TLDR: Lydia shares her cycles of emotions when going through a breakup and how she eventually bounce back with the support of loved ones, healthy distractions, and deep realizations.
I was heartbroken after my first break-up. I would like to share some things that helped me through the process and I hope that it will be useful for you!
Before getting attached I used to have many crushes but they never knew until I finally told them a long time after. I used to feel needy and wondered when I would ever find a boyfriend but I had high expectations and never really settled down.
After I became more passionate about Buddhism when I was in Year 4 of university I felt that I had more emotional stability. I had fewer cravings and felt that there were more meaningful things to life than looking for a partner.
Eventually, I fell in love and found a boyfriend. Impermanence then waged war on my relationship and we broke up.
Here are realisations that helped me through the breakup, I hope that they will be useful for those going through their share of breakups
1. I am still very loved!
Post break up I felt abandoned, rejected and feelings of guilt came up. I asked myself what I should have done better.
I was unable to accept that the person I loved chose to move on. Even knowing the teachings of impermanence, I could not believe and accept that his feelings for me had changed.
I think the most important thing that helped me through was support from family and friends. To remind myself that I am still very loved. To spend time with them and to purposefully distract me till I achieve mental stability to process the difficult perceptions of abandonment and rejection.
2. It’s okay!
It’s okay to be sad or depressed. I used to see crying as a sign of defeat or weakness.
I wanted to set a timeline for myself to heal, recover and move on, but I couldn’t. And it’s okay because creating a timeline for myself to move on added to the suffering.
There is a strong societal stigma pertaining to depression because it seems that the person is depressed out of their own choice.
But how can we forget that no one wants to suffer and we all want to be happy and peaceful?
While some aspects of managing depression are within our control, I think that we can be very helpless when strong emotions arise.
We can try to modify the aspects as much as we can such as avoiding triggers, distracting ourselves and not falling into habitual patterns of unwise decisions. But sometimes, we might still fail and become demoralised as a result.
Through this experience, I really feel much more compassion for people who have gone through depression. It is not just a clinical diagnosis but a difficult life situation, which might persist for a long time.
So, I tell myself it’s okay. It’s okay to still feel sad, it’s okay to feel needy and lonely. It’s okay to have thoughts of wanting to find someone to love you. It’s okay that I still don’t know how to love myself well. It’s really okay.
And this acceptance is loving kindness and compassion to oneself. I always struggle with loving kindness for myself, not knowing how to love myself. But this acceptance is the first step. Ajahn Brahm used to teach us, ‘Be kind, Be gentle and Make peace.’ His teachings have really helped me through this difficult period.
To open the door of your heart to whatever you are experiencing, and to sit tight and remind yourself that the storm will pass. Once you get used to the process, it is about bracing yourself and preparing for the storm too!
Another teaching that was useful is the analogy of the hand. If we put our hand in front of our face, it covers our whole world and our hand is the world.
But if we put our hand back to where it belongs, at the end of our arm, we can now see the whole world.
There was a time when the break up was the world to me. There was nothing I would think of except feelings of sadness and I felt so unmotivated to do anything at all. I could not see the love from my family and friends and I was so fixated on a love that I could not get.
I believe it was a lot of romanticising the good times and forgetting the difficult times. But if you deliberately remind yourself of the other things in your life, it reminds you of the blessings that you already have. And these blessings too, are impermanent.
Ajahn Brahm also taught that a relationship that ended is like a concert that ended. All concerts come to an end no matter how good it is, such is the nature of life.
3. Awareness of what you need
Post break up I was trying to act as if nothing happened. I was trying to continue my work and Dhamma commitments as much as possible, but it was a huge mistake.
What I needed was probably just to rest and to spend time with people I love.
There was a strong desire to reconnect with my previous boyfriend but every contact brought back difficult emotions. Yet I was still unable to let go.
Sometimes, our thoughts can feel very real and justified, although it might not be the best decision for us. This was probably my first experience with how we cannot fully trust our thoughts.
