#WW🥰: Dhamma advice for hopeless romantics…a nun shares more

#WW🥰: Dhamma advice for hopeless romantics…a nun shares more

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

As more peers get married, there is sometimes a creeping sense of urgency to find a partner. How should we react to the idea of love? For those in love, how do we maintain our relationship through the tough and easy times?

1. Waiting for someone to ‘supply’ you love? Think again

2. Curiousity may kill the cat…but not your relationship

Waiting for someone to ‘supply’ you love? Think again

woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Venerable Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, shares why and how we should rethink the way we approach love. Most people fall in love with the idea of love and not the person. She explains, in under 4 mins, why that is a tricky approach to understanding love.

Why we like it

As we grow through the stages of life and see more friends get married…we may feel the rush to settle down. But Tenzin Palmo reminds us to chill and first understand ourselves. We have to first be fulfilled before ‘chasing’ love.

“They think that the more they hold on to someone, the more that it shows that they care about that. But it is not, they are trying to grasp at something because they are afraid that they themselves might be hurt.”

“Attachment says ‘I love you therefore i want you to make me happy’. Genuine love says ‘I love you and I want you to be happy.’ “

Wise Steps

Reflect on our idea of love. Is it attachment or real love? The more we grasp, the more afraid we are to lose.

Watch the video here!

See what we wrote on expectations and finding love

Curiousity may kill the cat…but not your relationship

black and white cat lying on brown bamboo chair inside room
Unsplash: The cat

What’s going on here

@alifecoloredamber, a therapist, shares how we can reshape the way we ask questions in our relationship to build deeper bonds.

Why we like it

This short post reminds us of actionable ways we can interact with our partners. When tough times strike us, we often resort to destructive ways of communication. Amber, the therapist, gives us ways to rewire our communication style.

“Remember, you both come to life with your own subjective experiences, and making assumptions is often damaging.”

Wise Steps

Follow her tips for a happier and more curious relationship!


Buddhism & Pre-Marital Sex: Can or Not Ah

Buddhism & Pre-Marital Sex: Can or Not Ah

TLDR: Premarital sex, simply put, is sexual activity between people who are unmarried to each other. In contrast, abstinence and chastity are ideals that have been largely promoted in society and form a large part of our education systems, in particular when it comes to sexual education. Where did the Buddha stand on this?

But why is premarital sex such a big deal?

The idea of sex can be considered as a sacred act between people. In the Asian tradition, marriage and family are thought to be valuable and central to our society. Hence, everything that falls under the umbrella of marriage and family is viewed similarly. Remaining as a virgin until marriage can be seen as the symbol of purity, like a complete package deal to your husband/wife-to-be. This is generally the perception of the society at large when it comes to pre-marital sex.

In the Buddhist context, lay Buddhists would follow the moral code of conduct, specifically, the five precepts. Sexual acts would therefore tie in with the third of the five precepts, namely, undertaking the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

So what is misconduct in this context?

Broadly, sexual misconduct can be considered as having sex with an underage person, one in spiritual training/sworn on celibacy, married, or engaged person, or any act that is prohibited by the law (e.g. rape). 

The purpose of precepts is to prevent us from causing harm and pain to others driven by one’s lust and gratification. 

By extension, following the precepts empower us to live a life free from guilt and remorse.

Ultimately, we got to ask ourselves what the intention and purpose of the act is. The concept of misconduct or sexual activity in itself could cascade into the poisons of suffering, as described by the Buddha (greed, hatred, and delusion). This broader definition of misconduct is relevant when we examine the relationship between pre-marital sex and Buddhist values.

So in short, up to this point, yes you can. However, nothing in this world comes easy right? Likewise, ‘T&C’ applies.

So do these definitions answer the question?

We have now defined both pre-marital sex and the relevant precepts in Buddhism. In the Buddha’s time, pre-marital sex is not an issue as women were not allowed in public without a chaperone. Hence, the third precept was meant to protect women in that period. Naturally, nothing in Buddhism that we have defined so far outright prohibits pre-marital sex. Of course, this definition is non-exhaustive, but in the most general sense of the precepts, this is what they imply.

