There is an infamous anecdote about the writer and teacher Sharon Salzberg, who went to a Mind and Life conference in Dharamsala, India with the Dalai Lama, and asked what his thoughts on self-hatred were.
The Dalai Lama asked his translator again and again for an explanation—and the attempts only proved to frustrate him. Finally, he looked up perplexed, and said in English, “Self-hatred. What is that?” This is a great example of the disparities between Eastern and Western culture.
After being somewhat embarrassed by his ignorance, he couldn’t help inquiring at the end, how anyone with “Buddha nature” could hate themselves.
Another area that the Dalai Lama has a bit of trouble with is the Western obsession with love and romance.
When asked in an interview what his thoughts were on the matter, he answered, “I think, leaving aside how the endless pursuit of romantic love can affect our deeper spiritual growth, even from the perspective of a conventional way of life, the idolization of this romantic love can be seen as an extreme. Unlike those relationships based on caring and genuine affection—this is another matter. It’s something based on a fantasy—unattainable—therefore may be a source of frustration. So, on that basis, it cannot be seen as a positive thing.”
Now, many people might say, “What do you expect him to think? He is monastic and celibate.” But I’m not sure that’s the point. He went on to say, “I think that if one is seeking to build a truly satisfying relationship, the best way of bringing this about is to get to know the deeper nature of the person and relate to her or him on that level instead of merely on the basis of superficial characteristics.”
Given that the online dating industry rakes in a couple billion a year, I’m going to venture a guess that we, as a culture, may be missing the mark.
It’s fairly obvious that people generally predicate their choices on a one inch by one inch photographic tile, more than what the biographical information suggests, but even if this weren’t so, would you feel comfortable getting romantically involved with someone based on self-testimonial? Would you hire a plumber if they told you they were “a real good plumber?”
Nonetheless, we generally find ourselves co-parenting and cohabiting with people we fell passionately in love with and felt strong desires for, and then, find ourselves still with them when those feelings begin to wane. So the existential question becomes “what do we do?”
The mindful choice, to me, seems to be to take the time at that point to cultivate a deeper relationship. It’s practically a given that the initial cocaine rush of “falling in love” will never be recaptured with that person. So, to aspire to rekindle this
aspect is an exercise in futility. But do not despair! There is hope.
What could possibly be good about this situation? More than you could know. Since we as a culture don’t really have the
time or patience to wait until a deep and compassionate friendship grows into romance, we must use the time when we “fall out of love” to get to know our partner on a more profound level. This includes participating in activities together, spending alone time together without having sex, and conversation.
I would highly recommend listening to your partner—and by listening I don’t mean silently waiting for them to finish their sentence so you can get yours in. I mean comprehend their feelings and build compassion around their needs. When you find yourself judging them and ruminating about what irks you, implore yourself to try on their perspective, and see if you can get a real feel for how they see things.
This would be a good time to give up the pornography!
If I ask most of my friends, they will swear that they don’t watch porn on their phones, but somehow it’s still a $12 billion dollar-per-year industry. For a moment, let’s put aside the moral issues, and just look at how this might affect your romantic relationship. It is my theory, and I’m going by my gut here, that it ruins more relationships than we ever want to admit.
If a man is clicking and clicking scene after scene after scene, there are physiological changes that take place in the brain that make it nearly impossible to respond properly to one single person. Give your mind the gift of putting it down. Besides, I am certain that the karma associated with supporting that sort of thing can not possibly help you.
Each day, get creative with something you might do to help nurture and nourish a more meaningful relationship. Giving inexpensive, thoughtful gifts, writing sincere and heartfelt (not syrupy) poetry, a phone call to simply thank them for being in your life—this is how you deliver a situation from the mundane and tired right into the realm of authentic love. If you can stay consistent with this, the rewards can be innumerable.
Let’s face it, the urge to go running for the next novel thing is something we all face in this part of the world and, most likely, in many other cultures as well.
When we are able to get quiet and mindful, we realize that this can be a constant pattern that will always lead to a state of emptiness, unless we consciously decide that we’d like to try something different.
We are all responsible for creating our own realities, so it is not a requirement to allow monogamy to become tedious, tiresome, or uninspiring.
It is up to you to create your own magic!
Author: Billy Manas
Image: See Ming Lee/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Erin Lawson