What helped me was that when the strong desire arose, I decided not to react or take action but I went for a jog instead.
After the jog, the compulsion to act was weaker, and I made a different decision. Even if you still decide to act in the same way after coming back to it, then so be it.
I can almost understand how obsessive people can be post-breakup. Although I was not obsessed to the extent of being a stalker, I could see many obsessive thoughts in me at one point in time.
Acknowledging that I needed rest and help is also important. To know that I am not in a good place now and hence to take a break from the commitments at hand.
I also realised that I needed to care for myself and to do things that made me happy.
Things that did help me were going to nature, especially going to the beach and listening to the waves was very therapeutic. Talking to family and friends or crying when you need to, listening to Dhamma talks, chanting and meditation and having adequate rest help.
All in all, breakups suck! But Ajahn Brahm also teaches us that our life experiences are our kammic ingredients, whether good or bad. It is up to us what kind of kamma we make out of it.
Even with poor ingredients, we can still make a delicious meal. With our dog poo experiences, we can fertilise our mango tree, and it can be transformed into delicious mangoes!
And when we taste yummy mangoes, we are reminded of the dog poo in it. So when you see happy relationships, we must also remember to go – Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu, because who knows what kind of dog poo others have experienced?
Lastly, it will all pass, good or bad. And good, bad, who knows. Taking refuge in the triple gems and guarding my kamma and keeping myself close to the practice is probably what is most meaningful for me in this lifetime. That being said, a broken heart still takes time to heal. So be kind and patient with yourself and give yourself as much time as you need. Buddha bless!
Breakups suck, and acknowledging that sucky-ness is the first step to being in tune with your emotions.
Don’t believe all your thoughts! Such events can trigger different thoughts that might seem very real but actually aren’t real.
To know what you need and take part in activities that might help such as jogging, exercise, nature walks
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from PJ’s website. Do check out his past articles on tackling the workplace over here, here, and here.
On 19th October 2022, I flew back to Singapore after spending three months at my teacher Ajahn Brahm‘s retreat centre Jhana Grove and monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia.
Since then, I’ve been asked quite frequently about what I learned and “gained”, which I’ll attempt to summarize here. Below are the 11 things I’ve learnt.
(Graphic image warning: Please note that learning point 8 has a few graphic pictures of a decaying dead kangaroo. You may quickly jump to point 9 if you are easily affected.)
1. A much clearer & experiential understanding of how suffering works.
Expectations, wanting, hopes, plans, etc. are a huge barrier, because of the Second Noble Truth: wanting causes suffering. During this retreat, I think I’ve let go more of the expectations & wanting to re-experience the life-changing yo-yo-jhana in 2010, which I’ve written about here and here . And if I wanted anything, whether it was the beautiful breath, or silence in the mind, or nimittas, or jhanas, that wanting always led to suffering.
So towards the end, I was deliberately cultivating the mantra of “Good enough”. Heavy rain while walking to the monastery? Good enough. Restless mind while sitting in the morning cold? That’s more than good enough!
And that really helped and worked: there was a lot less suffering when I was developing this mindset of being “contented and easily satisfied”, instead of striving with strong wants.
It’s not all perfect: there were definitely days when it felt like walking into a perfect storm. The lowest point I experienced was towards the end, on a Monday. For the whole of Monday, I struggled with a very, very restless mind: I could barely sit. It was, as Ajahn Chah (Ajahn Brahm’s teacher) described, “you can’t move forward, you can’t go backwards, you can’t stay where you are”.
I’m experienced enough to know that restlessness is the mind being discontented with the present moment experience. So I tried to make peace with the present moment experience and tried to be unconditionally kind and gentle to my own mind. That caused my mind to kinda go into a kind of split, where a less-critical, more-loving PJ was having a dialogue with a very fault-finding, very discontented PJ:
Loving PJ: There there! It’s ok to be discontented. You’re not enlightened yet!
