What to do with a Broken Heart?

Via Lodro Rinzler
on Jan 21, 2014
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Photo: soulbounce

Like clock-work once a week I receive an email from someone who is going through a break up and asking for advice on how to maintain an open heart. 

First off, I’m sorry to hear your relationship ended.

While any student of Buddhism may quote to you that the reality of impermanence is a bitch, it’s a whole other thing to feel the loss of a relationship. I empathize and know that pain. If you have been with someone for months, or even years, and they simply disappear from your life, it can leave an empty hole which is hard to fill.

I think my first piece of advice would be to treat yourself with incredible gentleness and take the time you need to mourn the loss of your relationship. We all have our own ways of reacting to a break up. Some people like to aggressively drink, some like to have rebound hook ups, others like to hide out in their bed and ignore the fact that their lover is no longer with them. However, at the core of these responses are the root emotions that keep us trapped in suffering: aggression, passion and ignorance.

A way to counter-act that level of perpetuating suffering is to give yourself a lot of space to simply feel what you are feeling. Emotions don’t have to be riptides we get lost in; they can wash over us like waves. If you still feel love for your ex, then let that love wash over you. If you feel anger, allow that to wash over you. If you feel guilt, let that wash over you. The more you allow the emotions you are currently feeling to rise up, without kicking and screaming against them, the more refreshed you will feel when they pass.

If the primary thing you are feeling is love for your ex, then love your ex. Explore what that means to you at this point. Be curious about your experience. Is it the same sort of love that existed when you first started dating? Is it the same love that existed when you got into that all-night fight and you crashed on the couch? The more you explore how you feel and how you have felt in the past the more you may realize that love, like all emotions, is a very fluid thing.

I am always astounded by people who have loved one another as friends for years and then end up becoming romantically involved. It’s like they had one way of relating to each other and then they just did a slide to the right, and all of a sudden, romantic love bloomed. Perhaps later on down the road they might slide further and deepen their love and get married. Or maybe they slide in a different direction and break up. That love may dissipate or change, but that does not mean that it did not exist, in a relative way, at one time, and was valuable for both of them.

In other words, you don’t have to layer concepts of how to define a relationship with another being to love them in some way. You can just practice being in love.

Without going too hippie on you, I’m a firm believer that the more we open our hearts to others—including those who have wronged us, broken our hearts or at times left us paralyzed with grief—the greater chance we have at achieving enlightenment.

To keep an open heart in a difficult time is the greatest and most rewarding challenge of all.

To keep your ex in your heart may be scary, but you have to remember that we all love love. To receive or give it, even in the midst of your own heart-ache or feeling of loss, is an incredible gift.

*This piece was adapted from one originally published on the Huffington Post.


Relephant reads:

Wisdom of a Broken Heart.

10 Salves for a Broken Heart.

We Break Our Own Hearts. ~ Rachel Alina

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About Lodro Rinzler

Lodro Rinzler is a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and the author of the books “The Buddha Walks into a Bar” and “Walk Like a Buddha”. Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers and college campuses throughout North America. Lodro’s column, “What Would Sid Do”, appears regularly on the Huffington Post and he is frequently featured in Marie Claire, Reality Sandwich, the Interdependence Project, Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma and Good Men Project. He is the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an authentic leadership training and job placement organization, and lives in Brooklyn with his dog Tillie and his cat Justin Bieber.


8 Responses to “What to do with a Broken Heart?”

  1. Bay says:

    I didn't know it was possible to miss someone as much as I miss her.

  2. Sadie says:

    Ahhh. Just what I needed right now as a very sweet little love story of mine has lost it's way. I've been living with that undeniable pang of longing all day and this article was a gentle reminder to sit in the longing instead of hiding from it or covering it up. Thanks for a little bit of hope for the heart today 🙂

  3. Mary says:

    I’m going through that exact transition now. There truly is a solace in learning to love your way through a heart break. Anger is easier. But it is much more of an exquisite experience to embrace your emotions while you feel them, especially ehen they are not reciprocated. A quiet unrequited, always peaceful and unconditional love…

  4. lodrorinzler says:

    Beautifully put!

  5. lodrorinzler says:

    Yes! It is hard to ignore the desire to run away, to escape pain. To sit with it, and let it exist as it is…that is challenging.

  6. lodrorinzler says:

    Oh Bay. We have all been there. Stay strong. My heart hurts in empathy for you.

  7. Rosalia says:

    Thank you. Thank you for encouraging us to open our hearts while writing with an open heart. I too often read heart-break articles that are written as narratives (which I do not disrespect, by any means- sometimes writing about your own heartbreak is just as therapeutic as reading about one) but the simplicity of this article is refreshing.

  8. Amy says:

    It’s beautiful how this article presented a way more clear perspective to my perplexed mind, which has been experiencing such myriad emotions- “between the extremes” as you so accurately put it. I miss him, yes. But, I also want him happy always. My ego or sense of possession or the general shock at what went haywire, made me aghast to see he could be so happy, in the company of his friends, without me. It pained me, as if it was a pseudo betrayal. But well, nomatter how much he hurt me, I cannot bring myself to even imagine him being hurt. Though, sometimes, it gives me a somewhat chimeric pleasure to muse how amusing it would be when he realizes the gravity of his loss( because honestly, I’m pretty much a good catch, lol). But then, there is no point living in any wishful fancy, I realize that. But oh, such a toll heartbreak takes on you. I lost all rationality. It’s like I am falling into an abyss of madness.. Desperately wanting some refuge. Thankyou, for giving me the light of reason. And love.