Also in general, Buddhism is a free religion in that although there is a fixed set of principles, the practitioners are at liberty to decide if they wish to adhere to them, depending on their desire to progress further in their spiritual path of practice. 

The precepts are general guidelines of not harming both oneself and others.

So at least until now, there are no direct contradictions between the precepts and the act of pre-marital sex. Nevertheless, the reality is usually not that simple because there are still many indirect consequences of any act that we do, i.e. kamma.

What are the possible consequences?

While the act of pre-marital sex itself does not directly contradict Buddhist values, it is also not an action without consequences. 

One obvious unintended outcome is an unplanned pregnancy. 

While the pregnancy itself is fine, an unplanned one may lead to abortion, which constitutes an act of killing in Buddhism, breaking the first of the five precepts (to abstain from taking the life of another being).

Regardless of any decisions made post-pregnancy, the pregnancy itself could lead to social stigma, and that could negatively impact one’s lifestyle, especially the emotional and mental aspects. 

There could also be objections from the family, leading to possible tension and in the worst-case scenario, the breaking up of a family as a new one is formed. 

Depending on the stage of life in which the involved parties are in, it could also be detrimental to one’s career, both for the baby carrier and the partner. The impact on the one who is pregnant is obvious, but even for the partner, who may not have to literally carry the baby, might still have to make difficult decisions, i.e. if the individual is studying and needs to work to make ends meet.

It is important to realise that often shotgun marriages can also be a shotgun aimed at others, shattering the target and resulting in third party damage too. 

There is a complexity that comes with unplanned pregnancies and can quickly cause things to spiral downhill. Both parties in a relationship need to be prepared to shoulder any responsibilities and a conversation needs to be had with regard to how comfortable everyone is with the risk.

Unplanned pregnancies are not the only possible consequence of pre-marital sex; it is simply the most commonly discussed subject matter. 

Its purpose here is to inform us that while the act of pre-marital sex itself is not forbidden, chances of subsequent not-so-ideal results are high. This would contradict the Buddhists principles.

Now what?

Are these consequences deal breakers?

Well, at the end of the day it depends on how comfortable each person is with the stakes involved; all hell breaks loose versus the value and pleasure of sex as part of a relationship. There are ways to mitigate these repercussions as well.

These need not be deal breakers because there are mitigating factors, like education and mutually agreed upon possible ramifications*.

*For example, in scenarios where the parties involved have communicated and are aware of the implications. As such, it will be okay if they are willing to take the risks and (possibly) responsibilities while having a comprehensive understanding of what pre-marital sex entails.

How to overcome lust?

Sexual desire is a form of craving which leads to more suffering (dukkha), and therefore needs to be minimised and extricated as a precondition for bringing dukkha to an end.

If the above factors are a “deal-breaker” for you, you can consider the following methods to rein in your biological urges or animalistic instinct.

The most common antidote taught by the Buddha for learning how to train your (inner) dragon is to contemplate on the 32 body parts and its unattractiveness. 

The goal of this meditation method is to weaken your inner dragon by robbing it of reasons to find a person attractive. This allows us to see the body in a deconstructed manner, with a probing scrutiny grounded in dispassion, handicapping the dragon to regard the body as beautiful or desirable. With the right effort, infatuation can be countered.

The basis for this meditation lies in the idea that beauty is not something that one should be chasing after as the body is not permanent as we like it to be. This message is emphasised in the story of a beautiful courtesan where nobody desires her dead decaying maggot-filled corpse. Men in the kingdom would bid huge amounts for her services when she was alive but once she passed away, no one would even pay a cent to be near her body.

Alternatively, we can also examine the impermanence of the body. 

This body of ours that is born is subjected to old age, sickness and eventually, death. Whatever that we viewed as appealing right now will one day change, be it whether it is due to internal or external factors. 

Intricately linked to this is another story where a beauty-obsessed Queen witnessed for herself a young beautiful lady turning sickly, old and ugly and realised the valueless of the body. In the short run, we run after beauty only to be disappointed when we age.