Fault-Finding PJ: Of course it’s easy to say that!
Loving PJ: Remember Ajahn Brahm’s instructions? Just make peace with the suffering, be kind, be gentle…
Fault-Finding PJ: Of course it’s easy for Ajahn to say that! He’s the MOZART of meditation, whereas you are still playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars! You can’t even watch your stupid beautiful breath, for goodness sake!
And there was despair because I was nowhere close to the jhanas, which are needed to really remove the defilements. And I had so many defilements … it felt like I was tasked with using a single box of matchsticks to melt an entire iceberg or glacier.
The fear and despair was very, very real, and very, very bad: I sobbed and cried my eyes out in the shower. I don’t think I have cried like this ever since my colleague Parathy died… after I finished crying, I asked my mind what it wanted to do, and went to sit and meditate, before going to sleep. The next morning, I went to ask Ajahn for advice on how to deal with such days.
Ajahn was so kind and compassionate… he kept saying “trust. you are so close“, and also talked about how, often, progress on the Path isn’t about more effort, but about finding the right place to perpendicularly cross the river. “And when you’re over, you’ll then realize how stupid you’ve been all this while, because you’ll look back and say ‘wait, that was it? That’s all it took?’ ” And that was all it took for me to gain back the trust, confidence, and patience to carry on.
2. A more experiential understanding of non-self”
The other learning is a more experiential understanding of non-self. Basically, I don’t really control my body or my mind: it is heavily influenced by the environment around me. The body is out of control, and the mind is out of control because they are all complex processes which have no single source of self, and where effects become causes for further effects. It’s all about putting the right causes in place, I.e. Right Motivation (Samma sankappa). A few episodes really highlighted this to me.
No matter how much I tried, I could not change the fact that my body is made in Singapore, and that I struggle with the cold. Cold makes my mind restless, as I am really not made for this climate. It’s quite funny because whenever it’s cold, there is automatically a soundtrack playing in my mind (for the first two months, it was the soundtrack of Crash Landing On You, because my wife and I re-watched it before I left…). But what was even more interesting was the short spell of warm weather in late September and early October: the soundtrack playing stopped in my mind, with no choice nor force at all! So it was really caused by the cold.
Physically with my body, there were a few incidents (suspect Covid; my twitching eye; body pains from sitting meditation) which drove home the point of non-self. From the Buddha’s second-ever discourse (Anattalakkhanasutta SN 22.59):
“(this body is not) fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’”, because “…if…(this body) were (my) self, this (body) would not lead to affliction, and it would be possible to have it of (this body): ‘let my (body) be thus; let my (body) not be thus’. But because (this body) is nonself, (this body) leads to affliction, and it is not possible to have it of (this body): ‘let my (body) be thus; let my (body) not be thus’. “
Basically, if your body was you or your self, then you would be able to compel it and control it to be well, not be sick, and to take on any shape or form you wish. Which you can’t.
3. Reduce the drivers of negative emotions
Much of Ajahn Brahm’s teachings are really about undermining and reducing the drivers for negative emotions, especially the overthinking mind that tenses up, comments, interferes, fault-finds, strives and tries, is ruthless, and seeks to control everything (especially due to fear).
If we do the exact opposite to the above verbs, those are the causes for future deep meditation and eventual liberation. So we should:
Relax to the Max
Disengage from commentary
Don’t interfere or do anything, because it is all none-of-your-business
Let the mind decide what it wants to do, rather than tell and control it
Cultivate contentment: “good enough”
And be kind, unconditionally.
4. Cultivating the opposite of fault-finding
Ajahn Brahm once wrote that “cultivating the opposite of fault-finding is 90% of the Buddhist practice”, and this was something I realised from the three months.
