidence. AND IT WAS AMAZING. i feel like i could type out what i learned about this book but man i would just be typing out the entire book word for word. my small vocab bank can't describe this book O_O

i really like how this book was organized. she splits it into three sections,, each one containing advice, concepts, quotes from other books/studies, and stories she collected from other people or her students.

i would recommend this book to anyone who wants to connect with themselves, others, and the world.

thank you Salzberg <3
Profile Image for Alex Pogue.
42 reviews2 followers
October 18, 2021
This is a hard book to review. It's definitely not a feel-good type book, and it took mental energy to get through some points that hit very close to home.

It showed me the shadow work necessary to overcome childhood trauma so we can finally love fully.

The book reminded me that love isn't always simple - we must trudge through dirty aspects of ourselves and other personalities in order to connect deeply with one another in the world, and it is important to be able to mend yourself (back) to a loving state. Loving those hard-to-love people is difficult as well.

An ooey gooey "everything is love" book just wouldn't be as useful.
1,304 reviews32 followers
April 11, 2017
This book tells what its like to love and be loved. I liked that the book that there are all types of love.
Profile Image for Tera.
17 reviews46 followers
September 16, 2017
A well written book that can provide a lot of assistance in finding and maintaining relationships. I am glad that I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for Larry James.
114 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2017
Real Love approaches the subject of love in all aspects of life. We can all use more love in our life...
Profile Image for Brian.
223 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2019
Lazy and unethical. You must first learn to love yourself before you can love others and you should certainly do this before you write about it.
Profile Image for Shenny.
3 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2017
I know of Sharon Salzberg's work through the teachings of Jack Kornfield and Ram Dass and listened to her podcast on the Be Here Now Network before reading Real Love. Even though I'm a practitioner and meditate daily, I picked up a lot of golden nuggets from the book. To the person beginning their spiritual path or to anyone curious about real love, the book offers different ways to look at love than what we see in our culture and practical action steps to cultivating real love and mindfulness.

In the section, Unloading Our Cultural Baggage, she goes over common misperceptions about love particularly that the height of love is romantic love and that it will rescue and complete us. But "it's the drama of love that we're hooked into in our culture, not the peacefulness of love." Interestingly, Sanskrit has different words to describe love (for teacher, brother, friends, partner, etc), but the English language has only one which leads to confusion.

What I love most about Real Love is how down-to-earth the practice of love is. The author admits times when she wasn't so mindful and went into conditioned responses such as complaining and anger. "Recognizing when our actions don’t match out aspirations can also be an act of love."

And to those afraid of loving everyone: "Loving all others asks for us to open our hearts and embrace our shared humanity with people we don't know well (or at all). However, it does not require getting personally involved with everyone we meet. It does not require us to agree with their actions or views--or to confess our love to strangers on the street."

I ended up highlighting so much in this book. Sharon writes so well. Imagine if everyone in the world read Real Love, how different it would be?
190 reviews2 followers
December 13, 2017
This book came to me at just the right time in my life and really hit home for me. I don’t know if would have been as meaningful for me had it come at another period. It reinforced for me my beliefs and what I’ve been trying to practice in my daily life. Real love isn’t all fireworks and passion, but about making a meaningful connection to others. It starts with having compassion and loving kindness first for yourself, then others. It doesn’t mean everything is perfect and that you will stop getting angry or beating yourself up; you try to recognize and acknowledge your feelings, then accept them for what they are, which is just feelings, not facts. This book shares some useful practices and meditations to help you love yourself and others, and how to be open to life and it’s experiences. More acceptance and less shame/blame!
Profile Image for Trina.
278 reviews
April 16, 2018
Sharon Salzberg's Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection is all about meeting the world with love. It includes stories and short "how-to" lessons on mindfulness. As I read this book, it gave me a lot of think about, especially in how she says, "the capacity for love exists inside ourselves."

I had many takeaways and want to especially remember these:
-"Acceptance is what allows us to realize that all experiences are opportunities to learn and grow."
-"A great foundation for loving others in maintaining a level of curiosity; we can always learn more about those we are close to."
-"Compassion isn't a gift or talent-it's the natural result of paying attention and realizing the infinite opportunities to connect with others."
-"Approaching life with a sense of adventure is always available to use, no matter where we are."
Profile Image for Alison.
257 reviews
May 6, 2020
Sharon Salzberg is like a favorite aunt who could comfort me. I adore her wisdom and her voice is like a warm hug.

In Real Love, we are shown ways to love ourselves, such as through lovingkindness meditations, and how to process difficult emotions (e.g. RAIN: recognize, acknowledge, investigate, non-identify with it). We are also given ways to love others, and the world around us.

Some memorable quotes:

"Saying yes to life frees up our energy to be present in whatever is happening."

"Curiosity is the place where awe is born"

"Instead of gripping tightly to how things are and how they should be, we can train our mind to hold those notions lightly, and begin each day ready to explore."

"The more we cherish the life around us, the more we cherish ourselves. It's a powerful equation."

If you are interested in expanding your possibilities of what love can look like, and want to be present in a less reactive and more calm way, than I encourage you to read (or listen to) this wonderful book.
April 2, 2023
I really like Sharon after reading this book. I’ve never met her and didn’t know who she was but I have an appreciation for her now. She shares a really good perspective of love with us that gave me a comfort to living. Love isn’t impossible and is attainable by everyone because there are many ways to share real love. She doesn’t make it sound easy, but does make it sound possible. With this hope I plan to generate my own stories of loving kindness for myself and others. This book does hop from story to story to illustrate her points. This hopping was frustrating for me as she introduced many new characters in rapid style. For me, these stories distracted from the point I was getting and took me down another path. I felt like I was pulled away from my book to listen to somebody else talk. The summary at the end does give me a clear list of items to take away from each sections. She didn’t need to revisit any stories which makes the ending sweeter than the filling.
Profile Image for Sandy.
348 reviews
February 3, 2018
I really liked the subtitle of this book - the art of mindful connection. Learning how to connect with self, Self, world, and others is a challenging skill and Sharon Salzberg makes it an approachable challenge. She interweaves many schools of thought: Jungian, yogic, Buddhist, and common sense. Her words felt sincere and self-revealing, which I admire. Highly recommended for anyone on a path of self-reflection and authenticity. Not too dense, not too light, just right!
Profile Image for Carlina Scalf.
150 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2020
Loved the book’s progression from love of self, to love of others (personal relationships), to love of others (community/global and local). It showed how all three areas have foundations within each other. The lovingkindness meditations included with most chapters felt transformative in their simplicity — I hope to incorporate them into my practices.
Profile Image for Christine.
68 reviews
April 28, 2020
Lots of good one liners that zing to your heartspace. It felt a bit repetitive by the end, and a little like filler. I did feel like this book was following me around through life as it was pertinent more than once over the time it took to read it.
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