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Real Life summary

Sharon Salzberg

The Journey from Isolation to Openness and Freedom

4.4 (45 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Real Life by Sharon Salzberg is a guidebook for cultivating mindfulness and compassion in our daily lives. It shares personal anecdotes, meditations, and exercises to help us connect with our inner selves and enhance the quality of our relationships.

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    Real Life
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    What keeps us small

    In the Buddhist school of thought, there are three causes of suffering – three hindrances to a life of clarity and connection. These are grasping, aversion, and delusion. 

    Grasping is when we cling to a person, an object, or an experience. This could range from a seemingly innocuous hankering for a square (or three) of chocolate to a medically diagnosed addiction. We typically grasp because we believe we’ll be able to hold onto, or eventually attain, pleasant sensations. 

    Aversion arises when we fight against ourselves, another being, or an experience. This too is a sliding scale, and can include anything from berating yourself for forgetting where you left the keys to full-blown hatred for a political figure. We avert in the hope of somehow sidestepping unpleasant sensations. 

    Delusion is when we disconnect from an experience that may be ambiguous, boring, or simply neutral. As we so heavily lean on pleasant highs and unpleasant lows to define our lives, we space out in the “uneventful” intervals in between. 

    But the thing is, we can’t enjoy a fully engaged life in any of these states. Instead, we need to tap into each of their opposites: peace instead of grasping, compassion instead of aversion, and vibrancy instead of delusion. 

    Buddhist philosophy posits that this possibility is available to each and every one of us, in any moment. Sure, we may have wired some strong neural pathways up until now – but we can also rewire them in an instant. 

    “It’s not quite that simple!” you may exclaim. And no, swimming against the tide of strong conditioning isn’t easy. But it is that simple. So let’s see if we can make it at least a little easier by exploring some practical examples. 

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    What is Real Life about?

    Real Life (2023) is a guide to navigating life’s seasons with clarity and connection. While we all feel small and disconnected at times, we don’t have to remain stuck there. Drawing on a variety of voices, Real Life shares the possibility of a more expansive and aligned experience – even in the face of some of life’s most formidable challenges.

    Real Life Review

    Real Life (2020) by Sharon Salzberg takes readers on a profound exploration of mindfulness and compassion in our everyday lives. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Explores the transformative power of mindfulness and compassion practices in navigating the challenges and complexities of modern life.
    • Offers real-life stories, exercises, and tools that make the principles of mindfulness and compassion accessible and applicable to anyone.
    • Encourages readers to cultivate genuine connection and resilience through self-acceptance, empathy, and understanding.

    Who should read Real Life?

    • Anyone struggling with loneliness, grief, or trauma 
    • Individuals wanting to embrace greater freedom and joy
    • Longtime meditators seeking to deepen their practice

    About the Author

    Sharon Salzberg is a leading meditation teacher and New York Times best-selling author. Credited with playing a significant role in introducing Buddhist practices to the West, Salzberg is known for her focus on vipassana (insight) and metta (lovingkindness). Her previous books include Real Love, Real Happiness, and Lovingkindness

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    Real Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of Real Life?

    The main message of Real Life is to live authentically and find joy in every moment.

    How long does it take to read Real Life?

    The reading time for Real Life varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Real Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Real Life is a compelling read that explores the power of mindfulness and living in the present moment. It's definitely worth diving into.

    Who is the author of Real Life?

    The author of Real Life is Sharon Salzberg.

    What to read after Real Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Real Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
    • Real Change by Sharon Salzberg
    • Lighter by Yung Pueblo
    • Co-Intelligence by Ethan Mollick
    • A Year of Positive Thinking by Cyndie Spiegel