It is so easy to lapse into fault-finding and criticism of everything: I could be sitting for 45 mins, watching the breath for 44 mins, and daydreaming in the last minute, and that is often enough for me to say “that was not peaceful”! This is crazy, if you think about it, because I wasn’t really looking realistically at the whole session, but only picking out the bad parts to smear the whole thing.
I think this fault-finding is due to social conditioning: it seems “smarter” to seem pessimistic, cynical, and negative (as shared in Psychology of Money: see point 7 in the original article here). This mindset is especially prevalent in Singapore, I think.
5. Systems, Not Goals
Scott Adams’ “system vs goals” came up in my mind during the retreat, and I started wondering what was my “system”, vs the “goal” of enlightenment. My system is to keep precepts, learn Dhamma, create the supporting environment for practice around me, and meditate daily. I’ll let the results take care of themselves. Some specifics that I picked up during the Rains:
If the meditation was me largely “letting go, being kind and gentle”, then the meditation was a success, regardless of the results!
I started debriefing myself after each meditation, as part of my “system”. I ask myself these questions:
What suffering was absent? How much peace, calm & stillness was generated from the sit?
Was there letting go, kindness and gentleness in the meditation, between me and the meditation object?
Which defilements were gone? Usually for me, there’s no ill will, sloth and torpor, and doubt. The usual suspects are Kama canda, and restlessness and remorse.
7. Meditation is like taking a shit
Meditation is a lot like taking a shit: there are a lot of parallels between the two.
Both are non-self: in both processes, there is no single part you can point to, and say that’s me, mine, a self. There are also none of the accumulations of a self in any part of the processes e.g. ego, pride, expectations, will, etc.
Both are natural causal processes, where willpower & expectations are NOT necessary causal factors & are often counterproductive:
If you’re blocked in meditation, often you need more mindfulness and kindness, to unblock yourself. If you’re blocked in shitting, often you need more fibre and water to unblock yourself.
Using willpower in both cases causes haemorrhoids in your mind and in your a**
Expectations in both cases are major blockers.
Both processes are about clearing their “containers” of defilements and debris: one is clearing the mind, the other is clearing the digestive system.
Last but not least, the best sits and the best shits are effortless and joyful, and very healthy.
7. Keeping Precepts is Critical
Keeping precepts is critical for progress on the Path. This is often overlooked, especially in western meditation instructions. But this importance becomes very clear when meditation deepens, and when your mind starts to reflect the spottiness of your ethical behaviour by body, speech and mind. Let me share a story about someone, whom I’ll call PJ2. Imagine that PJ2 is single, and that he once had a very, very deep meditation experience a few years ago.
At the start of the Rains Retreat, I was discussing nimittas and jhanas with PJ2. However, as the retreat progressed, PJ2’s past caught up with him: he had not kept his precepts fully, and that caused him to feel this overwhelming sense of guilt that triggered panic attacks.
This lasted until PJ2 left, and it was very eye-opening for everyone to see how important keeping precepts are, for deeper meditation and for one’s practice.
8. Death is everywhere
Death and dying is everywhere, in the most unexpected places. In September, as a few of us returned from visiting Kusala Hermitage, it turned out that two kangaroos had been hit by vehicles just outside Jhana Grove. One of them was more decayed, while the other one was quite intact. It was very eye-opening to see the decaying and decomposition process over the weeks, which I captured by taking multiple videos and photos.
What videos and photos do not capture is the smell: that nauseating odour of death and decay, which reminds me of the very first time I smelled that odour, as a teenager helping my father clear the drowned rat stuck under our driveway.
But what the photos and videos do convey are the charnel ground descriptions in the suttas, especially the Satipatthana sutta (** CONTACT ALERT: Pics of dead things**)
…And it had been dead for one, two, or three days, bloated, livid, and festering. They’d compare it with their own body: ‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’ 15.1
…a corpse discarded in a charnel ground being devoured by crows, hawks, vultures, herons, dogs, tigers, leopards, jackals, and many kinds of little creatures. 16.2They’d compare it with their own body: 16.3‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’ 17.1
Bones rid of sinews scattered in every direction. Here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, here a shin-bone, there a thigh-bone, here a hip-bone, there a rib-bone, here a back-bone, there an arm-bone, here a neck-bone, there a jaw-bone, here a tooth, there the skull …
Bones rotted and crumbled to powder. 30.2They’d compare it with their own body: 30.3‘This body is also of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.’