Consequently, satisfying one’s sexual urges right now would lead to more craving, causing disappointment when the impermanent body changes.

So what does this mean in the grand scheme of things?

You are the owner and heir of your actions/kamma, it follows you like a shadow. At the end of the day, your life is your choice. The rule of thumb, if you want to uphold your precepts, is that when in doubt/scare/worried, the answer is don’t do it.

Premarital sex is a personal activity and decision, involving at least two parties. Buddhism is generally a free religion, just stay away from harming yourself and others. Avoid evil, do good, and if possible, purify your minds.   

Be kind; stay safe, well and happy! Suki hontu! …


Wise Steps

  • If you are in a intimate relationship (pre-marriage), have a conversation about sex with your partner to ensure you two are aware of the consequences and also the personal boundaries
  • Recall that while you two may be fine with it, there are ramifications beyond you two (family/school/career/social circles)
  • When in doubt, refrain from doing it 
Being In Love with Love vs Being In Love with a Person

Being In Love with Love vs Being In Love with a Person

TLDR: Being in love with love is different from being in love with a person. Being in love with another brings sadness, excitement and passion. Being in love with love brings peace, joy and rapture.

This is a reflection piece as contemplated by the author based on the Buddha’s teachings. As such, it may not contain the truths as taught by the Buddha. The author hopes the reader takes away useful bits that may resonate and discard whatever parts (or the whole article) that make no sense without any aversion. 

I have not listened to popular music for quite a long time. I wouldn’t know what are the most popular songs of the last decade. I also have not had that intense rush of passion or interest in another person for that same amount of time. Recently I decided to listen to songs of my youth. I don’t know if it is the right choice because these songs brought up particular memories for me. 

It is interesting how most of my strongest memories have to do with my youth. I am guessing raging hormones of youth brought about stronger emotions that led to deeper impressions made on the mind. According to Buddhist cosmology, we have been reborn countless times–however, as the music carried my mind to the past, experiences of my youth still seem so fresh in my mind as if I’ve lived them for the first time.

What is love?

Love is too big a word for anyone to express. In Western movies, characters who express love toward one another make it seem like a big deal. But still, that is not love.

The word, “love”, is used too frivolously in our society. 

We romanticise feelings for another person just as we romanticise love itself. Love in its true meaning is unconditional. Unconditional love is hard to find on earth.

The closest would be that of a mother’s love towards her child. Therefore love would have the elements of sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, perseverance and faith.

The mother is also able to let the child go because of love. But she is readily available when the child needs help.

Attachment not love

If you are unable to wish your other half happiness and goodwill if s/he leaves you, what you have is not love but attachment.

Also, if you are unable to accept and forgive your partner’s bad habits with patience and compassion, that is not love. What we have is attachment and a sense of responsibility towards our partners.

I found that in all of my relationships, I have never really loved anyone. I would do things to make myself feel better and make others feel bad in the name of love. There is an egoic possessiveness towards all of them. Looking back now, I can only feel compassion for my own ignorance and for the ones who had to suffer me.

Our obsession with love

The human race is always looking for love. This is evident from the many popular romantic and breakup songs in pop culture.

We seek happy endings in love. Many years ago, a friend’s father passed away. The only wish he had not fulfilled was finding true love. This is even after being married, begetting children and divorcing. That is because I was judging my friend’s father from my perspective. I would not marry unless I love the other. Therefore I was surprised he was still seeking true love on his deathbed.

I have not consciously looked for love with another person for the longest time. Although that thought did pop up every now and then. Listening to songs of my youth reminded me of my first love and despite it being such a long time ago, I still cherished that relationship and have goodwill towards my first love. The relationship brought up bittersweet memories. But the relationship is not something I would like to experience again.

Recently, I witnessed a friend’s misery and happiness from her attachment to her partner and it reminded me of the pitfalls of romance. 

Romance brings about happiness only when the other meets our conditions and vice versa.

