relationship

What makes for a meaningful life? I consider each day, not just the life as a whole. I look at four ingredients. First, was it a day of virtue? I’m talking about basic Buddhist ethics—avoiding harmful behavior of body, speech, and mind; devoting ourselves to wholesome behavior and to qualities like awareness and compassion. Second, I’d like to feel happy rather than miserable. The realized beings I’ve known exemplify extraordinary states of well-being, and it shows in their demeanor, their way of dealing with adversity, with life, with other people. And third, pursuit of the truth—seeking to understand the nature of life, of reality, of interpersonal relationships, or the nature of mind. But you could do all that sitting quietly in a room. None of us exists in isolation, however, so there is a fourth ingredient: a meaningful life must also answer the question, “What have I brought to the world?” If I can look at a day and see that virtue, happiness, truth, and living an altruistic life are prominent elements, I can say, “You know, I’m a happy camper.” Pursuing happiness does not depend on my checkbook, or the behavior of my spouse, or my job, or my salary. I can live a meaningful life even if I only have ten minutes left.

If you are with a man you don’t trust, it is only because you prefer unsurrendered love to surrendering wide open in total trust. It feels safe. You are afraid to let go of control - part of you doesn’t trust love’s command - so you have chosen a man who doesn’t demand your surrender with his depth of integrity. If you did trust the command of love, you would only settle for a deep man capable of opening you more deeply than you could instruct him.

Aristotle said that in order for people to become virtuous, we need role models—others who have developed their capacities for courage, self-control, wisdom, and justice. We may emphasize different sets of virtues or ideas about what makes a proper role model, but Buddhism also asserts that, as we are all connected and interdependent, none of us can do it all on our own.

Acknowledging this dependency is the first step of real emotional work within relationships. Our ambivalence about our own needs and dependency gets stirred up in all kinds of relationships. We cannot escape our feelings and needs and desires if we are going to be in relationships with others. To be in relationships is to feel our vulnerability in relation to other people who are unpredictable, and in circumstances that are intrinsically uncontrollable and unreliable.

The practice of seeing clearly is what finally moves us toward kindness. Seeing, again and again, the infinite variety of traps we create for seducing the mind into struggle, seeing the endless rounds of meaningless suffering over lusts and aversions (which, although seemingly urgent, are essentially empty), we feel compassion for ourselves. And then, quite naturally, we feel compassion for everyone else. We know as we have never known before that we are stuck, all of us, with bodies and minds and instincts and impulses, all in a tug-of-war with our basic heart nature that yearns to relax into love. Then we surrender. We love. We laugh. We appreciate.

We’re all in the same boat. Born as we are in this human body, we can’t escape the blessings and tortures of the human brain. From our first breath, we yearn for love and understanding in the most complicated ways imaginable. We find it most satisfying as we learn to give it. The ability to do this comes from acceptance of our frailties. By understanding the conditions of our own lives, we accept the conditions of others. Compassion is not condescension, but a leveling of the playing field, a recognition of yourself in others and an acceptance that their stress is your stress, that their happiness is your own. The gulf between us all is imaginary, born of insecurity and fear.

When you’re wrong, say I’m sorry…. and really mean it. Doesn’t it feel good to let go of your attachment to being right? It feels good to admit it to yourself. It’s actually freeing! Plus, you’re making someone else feel cared for. Win, win!

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me?

The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.

I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am only present for you.

I have forgotten all my learnings,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar.

I have lost all my strength,
but from your power
I am able.

If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for

Today I have found you
and those who laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did

I am bewildered at the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you
with a hundred eyes

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
for me
the earth and sky

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer

Assume the best intentions of others before jumping to the negative conclusion. It’s amazing how much this simple shift can help any relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t be skeptical at times. The lack of skepticism could lead to it’s own set of problems. But if we look for the positive first, many unnecessary confrontations can be prevented before they ever start.

A good spiritual friend who will help us to stay on the path, with whom we can discuss our differences frankly, sure of a compassionate response, provides an important support system which is often lacking. Although people live and practice together, one-upmanship often comes between them. A really good friend is like a mountain guide. The spiritual path is like climbing a mountain: we don’t really know what we will find at the summit. We have only heard that it is beautiful, everybody is happy there, the view is magnificent and the air unpolluted. If we have a guide who has already climbed the mountain, he can help us avoid falling into a crevasse, or slipping on loose stones, or getting off the path. The one common antidote for all our hindrances is noble friends and noble conversations, which are health food for the mind.

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earthdrop
Happening

It is flat-out strange that something—that anything—is happening at all. There was nothing then a Big Bang, then here we all are. This is extremely weird.

- Ken Wilber

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