It is extremely sobering, especially since an adult male kangaroo is about the same size as me, to reflect that my body is truly “of that same nature, that same kind, and cannot go beyond that.”
9. The monastic practice is the Buddha’s Training Programme
The monastic practice set by the Buddha is THE way to get to Nibbana. Before this Rains, I had doubts about this: what’s stopping me as a lay person from being able to practice towards liberation? But after three months, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that the Training Programme decided by the Buddha is the best bet to Enlightenment.
However, my conditions in life are such that, it has to be lay life for me, at least for a while: as a married man, I have to take care of my wife, but also have to take care of my parents and parents-in-law as they age.
10. Some observations of my fellow retreatants:
The generosity of people is astounding. For three months, I was fed by other people. Also, this group of Rains Retreatants really were very generous with helping each other out. For example, Becky would serve Ajahn tea, but also do a lot of acts of loving kindness to others. And in turn, I saw others helping her: a number of retreatants were talking to her to give her an introduction to the suttas, just before her silent retreat. Everyone was helping each other out like one big family (e.g. Gayathri making soup for Piotr, our Polish retreatant, when he fell sick a second time), which the Jhana Grove staff observed was quite unusual to our group.
There seems to be a bit of PTSD from past experiences with SN Goenka vipassana meditation: a couple of retreatants mentioned to me something along the lines of “I can’t watch the breath, because I end up trying to control it from my vipassana experience” and “I can’t watch the breath with pleasure, because my vipassana conditioning kicks in”. Which is a real pity, because the breath can be a lovely meditation object.
Dhamma vitakka (thoughts of the Dhamma) as a subtle hindrance was something that came up in a sutta class taught by Ajahn Brahm, but it seems to have been rejected by a number of retreatants. This hindrance was something I saw in my own mind: at some point, I realised that reading the suttas was actually complicating my own meditation practice, because I ended up generating a lot of questions (“Am I doing X right, like in the sutta?”) which disturbed the peace of mind. So towards the end, I deliberately cut down on my reading of the suttas, and reduced my thinking on aspects of the Dhamma.
11. The Practice isn’t just about meditation
While on a day outing with Ajahn Santutthi, abbot of Kusala Hermitage, I asked Ajahn about advice on the practice, especially since I felt stuck and stagnating in my meditation depth. He gave very good advice: “the practice doesn’t end after three months”, “the practice isn’t just about meditation”, and “just develop contentment and peace.” Which is perhaps the main takeaway I got from my three months.
Editor: This is a two-part series of Dhamma and marriage where Ai En shares her turnaround in her marriage. The second part can be found here !
TLDR: My relationship with my husband was going stale and we both felt a sense of draining affection in our marriage; attending a Dhamma talk was a pivotal change for our relationship.
The salvation of marriage by a monk’s word, of course, sounds dramatic. Nevertheless, it is a true experience that changed things for my marriage.
My hope is that sharing my experience would give couples the courage to talk about their relationship and recollect why they are together in the first place.
Marriage was paradise
When my partner and I first got married, we were both young and naive at the age of 27. Having met in university, we quickly knew we were right for another as we liked the same Char Kway Teow store and loved the same arthouse movies.
We happily said our vows 5 years after dating because ROM (Registry of Marriage) said we had to do it and not because we thought much of it.
“Will you love him, comfort him, honour and keep him in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, be faithful to him, so long as you both shall live?” the solemnizer asked.
Such generic lines didn’t hold much value for us, we just wanted to get through the ROM and arduous wedding lunch out of the way and live our lives happily ever after.
