February 25, 2017

How to Have a Mindful Breakup—the Buddhist Way.

Mindfulness and break-ups apparently don’t go together.

Mindfulness is the awareness of our present moment—thoughts, feelings, sensations. It’s about accepting our current state of being without allowing our minds to drift away.

Breakups often lack mindfulness. We experience intense feelings such as anger, sadness, and disappointment. We become so overwhelmed by the breakup that we lose sight of being mindful, and we become reactive instead of mindfully present.

Combining mindfulness and breakups might seem arduous—but it’s not impossible. Since our egos can’t run the show during moments of mindfulness, our toxic reactions during a breakup can transform into conscious actions.

As I mentioned, breakups are associated with intense feelings. This is why we need to apply methods that lessen our suffering and raise our awareness simultaneously.

Breakups are strenuous, and going through them is painful. Sometimes, no matter how much we want to avoid separating from our loved one, we have no choice but to leave. But perhaps we can consider leaving in a mindful, respectful way.

Below are six steps we can follow if we are keen to have a mindful breakup.


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu

We often find breakups unacceptable. We have a hard time accepting the situation and our generated feelings. Buddhists advise that the first step toward genuine happiness is acceptance of what “is.” Working against the present moment only stops the spontaneous flow of events.

First, we need to accept that the breakup is taking place. Second, we need to feel and accept our own emotions, regardless how much destructive they get. The only way to eradicate them is to let them be and to understand that they’re impermanent.


“It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak and another to hear.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Listening in Buddhism is a cherished virtue. Buddhists consider talking and listening two important principles in our human relationships. With the right speech and correct way of listening, we open the door to respect and sharing. However, if we do these the wrong way, we only bring suffering to ourselves and others.

During breakups, we tend to turn a deaf ear, because we get so hung up on what we want to say or prove. The only conversation that runs through our minds is the one we want to happen. Listening helps us understand the other’s point of view. It must be associated with non-judgment and a reply that won’t harm the other person.

Don’t place blame.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We often blame the other person (or ourselves) during breakups because, in our minds, someone must be responsible for the situation. Buddhism offers us a new perspective—change is inevitable. Everything is impermanent and will end sooner or later. Even romantic relationships will end—if not due to breakups or divorces, they will end naturally through death.

That said, blaming ourselves or others is futile. Endings are bound to happen; we just have to make space for them and allow something new to emerge. Even the new thing that emerges will eventually cease.

Be compassionate.

“Compassion is not religious business; it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.” ~ Dalai Lama

Because we are angry that things didn’t work out as expected, we tend to unconsciously lack kindness during breakups. Compassion is extremely important in Buddhism. Buddhists consider it an essential component, for it distinguishes us from other species.

Although it’s difficult to generate kind feelings during these moments of separation, we should at least try—even if the other person hurt us. We must take firm action if necessary, but our actions should be motivated by compassion and love, instead of anger or hatred. Remember, people never forget the ones who are good to them.

Stay aware.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Awareness prevents us from falling into the traps of our egos. When we do fall, we play the victim—we blame, criticize and yell. Remember, the ego always wants attention. We decide whether to give it or not.

We can still discuss our emotions and our thoughts, but we must do it consciously and calmly. Anger only breeds more anger, and so does placing blame and judging. Partners appear to mirror each other during breakups, so if we are good, we will reflect goodness. Awareness also opens the door to forgiveness—however, forgiveness can never occur without putting our egos aside (the ego is what craves closure).

Wish your ex happiness.

“In romantic love, if you are not able to help the other person to be happy, that is not true love.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Letting go of the ones we love is likely not within the realm of our plans. But perhaps that’s what true love is about. Buddhists firmly believe that when we love someone, we care for their happiness as much as we do for ours. Therefore, if our partner’s happiness is no longer possible with us, we should try and accept it. That said, let them go.

At first, it will be hard to accept this notion. But once our intense emotions subside, we will realize that love is far beyond physical presence. We can continue to love someone through wishing them happiness and joy.



Author: Elyane Youssef

Image: Unsplash/Alexsandra Mazur

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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