Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 127 – A Mother’s Journey Into the Science of Attachment with Bethany Saltman

For episode 127 of the Metta Hour, Sharon chats with Bethany Saltman about her new book, Strange Situation.: A Mother’s Journey Into the Science of Attachment

For episode 127 of the Metta Hour, Sharon chats with Bethany Saltman about her new book, Strange Situation.

Bethany is an author, award-winning editor, and researcher. Her work can be seen in magazines like the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Parents, Town & Country, and many others. Her first book, “Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey Into the Science of Attachment” was just released in April of 2020. In this conversation, Bethany and Sharon discuss attachment theory in the Buddhist perspective, and how it can serve as the ground for tuning into life in a softer and fuller way. To close the conversation, Bethany leads a short Zazen meditation practice.

A Process of Surrender

Bethany shares how she found Zen Buddhism, particularly the practice of Zazen. Seeing herself more as an intellectual and a feminist, Bethany was not interested in submission or surrender of any kind, which was how she personally characterized all religion at the time. It was during a difficult period that a chance finding of the book Nothing Special: Living Zen sparked within her a deep intrigue in the Dharma, eventually leading her to incrementally adopt an ever-deepening meditation practice. Through this she began to understand that surrendering was actually exactly what she needed because she was fighting everything around her, including herself.


“I began to see that I could fight for what I thought was important, but I didn’t have to be in conflict with the world in the same way, and if I could learn to be more in touch with myself I could actually be in a flow with reality much more. That’s what I discovered in meditation. It wasn’t surrendering as much as it was letting go, and letting myself be who I really am, instead of this fighting machine.” – Bethany Saltman

For an impassioned conversation on revolutionary love, check out Ep. 126 of the Metta Hour
Strange Situation (11:20)

Prompted by Sharon, Bethany explores the inspiration behind her new book, Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey Into the Science of Attachment. When her daughter was born, Bethany was waiting for some kind of personal maternal transformation to take place; one that never happened. If anything, she felt more edgy and irritable than ever. Through her magazine column on being a Buddhist mother, she started to learn about attachment from a scientific perspective, leading her to Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation laboratory procedure.

“[The Strange Situation] is a series of reunions and separations where [Mary Ainsworth] sees how a child uses a parent as a secure base in times of stress. That’s what the attachment system in our bodies is. That’s it’s function, is to teach us how to look for security in times of stress.” – Bethany Saltman

Deconstruct and illuminate the concept of attachment revealed on Ep. 44 of the Heart Wisdom
Secure Attachment (28:44)

Sharon and Bethany talk about the importance of being true and honest with yourself. In order to take care of yourself as a parent, you have to be aware of yourself as a parent. There is so much working against this; the patriarchy, society, the culture of dehumanization, and the “should” or “supposed to be” of motherhood. The science says the way to develop a secure attachment with your child is to become secure with yourself.

“Regardless of who we are, or our bio, or otherwise connection to the child we hope to raise well; we nurture secure children by becoming secure in ourselves, by becoming more supple, and receptive and flexible in our own minds.” – Bethany Saltman

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