Being in love with love

There is a way to be in love and be happy without involving another person. That is to be in love with love itself. In all religions, from Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism to Sikhism, there are practices on the contemplation of love. Love is universal as taught by all religions, and we seem to have misunderstood love by trying to find it in another person.

Jesus and the Buddha (two of whom I am most familiar with), both taught and possessed unconditional love. These two great teachers were themselves unconditional love and so they did not need to seek it from elsewhere.

It makes sense why they need not seek love from others. If we feel that we are enough and full of love within, we will have lots of love to share and there will be no need to get it from others.

In Buddhist practice, the Buddha taught us to cultivate love in our hearts and to share it with all beings. I think the difficulty lies in cultivating love in our own hearts because we are so used to romantic love which is dependent on the sight of another. Though love itself and our ‘love’ for another differs in quality. Our “love” for another is narrow because we only can love the object of our affection and depend on this object to further grow this love in our hearts. Love, in reality, is wide and does not depend on others to do certain things or be a certain way for us to have love in our hearts.

How to cultivate love in our hearts?

Buddhist meditation teaches us various ways to develop love in our hearts. One way is to think of a person we love and respect and to pay attention to the love that arises in our hearts.

We then radiate it throughout our bodies and spread it out in all directions.

You can also spread the love by thinking of various people, animals, the earth and the universe. It helps to smile when doing this meditation because smiling relaxes oneself and helps to develop love and kindness.

Similarities between being in love with love and with another

When we are in love with another person, we can’t help but think of that person. We feel drawn to that person, we yearn to understand them and to know their secrets. We want to be united with that person, to be intimate and to relate to him or her. We also hope to be able to please our partner.

When I was doing a home retreat on loving-kindness, that was how I felt. I enjoyed thinking about love. That love in my heart contained elements of joy and lightness. I wanted to draw close to it and was not interested in others. However, I did not go deep enough to become intimate in that love or to know its secrets. 

Thinking of the Buddha to cultivate love

For those who need the image of another to bring up love, you can always think of the Buddha or other religious teachers.

I thought of the Buddha’s immense love and compassion for all those around him. This exercise managed to cultivate those qualities in my mind during meditation.

However, I am not spending enough time thinking about the Buddha’s qualities of love and compassion in daily life. I wish it would occupy at least two-thirds of my mind at all times. 

Being in love with love is indeed different from being in love with a person. Love that depends on a person includes elements of sadness, longing, discontentment and excitement.

One could even get depressed when ignored or rejected by the object of attraction.

But love itself is different. There is no rejection, no longing, no sadness or excitement. Love includes feelings of joy, peace and rapture. 

Since it is virtually impossible to find love from another person, perhaps we can only love another when we ourselves become love by being in love with love.


Wise Steps:

  • Love begins from the self. To be able to love others, we have to love ourselves. Love is like a fire on a candle that lights up the room. Start to love yourself by first forgiving yourself.
  • Bring to your mind a living spiritual friend whom you admire and think of his or her qualities of love.
  • Contemplate the loving kindness, compassion and equanimity of the Buddha. Thinking of these qualities can also help to bring up these feelings within yourself.
#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

#WW: 🤭And…I wish I didn’t say that

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

We often talk about finding love. However, it is rare to talk about how we can maintain love. With Valentine’s Day just flying pass us, how do we maintain relationships? (Clue: It has nothing to do with creating catchy couple hashtags). Here are two stories we have got for you today!

1. How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

How to not screw up your relationship with poor communication

purple and yellow abstract painting
Unsplash: Poor Communication

What’s going on here

Nawal, an Instagrammer who talks about neurology, shares four ways we can screw up our relationships by communicating wrongly. Avoid the four horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Use the antidotes she recommends!

Why we like it

Nawal places the 4 things to avoid in a relationship in a very accessible manner with the solutions to them. We all have tendencies to fall into one of these traps especially when talking about difficult topics in a relationship/friendship. Don’t kick the can down the road and engage mindfully and holistically!

“When the conflict becomes too much to handle, people might fade out of the conversation by turning away, staying quiet, replying with one word, or completely ignoring the partner. This is ineffective because it’s an evasive response where no problems are solved.”