Of course, things didn’t turn out that way.
We started to see growing misunderstandings and conflicts as we lived together.
Different habits emerged. Different ways of money usage. I love to save while he was okay with moments of YOLO (You-Only-Live-Once) spending (because life is anicca [Pali term: impermanent], so might as well spend it, he believes). I would often chide him for butchering the Dhamma phrase of impermanence to justify random spending.
We like to think of ourselves as simple people who have had little arguments. However, it was clear we were growing apart.
We were leading separate lives and took each other for granted.
Yes, we shared a bed, but our lifestyles couldn’t be more different. He worked shift hours while I worked a 9-5 job. I did consulting work while he was a shift-work engineer.
I felt that caring for him meant supporting all his hobbies and endeavours while he felt caring for me meant giving me gifts. FYI: Gifts won’t hold your marriage/ relationship together.
At difficult times, I silently questioned, “Did I marry the right guy?” I wasn’t sure how long we could ‘stand’ each other in a lukewarm relationship.
As a Buddhist by birth, I am not one to care too much about Buddhism and its practice. The teachings were an afterthought.
However, these marital challenges got me to speak to a colleague who was a Buddhist practitioner and she introduced me to a witty monk, Ajahn Brahm.
I skeptically plugged into a recording of his Dhamma talk after she persuaded me. It was on marriage. Below is the excerpt which talked about how Ajahn Brahm solemnises Buddhist weddings and stuns newlywed couples with his humour.
At the right moment in the proceedings, usually, after the rings have been exchanged, I look into the eyes of the new bride and tell her, “You are a married woman now. From this moment on, you must never think of yourself.” She immediately nods and smiles sweetly.
Then I look at the groom and say, “You are now a married man. You also must not think of yourself anymore.” I don’t know what it is about guys, but the groom usually pauses for a few seconds before saying “Yes.”
Still looking at the groom, I continue, “And from this time on, you must never think of your wife.” Then quickly turning to the bride, I say to her, “And you must not think of your husband from now on.”
Confusion is a very effective teaching device. Once people are engaged in trying to solve a riddle, then you can teach them the answer and they pay attention. “Once you are married,” I explain, “you should not think of yourselves; otherwise you will be making no contribution to your marriage.
Also, once you are married, you should not always think of your partner; otherwise you will only be giving, giving, giving, until there’s nothing left in your marriage. “Instead, once you are married, think only of ‘us.’ You are in this together.” The couple then turn to each other and smile.
They get it straight away. Marriage is about “us,” not about me, not about him, not about her. To make sure they understand “The Secret,” I ask them, “When any problem arises in your marriage, whose problem is it?” “Our problem,” they answer together. “Very good!” I say with a grin.
“Instead, once you are married, think only of ‘us.’ You are in this together.”
That word ‘us’ compelled tears through my usually tear-resistant eyes.
My husband and I were living together and yet apart. We were ‘caring’ for each other and doing ‘what’s best’ for either me or him, but never for ‘us’.
As we stopped seeing ourselves as ‘us’ and instead as individuals, our lives would inadvertently drift apart. Resentment would arise from unfulfilled wants and demands from each other. We resent one another for either giving ‘not enough’ or giving ‘the wrong thing’.
These teachings helped me to let go of my ego to see my partner in a new light. I began to understand that our relationship is not just about me and my needs, but that it is an interdependent partnership.
It is about us.
How that one word saved us
After the tear-jerker Dhamma talk, I shared the recording with my husband, who also agreed on the state of our marriage. He felt that we were ‘going through the motion’ of routines together. He felt resentful that he was giving so much on one aspect of our relationship while I ‘failed’ to deliver on others. For example, the expectations that I should wash the dishes after cooking for him or him overpaying for some of the expensive dinners we have.
However, the talk allowed him to reflect on a calculative mindset that was building in him.
After three years, we felt this pivotal change of understanding about our relationship.
