Letting Go: A Buddhist Love Story.

Via Chris Lemig
on Jul 15, 2012
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If you love somebody, set them free.

I don’t know if Sting had a situation like mine in mind when he wrote that, but it’s been ringing in my head all morning.

When I came out five years ago, relationship wasn’t on my mind at all. I had a few flings but once I got deeper into both Buddhism and writing, I just didn’t feel the need to be with anyone. I wasn’t being pretentious or fearful of commitment or anything like that. It was just that, for the first time in my life, I was happy and content with simply being me.

And I still am.

So when I met Miguel over here in India a few months ago, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. But when we talked that first time outside of Tibetan grammar class and discovered that we were both really, really into Buddhism, (Miguel was already planning to attend a three-year retreat in early 2013), we were both pretty smitten.

Here’s the thing, meeting a compatible partner is tough enough. Add the criteria of being gay, Tibetan Buddhist, sobriety minded and setting up your life to go into the traditional three-year retreat, and the pool of available men shrinks to about the size of a tea-cup. So when you find someone who fits that list, you have no choice but to stop and take a closer look.

After a few dates we only confirmed what we knew from the get-go. We really liked each other. And what’s more, we agreed that if we were going to go any further, there would be only one rule: that we would support each other in our practice. No matter what.

Unfortunately, I had to leave for the States after only three weeks. Visa stuff. So I made the call: I would just have to come back to India right away. The odds were against us but what the heck. This kind of thing almost never happens, right?

For two months we held our courtship by phone. About three weeks into it, Miguel found out that his three-year retreat was being cancelled. He was pretty heart-broken after spending years preparing himself, but he got over it quickly and began to search for another place to do it.

A few weeks ago, he found one. In America. Long after I had already bought my ticket back to India. And in order to make all the preparations to attend, he would have to leave earlier than expected…as in yesterday.

But I was happy for him and still am. I’m glad that the promise that we made to support each other wasn’t just words. After all, if it was me going into the retreat, how would I want him to react?

So yesterday morning, after twelve wonderful days with him, I watched him get into a taxi to Delhi. It was raining. I cried. No, not just cried. I full-on sobbed and the ache was heavy in my heart and lungs.

But it didn’t hurt like the love songs I used to like so much. It wasn’t some tragic romance coming to an unfair or undeserved end. You see, along with the pain and the sadness I felt light, too. I mean, look at my baby! How wonderful that someone would not only aspire to make such a huge commitment, but to actually put his foot forward and take the plunge.

As they say in Tibetan: Emaho! Amazing!

No. To do anything but let him go, freely and joyfully, with great wishes that he succeed, would only be the worst kind of selfishness.

So I let him go. And by letting go, I remembered the teachings. All things are impermanent, including relationships. Even the ones that might just be perfect.

To be continued…


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Chris Lemig

Chris Lemig isn't afraid of the dark. He dreams in full color and lives out loud. Sometimes, when he sees that your heart is broken, his heart breaks, too. But then he puts all the pieces back together and lets out a great, guffawing laugh that shakes the world to its bones. He loves you even though he's never met you and he wants you to know that you are brighter than the brightest guiding star. He is the author of The Narrow Way: A Memoir of Coming Out, Getting Clean and Finding Buddha.


21 Responses to “Letting Go: A Buddhist Love Story.”

  1. Hvbb says:




    The rules and guidelines in buddhism are very well defined and are similar to those in Hinduism.

    Marriage itself is considered a sacred vow, not to be broken by EITHER PARTY.

    Westerners attempt to feel they marginally understand a single Buddhist concept and then attempt to over apply it to EVERYTHING

    Boomeritis Buddhism

    Impermanance, or “anicca”, was NEVER meant to apply to relationships, and the use of it toward relationships is a manipulation to absolve a party of their own guilt.

    Guess what?

    If they’re wrong, they NEED to experience that guilt.

    It’s part of the “lesson”.

    Stop giving others the easy out.

    THIS is what kills empathy and creates spiritual narcissism.

  2. Chris Lemig says:

    Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading.

  3. kara says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’m currently in a very similar situation and this article helped me a lot. Best of luck to you and Miguel both.

  4. Nathalie says:

    You don't have to agree with everything or anything for that matter but you do have to consider other human beings. When someone puts himself out there (name and photo included by the way) it takes courage. Courage to be vulnerable. Don't crush it or step on it or in any way belittle it – you don't have that right (no one does). You don't have to like it but you do have to be decent. Live and let live.

    Chris, thanks for sharing a piece of yourself.

  5. Chris Lemig says:

    Thanks, Natalie. May you be well and happy!

  6. Chris Lemig says:

    You're so welcome, Kara. I'm glad it helped. Best wishes to you in your situation.

  7. HVBB says:

    I don't have to condone a misuse of buddhist dharma in ANY way.
    it is the rampant misunderstanding, and therefore MISUSE of buddhist dharma that has caused buddhism to "jump the shark" in the west.

    This has NOTHING to do with agreeing and EVERYTHING to do with the proper understanding and use of buddhist dharma.

    I wrote an article to the affect of this misuse months ago.

    This amounts to finding and condoning the mistreatment of others, which now seems to have gone to such a degree that even the victims now accept it.