Wise Steps

Be very mindful of any of these horsemen in your relationships. Capture them before they capture you

Read it here or below

2. Overthinking? This horse’s advice might help you

woman covering eyes with hand
Unsplash

What’s going on here

A Grenfell Firefighter shares how he overcomes overthinking by borrowing a quote from The Boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse. He shares how that quote helps us to shift from a huge far-away goal towards our next step.

Why we like it

“Think long term!” can sometimes be jarring advice as we navigate an uncertain world. This Tiktok video helps us to prioritise what matters now and reduce the overthinkers in us.

“We look at how long a journey it is and feel overwhelmed. Instead of thinking of that. Just go right, I am not going to worry about that because that will come”

Wise Steps

Sometimes we tend to tie our self worth to huge outcomes, crippling us from taking the first step. Maybe just start by taking the steps ahead of us!

Enjoy the video here or below!


Ticking Boxes to Find your Life Partner? Here is what I Realised

Ticking Boxes to Find your Life Partner? Here is what I Realised

TLDR: It is not uncommon to start any connections/interactions with exchanging expectations, the transactional nature in mind. Have we stopped and asked ourselves, is that helpful in living fulfilling enriching relationships?

“You have changed” – this ran through my mind when my then-boyfriend told me he preferred to spend the weekend apart from each other after long busy weeks at work when we had plans to meet. Little did I know that it marks the beginning of my conscious contemplation of what a ‘life partnership’ constitutes.

Long story short, we spent the final moments of our ‘relationship’ trying to point fingers at each other and wanting to change the other person into the ideal image in our mind.

I was exhausted and felt I have turned into this ugly person (not figuratively, of course 😊) and called it off. 

Having been immersed in personal development themes for some time now, I took the subsequent weeks and months to reflect and review. “What was that experience trying to teach me?”, “What have I learnt from it and how will I respond in a more helpful way for the relationship in future?” – these questions were coming up, nudging me to honestly find answers within. 

Life Keeps Sending You Messages…Are You Receiving Them?

It is true, life will keep sending the same lessons in one form or another if we did not fully understand the whole message the first time around. Deeper reflection surfaced to me that I was holding onto certain expectations strongly. 

The idea that my boyfriend should be caring, consistent with his words and actions, generous – written in ‘the list’ (no joke, I did have a list of 10 qualities of a life partner!). 

On the surface, it might seem reasonable to have expectations for someone I consider spending the rest of my life with (or however long it turns out to be). Many relationship experts even encourage both parties to clarify expectations early and regularly to avoid future misalignment or disappointment.

While I am not speaking against these experts, I have now taken another angle to this topic. 

Reviewing my experience to date, I realise I have adopted my parents and society’s view that I need to have the career, the spouse and the child(ren) to be considered successful in life (whatnot with my mom’s regular comment of “You are my only worry now, that your brothers have their own families”). 

There were rebel days when I challenged my mom with “Is my life purpose only to get married and have children then?” which she had no ready and convincing answer to. 

Ticking The Boxes Of Society

Sure, many are happy with ticking these boxes and it is not the intention to reduce those ‘accomplishments’ and make them any less. I too would find joy in simple family life, at the same time I have the inkling there is more to life than just ticking the boxes. 

I restarted contemplation practice in silence, coinciding with the Circuit Breaker period which gave much-needed space for such retrospection.

Various thoughts and feelings arose; from questioning my worth as an individual, to swinging moods of wanting to take back my decision – all are valid experiences, though might not be the truth. 

I dutifully journal the thoughts that arise during those sessions and find myself acquainted with a friend who nudges me to review my beliefs and expectations on everything. This included the impermanent nature of life, personal relationship expectations.

And the journey begins.. more questions surface “Who’s to say life has to be lived only this way?”, “How can I be sure that my expectations are reasonable?”, “Where have I picked up these beliefs, do I truly believe them?”. With more contemplation, the questions get deeper and more challenging. And I face them one after another as there isn’t much to lose. 