We immediately discussed how we could do things differently as ‘us’ and not as individuals. We then decided that we needed to do the following:
Find rituals: Identify meaningful and tangible activities that we can do as a couple and challenge ourselves with. The ritual must be something that ‘us’ can see incremental growth in. Binge-watching HBO Max, Netflix doesn’t count as tangible!
Hold MGMs: Monthly general meetings (MGMs) helped us talk about what we appreciated about one another, how we could improve and also where we would like to be supported.
Meditate at least 2 times a week together: This wholesome activity gave us the opportunity to do something deep and spiritual together. If your partner is non-Buddhist, try to introduce mindfulness-based activities, like gardening or pottery! For us, the 2 times a week as is when our schedules align. Make it work!
These ‘solutions’ arose from the idea of ‘us’ and how we could strengthen that tie between us.
Our marriage is now happier and more fulfilling than ever before. I am grateful to the Dhamma for helping us to get to this point. Thanks to Ajahn Brahm’s one word ‘US’, we saved the marriage.
I hope that this one word ‘us’ encourages you to rethink relationships that are dear to you.
May you and your loved ones be well and happy always.
How often do we take our loved ones for granted? Reflecting on this brings awareness to our blindspots in the relationship
How often do you use ‘we’ in a relationship instead of ‘I, me, myself’?
Find your couple rituals, hold your MGMs and meditate together!
Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.
To our Christian readers and all that celebrate, Merry Christmas! In this season largely celebrated by Christians. Are there Dhamma elements we can take away from this celebration? We have heard stories from friends who are invited to Christmas events only to face attempts at conversion, leaving a bitter taste of Christmas. So can we see Dhamma in this festival? Here are two stories that may make you think different!
1. The role of spirituality and Christmas
2. Can Buddhists celebrate Christmas?
The role of spirituality and Christmas
What’s going on here & Why we like it
Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk from Australia, shares on spirituality and our occasional obsession with dogma. The notion that we take on labels (e.g. I am a Buddhist from Singapore/Malaysia who follows xxx teacher) prevents us from being expansive in our hearts.
Ajahn Brahm then also shares a unique moment where a reporter scolded Dalai Lama on receiving a skirt from a poor lady. A pretty fascinating response from Dalai Lama that embodies the spirit of Christmas. We have time-stamped the story in the video below.
“You build a circle that grows, grows, and grows. And all those things you have fear of in the past. It vanishes.”
What views are you holding on to that prevent you from embracing the differences in others?
Heng Xuan, a HOL writer, shares the different ways we can celebrate Christmas as Buddhists. The spirit of generosity expands beyond labels and whatever religions we identify with. December, the month of Christmas, offers Buddhists and Christians alike an opportunity to reflect on a topic dear to both traditions: Giving.
The article shares 3 ways that we can live the spirit of Christmas as Buddhists in the coming 3 days!
“What matters is that we are giving up mind states that cause us to feel negative. We then open ourselves up to giving and love.”
When was the last time you gave to someone/something in need?
TLDR: Single and in your late twenties? Mabel shares her stories of realisation and wisdom from navigating the dating world. From opening the door to your heart to understanding the drawbacks of mundane love, this article explores deeper into struggles of dating in the environment which pushes us to find romantic love.
Being single in your late twenties seems to scream that you are broken and bad. It feels like a problem that needs to be fixed.
A life devoid of romantic love is often painted to be imperfect and empty. And although I’ve been happily single and mostly unperturbed by narratives like these, my immunity has been waning the older I get. I feel pressure, shame, and anxiety. Dating used to be fun and exciting, but now it feels like a chore.
Dating leaves us feeling vulnerable, afraid and imperfect.
It is such a courageous thing we do – showing up for complete strangers, opening up to them, and letting them into our lives. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it still scares me. I’m so thankful to have met with nice people and formed genuine connections. Looking back, I’ve made mistakes and probably caused some hurt, but it is also through experiences like these that I learn about myself.