    And because I do not agree, while following it up with the reasonings as to why, as well as the correct usage of dharma is now indecent?


    One could say attempting to put me on the defensive is also indecent.

    And we all have whatever right we wish to have. Just as you felt you had to right to classify my comment as indecent.

    Interesting how hypocrisy works, isn't it?

  8. […] the mad chaos of sunlit hours how often do we forget to check in with ourselves? In the chase of all things waiting to be done how often we neglect the fulcrum of all this doing? […]

  9. Morgan says:

    Ahhhh. Thank you. I am currently beginning my journey towards the Buddhist faith, and while, I am not letting a particular person go – I am letting go of the thought of living happily ever after and being content and happy with ME…love will hopefully find a way to come in. If not, then that isn't my path. This was inspriring and I echo what was said before regarding courage. We never fully understand why things transpire as they do, but believing and letting go (in every aspect) will help us find enlightenment. 🙂

  10. Chris Lemig says:

    Just to clarify, HVBB. Miguel and I were not married, just at the start of what we thought could have been a promising long-term relationship. His plan to go into long retreat was well in place when we met a few months ago. As it stands we are still committed to one another, supporting one another in our practice. We both hope to take things up where this short relationship left off when he comes out of retreat in 2016.

    I do agree with you though, that we should be very careful to not use our superficial understanding of the Buddhadharma to justify lax ethical behavior. We should always strive to be honest with ourselves about our motivations and the actions that result from them.

    Thank you again for your comments and insight. Be well and happy.

  11. Chris Lemig says:

    And thank you for reading, Morgan. Good luck on your journey!

  12. HVBB says:

    I am not implying marriage, but the value that should be placed on people and relationships. We have, as westerners, misapplied Anicca to relationships and people.

    I am, for lack of better words, as they imply a gain and ego, glad I was able to help you in the understanding of this.

  13. Padma Kadag says:

    Where did the Buddha say that marriage and relationships are not subject to impermanence? Since when do we , as individuals, need to "apply" impermanence? Impermanence is always and there is nothing which is not subject to it. Your entire premise is unfounded and short sighted.

  14. HVBB says:

    I will have to split my reply into multiple comments.

    "Eight types of dukkha

    The three patterns of dukkha described above can also be broken down into eight types:[14][web 10]
    Suffering of birth: the discomfort of birth and experiencing the world for the first time; and the discomfort of relating to new demands or experiences.
    Suffering of old age: the discomfort involved in the process of aging and growing old; this can apply to psychological as well as physical discomfort of aging.
    Suffering of sickness: the discomfort of physical or psychological illness.
    Suffering of death: includes the pain of separation and not being able to continue on in your endeavors, as well as the physical discomfort of dying.
    Suffering of getting what you don't want: being unable to avoid difficult or painful situations.
    Suffering of not getting what you do want: this includes the pain of trying to hold onto what is desirable.
    All-pervasive suffering: a very subtle dissatisfaction that exists all the time; it arises as a reaction to the qualities of conditioned things (e.g. the impermanence of things)."

  15. HVBB says:

    These things that cause dukkha are to which impermance applies.

    Where, within this, does it mention people and thier impermance within relationships?

    I could also list the Sallekha Sutta, if you wish.

    There is NOWHERE within the teachings that the buddha states that our relationships with others is impermanent.

    In all actuality, it teaches the exact opposite.

    The only impermance is life, which has its counterpart: death.

    It is amazing the strains we will go through in attempts to excuse our irresponsibility toward others, in defense of "i'll do what I want!!!" logic and practice.

    Absolutely amazing.

    I could just as easily say your misunderstanding of the dharma is "short sighted" and "unfounded"

    Please learn the dharma and the intention of the suttas before commenting upon them.

  16. Padma Kadag says:

    Ha ha you are a funny guy/gal! . Tell me what relationship is permanent. Point to one. You cannot. So what is your point? Your explanation on Suffering does nothing to support your argument. There is a difference between Impermanence and the concept that my relationship should end now because of impermanence….well the fact is the relationship will not last…the reason does not matter…whether by death or wanting to seek greener pastures.

  17. HVBB says:

    As you said, there is a marked difference between impermanence and the concept your relationship should end now.

    The difference is that one does not attempt to excuse it with a buddhist concept. It takes ownership of it. It does not hide its responsibility behind a misuse of dharma.

    I am glad you have seen this, as you have illustrated above in your comment. It seems my explanation of suffereing accomplished exactly what it was meant to.

    True buddhism does recognize cause and effect, by the way. Only westernized buddhism and ego disorders do not. It is the cluster C disorders that will immediately fall back on

    "it doesn't matter who is right or wrong…."

    ……most notably because they are the ones whom are wrong.

  18. HVBB says:

    The need for something more, the constant quest for it, is the product of the ego.
    I believe Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche expounded upon this in "cutting through spiritual materialism", and even more so in "love, sex, work, death…"

    It seems you are equating the buddhist teaching of "no ego" to the westernized buddhist belief of "all ego".

    I can no longer explain anything to you, as you do not wish anything to be anything more than what you wish it to be.

    Until you escape the illusion that is the ego, you will be incapable of learning anything at all.

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