Monologues And Realisations

The first realisation arises: this person is not my boyfriend, he is a person of his own – with his habits, preferences and nature of mind. I cannot dictate how he should behave to my liking and not to my disliking. 

It was my strong grasping of an image of how he should be that contributed to the arguments and blames. It was almost like I had these monologues in my mind during our interactions – “You do this, that’s why I love you”, “You are like that, and I dislike that part of you”. Although it is part of human experience to have preferences, it does not mean these preferences are the be-all and end-all. 

It is okay to have them, it is even more important to be aware of them as they are, preferences – which is also changeable.

The outside world serves as a mirror to me, reflecting the part that I value and dislike of myself. Being clear on my values serves as the lighthouse for life’s journey, though it is not my position to demand that others align to them

In the case they do have similar values, we might have a great time together! Otherwise, it is an opportunity for me to expand my worldview or even practice being kind to others who are different from me. At the end of the day, there is no need to see me and others as opponents in a battle.

Wanting to be with someone with qualities in the list is probably not as within my control as being someone with those qualities. 

And if I need to ask for someone to be a decent human being (there might be judgment here too), he/she is probably not someone whom I want to associate with, at least not for long. 

Even more, wanting someone to be a certain way so that I feel pleasure or ‘happy’ is fleeting – like trying to draw on the sandy beach, it will be wiped out by each splash of waves. 

That pleasure and happiness will change when (not if) the person changes for whatever reason. As we learn, the nature of life is ever-changing – the impermanence lesson which we are trying to truly understand.

Of course, I have not decoded the mystery of relationships and dare not claim to know even a tiny bit of it. This is my learning so far, and I have felt more peace today with what is than ever before. Who knows, life might consider me receiving the message now and send me another lesson to learn 😊


Wise steps:

  • Understand the difference between grasping on expectations and practising our life values

  • Embodying values within ourselves, rather than demanding the qualities from others, will bring about a more peaceful state of mind

  • Whenever there is an inclination to place a source of pleasure on something or someone, pause and ask “is this right action based on right view?”
#WW: 🥺My husband’s cheating led me to the Dhamma

#WW: 🥺My husband’s cheating led me to the Dhamma

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

2 stories for you today!

The week of love is coming up! We take a creative (maybe contrarian) spin this week on sharing a broken love can lead to the Dhamma and how to love our work.

1. How my husband’s affair led me to the Dhamma

2. How to love your work

How my husband’s affair led me to the Dhamma

broken blue ceramic plate
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Venerable Pema Chodron, a famous Tibetan Nun & author of “When Things Fall Apart“, shares how she became a Buddhist! How something really dark in her life transformed her into a Dhamma practitioner.

Why we like it

We can sometimes think of monastics as people who led comfortable lives and decided to renounce all worldly possessions. However, some come to the Dhamma and monastic life from a deeply traumatic experience. This shows the humanising part of Sangha and an eye-opener to how she dealt with the pain when she was enjoying the heights of her career and life.

“What i was feeling (anger & negativity) was a key to something rather than an obstacle to something.”

Wise Steps

When things fall apart, where do we turn to? Do we allow ourselves to feel the pain or numb it away?

Watch it here or below

How to love your work

white desk lamp beside green plant
Unsplash

What’s going on here

School of Life (SOL) makes a video on how we can have a better relationship with our work. The five mins video touches on aspirations and finding meaning in our work. Loving your work, SOL argues, doesn’t start with your work.

Why we like it

With 1 in 4 Singaporeans planning to resign within the next few months, this matter more than ever. This video is easy to digest and makes us think deeper about what we want. It challenges us to drop the expectations of comparison with others’ lives.

” Work cannot fix the deficit of love. We should enjoy work on its own terms”

Wise Steps

Are you in a slump? Maybe it is time to slow down and acknowledge where you feel unsatisfied about your work-life. Asking yourself much needed questions about work and career can spark new insights!

Enjoy the video here or below!

Want to dive deeper and get something tangible? Check out School of Life’s Gratitude cards or Confidence flashcards