Maintaining an Open Heart During a Break Up.

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While not a Buddhist, the singer Neil Sedaka nailed it with his song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Particularly if you are still in love with the person you are parting ways with, you will experience what I find to be the most aptly named emotion: heartbreak. It literally feels like your heart is physically ripping open, breaking as a result of your loss.

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. You may try to fill it with new people to date or sleep with, or alcohol or drugs or new hobbies, but that hole is so vast that those temporary distractions seem to get lost in there.

The first piece of advice I would offer anyone going through a break up is to sit with whatever emotions arise, without judgment. At times you may feel loss, as one of your best friends has left you and it no longer feels appropriate to talk with them about all the details of your life.

Or you may feel anger, in that they have done you wrong by abandoning your life together or that they did something mean-spirited that led to the demise of the relationship.

Or perhaps you just feel confusion: you have no idea what went wrong and how it all went to shit. Regardless of what you are feeling, that is okay.

The more you can sit with your emotions, both on and off the meditation cushion, the easier they are to work with.

It may feel like hell, but in the words of Suzuki Roshi,

“Hell is not punishment, it’s training.”

You are training to be with pain, which is great since we have this whole cycle of suffering we seem to be immersed in and it’s not like we’re never going to have to address pain again.

Working with these strong emotions is both hell and a training ground; it is also inherently okay.

Sometimes when people break up they need time to not be around the other person. Some try to maintain a friendship or at least remain on speaking terms right off the bat. Seung Sahn was once asked about this topic and said,

“Being a bodhisattva means that when people come, don’t cut them off; when people go, don’t cut them off.”

That means that when someone enters your life you should not shut them out of your heart. When they leave, don’t shut them out of your heart.

It is disrespectful to your partner to pretend that what existed between you was not of value. That is aggression, causing harm to your ex, and is a form of ignorance that harms you as well.

Don’t be surprised if you feel a wide range of emotions. Another musician, and a gentleman I consider a very amazing Zen student, Leonard Cohen once sang,

“I’m good at love, I’m good at hate. It’s in between I freeze.”

When your lover leaves you, you might want to vacillate between these extremes. One moment you love your ex, and can’t live without her. The next you hate her for the pain she has caused you, and never want to speak with her again.

This middle ground between these two is letting the infinite number of other emotions that come up wash over you like waves.

That is very hard to do.

That is where most of us freeze up and forget our practice. Yet that uncomfortable, uncertain, difficult place is that training ground for working with every other emotion in our lives.

There are many ways to exist in that uncomfortable zone between love and hate.

One tip Pema Chodron has recommended is that you can place a picture of your ex somewhere you will see it often. It can be your hallway, or on your refrigerator, or on your desk. Whenever you see the face of your old lover you can think to yourself, “I wish for your deepest well-being.”

I would recommend that if that phrase doesn’t ring true to you make one up for yourself. It could be “I wish that you find happiness” or “I wish that you will not suffer so much.” As with so much of what is being discussed here, the most important thing is that you make this practice your own.

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.

 

From ‘Walk Like a Buddha’ by Lodro Rinzler, © 2013 Lodro Rinzler. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, Mass.

 

Relephant: 

The Relationship Funeral

12 Tips for Getting Through a Break Up

The Laws of Breaking Up and Getting Over It

 

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

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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.

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anonymous Oct 1, 2015 4:34pm

In my heart i told him and wishes him happiness for the life he chooses without me so many times. And yet i still grieve. I know i will never be able to love anyone as much as i have loved him, because i tried. Not once…! Lately i smile when i think about him. I guess, thats when i finally realized that we werent supposed to end up togther. Me and my ex broken up a year ago last august…last august after a year ago…he got married. And four days before the vow he called me to say his final goodbye and mine aswell. Reading this article is inspiring. Thank you for this!

anonymous Jul 20, 2015 3:34pm

A beautifully written article that couldn't have come at a more appropriate time…Thank You!

anonymous Oct 22, 2014 8:21pm

Love it….. Thanks :'-)

anonymous Sep 30, 2014 8:08pm

I said a little prayer…God, protect us both from further sadness for a while. We need a break." Being able to be loving from afar felt more true to myself than the negativity I had been feeling.

    anonymous Jul 20, 2015 3:31pm

    Beautiful, simple, profound!

anonymous May 5, 2014 7:08am

Wow! Ask and you shall receive.

I am in the midst of all that this article refers too. The in between is damn difficult. At times I feel strong and capable and other times the pain and lack of love is what appears to be my way forward. Forgivness is the path I am choosing. While still not easy, I don’t want the dis-ease associated with the alternative. I am working at choice!

I am working to see the brighter side.

I am looking at possibility

Thank you for the showing me. Teaching me. I accept change in my life. I accept and love myself and as a result, welcome love in my life!

anonymous May 1, 2014 3:19pm

Fab advice on breaking up with your soulmate like a spiritual rockstar!

anonymous Mar 22, 2014 6:08am

Thank you for this. My boyfriend broke up with me a little over a month ago. Some days I can function and others I am just a puddle but getting better. Still love him but it is what it is and obviousily was something that was not meant to be and I truly believe in everything happens for a reason but just haven't figured the reason for what happened between us yet.

    anonymous Mar 22, 2014 9:10am

    A year has come and gone for me and my girlfriend of apprx. 5 years. I'm MUCH better but a deep void is still ever present. I want to take Pema Chodron's advice and put her picture or her name somewhere visible and offer her good tidings but I REALLY don't want to because it's still a bit too painful. Having said that I do not want to feel this way anymore and perhaps it's what I need to do. How can I not trust Pema????

anonymous Mar 22, 2014 12:05am

Thank you, this came at exactly the right time.

Liddie MacNeil Jul 25, 2016 9:38pm

I agree that this is written very well and the timing could not be any better. I guess we stumble upon whay we need at the moment. We do need to feel what we feel when we feel it. This particularly caught my attention Or perhaps you just feel confusion: you have no idea what went wrong and how it all went to shit. Regardless of what you are feeling, that is okay. And so did this That means that when someone enters your life you should not shut them out of your heart. When they leave, don’t shut them out of your heart. It is disrespectful to your partner to pretend that what existed between you was not of value. That is aggression, causing harm to your ex, and is a form of ignorance that harms you as well. I think people shut you out because they are afraid to deal with the real feelings they have for you. Sometimes leaving someone is easier than trying to work on what may or may not be wrong in the relationship. It is easier to give up if you shut the person out. But that is how I feel at this moment.