Here are a few things I’ve learned as a twentysomething navigating the dating scene:
Tip 1: Opening the door to your heart
During the dating process, I noticed a lot of self-sabotaging tendencies that emanate from feeling not good enough.
I felt the need to have achieved certain things or look a certain way before I am worthy of romantic love.
I would meet nice guys who show interest, and think to myself: ‘oh, he can’t be interested in me, he’s too good for me’. I would be fearful that they would see my flaws and lose interest.
Using dating apps magnified this feeling of inadequacy. I felt like a two-dimensional, searchable item looking to fit into someone’s dating checklist.
I had to take on society’s demands and live up to its expectations to feel worthy of love.
These feelings of imperfection and deficiency stemming from a strong sense of self could lead to love prone to impurities and more suffering. We could end up being in relationships that don’t serve us, or find a partner for the wrong reasons.
Only when we extend loving-kindness to ourselves can we examine love with a neutral mind, and know when to keep trying or when to end things.
I read renowned Australian monk Ajahn Brahm’s Opening The Door To Your Heart 10 years ago, and I’ve always thought the key message was being kind to others. The story, I realised, was about opening the doors of our hearts to ourselves as well.
You do not have to be perfect, without fault, to give yourself love. If you wait for perfection, it never arrives. We must open the door of our hearts to ourselves, whatever we have done.
Tip 2: Understanding the drawbacks of mundane love
I extended this unreasonable yardstick for worthiness to my partners. After ending things with a few guys, I unwillingly acknowledged that perhaps I’m part of the problem.
The Buddha points out that we suffer due to cravings that arise when we don’t understand ourselves. I unpacked my approach towards dating and saw how easily put off I am by signs of flaws and recognised the ideals and desires I projected onto others.
These are desires not rooted in reality, and I was creating suffering for myself.
Dating apps with their filtering functions and abundance of choice give us the illusion that there is a perfect human being out there. I loved the idea that I would find someone with instant and perfect compatibility.
But the truth is there are no relationships with no conflicts, and we will always have to work through inevitable differences.
Conditioned things are impermanent and unsatisfactory. We and our partners, as unenlightened beings, will always have our own sets of defilements which will render the dating process unsatisfactory at times.
Almost all of us reach dating age with some form of wound or trauma. Perhaps the more space we can allow for the deficiencies of love and the flawed reality of nature, the better chance we’ll have at being good at love.
Suffering ends when ignorance-based cravings end, not when you find ‘true love’.
Tip 3: Knowing what you want and communicating it
When I started using dating apps, I knew I was looking for a committed relationship with someone who shares similar values. So I would swipe left on guys who were looking for something casual, or guys who ‘don’t know yet’ simply because our goals were not aligned.
I believe this saved me a lot of time and heartache. During the dating process, I have found it helpful to communicate these goals and needs.
Don’t assume that they will figure it out on their own, or that they should know these things instinctively.
It is worth investigating what we are looking for in a relationship. Are we hoping to end suffering with love? Are we looking for an antidote to boredom? Are we hoping to gain coarse rewards through this relationship such as sexual pleasure, wealth, social status, or fame? Is this kind of relationship sustainable?
I reflect on these questions quite a bit.
It is when both partners are ethical, of good character, and equal in standard of conduct that they can live together enjoying all the pleasures they desire. (Numbered Discourses 4.53 Living Together). Perhaps we could use this as a guide when dating.
Dating is a skill and something we can learn to be better at through experience. By practising more qualities of metta (the superior kind of love), we can strive to be one who neither suffers from this dating process nor be the cause of others’ suffering.
Be respectful and kind, and treat the other person the way you would like to be treated.
If you’re feeling burnt out from dating, take a break, don’t go through the process mindlessly. Enjoy the beauty of being single.
Reflect on what you’ve learned from previous relationships or dates. Did it teach you something about what you want and don’t want? What are the ideals, desires and expectations that you tend to project onto others?