Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 172 – Remembering Bell Hooks

For episode 172 of the Metta Hour, we bring you a special memorial episode of bell hooks.

For episode 172 of the Metta Hour, we bring you a special memorial episode in honor of Bell Hooks.

This episode features Sharon in conversation with bell and was originally released in May of 2017 as part of the Real Love Podcast Series. We’re re-releasing it now to honor bell’s legacy and teaching after her recent passing in December of 2021. Bell hooks is the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins – a cultural critic, feminist theorist, and world-acclaimed author. She has been named a leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly, as well as one of Utne Reader’s 100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life. This conversation was recorded live at the JCC Manhattan in 2017 and moderated by Melvin McLeod, the Editor-in-Chief of Lion’s Roar magazine.

Learn more about bell’s work at

Experiencing Real Love

Sharon starts the conversation with a loving-kindness meditation directed towards those in our lives that have been involved in bringing us to this moment on our Dharma path. bell hooks reflects on Sharon’s role in her life and how deeply she was affected by reading Sharon’s book, “Real Love.”

“It is fascinating to me on one hand, as Sharon will talk about in ‘Real Love,’ we are so obsessed with romance, but in fact I find people very turned off to the practice of love. That when you tell them that there is really a practice, there is really a way that we have to learn what it is to love. Sharon evokes in her book is what she calls our innate capacity to love, but I am not sure many people believe in that really.” – bell hooks

Love: A Difficult Practice (14:30)

Sharon and bell discuss the difficulty of cultivating love in our culture today. Bell discusses the importance of practicing love, even when we are afraid to do so.

“In a culture of domination, it is extremely hard to cultivate love or to be love. I especially think of that at this moment of our political history as a nation, when there is so much disrespect afloat. Respect comes from the word meaning ‘to look at.’ I feel like we are definitely as a nation looking at one another without loving-kindness or compassion.” – bell hooks

The Power of Love (18:00)

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about love as a transformational force, not the meek view of love that many have come to know. Bell and Sharon talk about the transformative power that comes with the practice of love. They also discuss whether or not it is possible to love another without loving yourself completely or if what we are doing is just caring for them.

“There is a crucial national question right now, ‘How can we return ourselves to a place of loving-kindness? Especially in relationship to the political parties that are in power at this point in time; and not in fact feel like it is ok, because we disagree, to relate with hate, negativity or shaming. Never before has shaming been so deep in our media as I think right now in our nation.” – bell hooks

Questions on the ‘Other’ (28:50)

Questions from the live audience. Where do we go to find the strength to love an “other” and what steps can be taken to prevent us from identifying the “other” to begin with? An audience member seeks help in looking past the prejudice and lack of love she feels towards her greatest group of “others” because of the injustices that were done to her own group generations before.

“I don’t want to go through the world believing that every person that is deemed ‘other’ is seeking for me to be their slave or ‘mammy’ for them. So how do I distinguish the spirit of serving from being a victim? Again, I find it is in the practice of discernment.” – bell hooks