Unit 1 | The Journey from Constriction to Expansion
In our first unit, we map out the journey. We may feel like we have no options, that we will always react in the same way to problems and situations. It really can feel that way. But something else can happen. With practice, we can relate to our experiences in a different way. This brings a new perspective and possibilities. We begin to see a path that leads from where we are to where we want to be.
Unit 2 | What Makes Us Feel Constricted?
In this section, we're exploring contraction. We'll be looking at those times when we tend to feel the most constricted, the most contracted. When we have those moments of being overwhelmed by constricting elements such as craving and aversion, we do feel we have very few options. Our creativity is blunted and we feel disconnected from anything else. Our reality shrinks down to a single issue. This is not to say that contraction in itself is bad or wrong to feel, but if it becomes a steady state, obviously we suffer a lot. And usually when we suffer a lot, we distribute it in some way to those around us.
One of the things we can do in response to the suffering that is powerful is to really get curious about where happiness is actually to be found. This is something those of you who practice mindfulness can look at, because what is often emphasized tremendously in the practice of mindfulness is very, very important: inhabiting our lives more fully.
Unit 3 | Cultivating Expansion
When do we feel most expansive and how can we enhance that feeling and move toward it? One way we can begin to explore expansiveness is by looking at the emotion of awe: what we feel when we look up in wonder at a sky full of twinkling stars, or sit by a gurgling mountain stream in a strand of old growth trees, or feel the raw power of the wind rattling our windows. When we're awestruck our perception of ourselves in relation to the larger world changes.
People sometimes say they feel smaller, less significant, or diminished. What I think is diminished, though, is not our sense of inherent worth, but our self-preoccupation. We don't feel less than or humiliated in any way. Instead, we appreciate ourselves as more interrelated to the larger existence we inhabit. We're lifted up to it through profound connection, inviting us to consider what helps us expand and beyond our limited preoccupation with ourselves. I want a point not just to awe but to a range of positive qualities such as love, compassion, gratitude, and joy in others that signify expansion.
Unit 4 | The Journey to Meet Others
In this section of our course we'll look at what we take with us. We'll look at the baggage we consciously and unconsciously bring along with us and get a sense of what we'd best leave behind and what we'd benefit from bringing along with us. A tendency to cling to the stuff of this world pushes us to drag our physical possessions, emotional baggage, old assumptions, and habitual reactions to every transition.
Letting go is profoundly honest and grounded firmly in the truth of what is. That's why it's such a release. We can begin to let go of the need for everything to be perfect in order for us to let go. Rather, by the time we reach this stage, we are beyond the need or desire for an agenda. We have no time or use for manipulating, but it often takes time and practice to unlearn our tendencies for grasping onto everything that crosses our path.
Unit 5 | We Are Not Alone
The importance of connecting with others on this journey reflects a profound human need. Perhaps because I know so many people who spend vast amounts of time alone and are also flourishing, I like the distinction between solitude and loneliness. Loneliness has elements of feeling abandoned, discounted, not belonging. It's an incredibly painful, constricted state. What defines loneliness is our internal degree of discomfort. We yearn for things to be other than the way they are.
But solitude, on the other hand, is different. Many of us undertake solitude as a chance to connect with ourselves without distraction and disturbance. It can enhance our personal growth and resilience. That's one of the really surprising things about meditation. In my experience, it could look like the most solitary activity in the universe when you might practice alone, maybe with your eyes closed. But somehow, in the process of doing it, we find one another. We can have such a powerful sense of connection to one another when we connect with others.
Unit 6 | Aspiration
What happens when this greater aspiration awakens within us? We no longer just receive the story of our lives. We discover a new sense of agency in the writing or rewriting of it. So how do we live more fully as ourselves with growing purpose and interests and joy?
Aspiration is not the same as demanding that things have to work out a certain way—the way I want them to—but rather it's having a really big vision of possibility. I think of it not even as intention so much, although intention is a manifestation of it. It's like having a North Star, having principles, values, and meaning guides us. Goals are good and intentions are good. But having some knowledge of what's underlying that, I think, is even better.
"Sharon has the experience, knowledge, wisdom and compassion to really connect with people. Excellent course content and delivery."
"I loved this course! I've been practicing meditation for many years, but Sharon's explanations are so clear and wise, I learned many new things."
"This was my first introduction to Sharon Salzberg's teaching, and I couldn't have been more satisfied. She's practical, kind, and down-to-earth. I really feel like I understand the framework of The Whole Path now."
"Sharon is an amazing teacher. She expresses complex teachings succinctly and with great care. I learned so much from this course and am thankful for it and for Sharon’s willingness to share her wisdom."
"Excellent course. Great insight into meditation and mindfulness techniques! Sharon is a wonderful teacher and very knowledgeable."
"This course was the perfect antidote for dealing with difficult times; and even more importantly, helped instill the qualities needed to live our lives more skillfully as we move forward."