February 1, 2011

“The Job of the Spiritual Friend is to Insult You.”

Can difficult relationships be helpful?

Lately, I’ve been contemplating relationship as path and whether or not I should stay in a particularly fiery romantic relationship with a lot of love but just as much difficulty and klesha*.

In searching for the answer, I found this clip of Pema Chodron, in which she addresses the matter:

“In order to become a completely loving person, a flexible person, you have to see where you’re hookable.”

“If you really want liberation, if you really want freedom, you need people around to be provoking you to show you where it is you still have work to do.”

It seems that difficult relationships provide us with the opportunity to grow, and to, as Pema says:

“continually [train] in letting thoughts go and in softening when we are hardening–these are steps on the path of awakening. That’s how kleshas begin to diminish.”

Very interesting.

For now, I’m going to try hard to not get hooked–in fact I’m publicly proclaiming my commitment to do so–to becoming sensitive enough to notice the moment when I have a choice to fight or not to fight.  As Buddhist psychologist Bernie Weitzman says, “When you’re on the battlefield, you’ve already lost.”

Speaking of Bernie, he also has suggested engaging in a Theravadan tradition: When you become angry, bow deeply to the other person and say, “Forgive me; I’m angry with you.”  I love that.

Tough stuff, but I’m not giving up yet.  I have to remember that in every relationship, difficulty is an opportunity to wake up.

* Kleshas are the strong conflicting emotions that spin off and heighten when we get caught by aversion and attraction.

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