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Reassessing Our Happiness

Sharon Salzberg's Redefining Happiness Talk Examines Compassion

— June 20, 2014 — Keynote Trends
In her redefining happiness talk, Sharon Salzberg suggests that we are conditioned to demean others in order to feel good about ourselves. In this paradigm, compassion becomes a weakness associated with exhaustion, compliance and a lack of boundaries.

While this conditioning is deeply ingrained within us, Salzberg proposes that we disrupt and challenge it. Happiness does not have to be synonymous with hedonism and superficiality. Instead, she suggests that we consider happiness within a framework of resiliency and connection with others. Within this framework, compassion becomes an examination of balance. We need to achieve a balance between compassion for ourselves and compassion for others. Ignoring ourselves is detrimental to our well-being because it is impossible to sustain; we will inevitably grow weary and burn out. However, it also becomes a balance between compassion and discernment. In other words, we need to learn how to be empathetic towards someone and still express our disapproval towards their actions. Finally, we must be able to have compassion while realizing that we will not always be able to fix the problem, or in Salzberg's words, "control the unfolding of the universe."

According to Salzberg, balance is the secret ingredient when it comes to achieving a sustainable sense of compassion and resiliency.