#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

#Buddhism and Intimate #Relationships: What’s the Deal?

staying in love
image from http://indulgy.com

I went on an online hunt for the latest in advice, opinions, experiences and perspectives on this topic, intimate relationships and/or #love, from a #Buddhist perspective, restricting myself to postings from the last twelve months.

NOTE: Buddhists use this definition of “love”: the wish for the one you love to be happy. So, if you love someone, you will do everything you are capable of to help that person achieve temporary and long-lasting happiness—regardless of what loving that person requires of you—unselfishly, unstintingly, the way a parent would strive for a child.

Dalai Lama Love is wanting others to be happy
image from http://peacelovepotager.blogspot.com

Here are what I found and some of my comments and questions about how to be a Buddhist in close relationships.

Next? Your comments!


From the Buddhism Stack Exchange (“a question and answer site for people practicing or interested in Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice. It’s built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we’re working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice”), which has a page on Buddhism, marked Beta, with the subtitle from September 2, 2015: “Do buddhists fall in love?”
http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/11266/do-buddhists-fall-in-love

This site provides a lot of info on the various subdivisions of Buddhism, including Theravada, Mahayana and Zen, and Vajrayana. Since I practice Tibetan Vajrayana Nyingma Buddhism, I focused on the responses that seem to be from the Vajrayana point of view.

Several responses were posted, but my favorites are these two, excerpted below.

One writer, Andrei Volkov (“Non-sectarian practitioner in the tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, heavily influenced by Korean Zazen and studies of Pali Canon. Dedicated to serious practice since 1995, and independent of others with regard to the Buddha’s message since 2012”), posted his response to the question posed (with a lot of explanatory material from the questioner that accompanied this question), “Do buddhists fall in love?”

In Vajrayana schools…emotions, including romantic love, are considered a form of energy that can be put to use… Vajrayana would still appreciate the inherent fakeness of love, the mechanical nature of which comes from a match of partners’ stereotypes and preconceptions.

[E]ven if a Vajrayana practitioner could play with the fire both in context of its ego-melting properties as well as for pleasure, they would not take it one-sidedly as an untrained run-of-the-mill person would do….Vajrayana view includes both sacred and illusory aspects of love. In Vajrayana we are trained to see things from all the sides at the same time. Love is both sacred and a giant trick, as far as Vajrayana is concerned.

The predominant Buddhist sentiment here is that being disappointed/disenchanted (= “sober”) is a …healthier state than the state of intoxication by an object of mind. While Vajrayana is 100% aligned with this most fundamental of Buddhist principles, we do allow ourselves to get drunk, both metaphorically with love, and occasionally even literally—–while staying fully accountable for the consequences—–a trait of the universal adult.

I also appreciated this perspective, posted by “Buddho” (gave no bio info):

Modern neuroscience is catching up with Buddhism in this department it appears. Scientists have found romantic love activates the same addictive parts of the brain as cocaine….

…Buddhism likens romantic love to an addiction, an attachment, and a danger.

…However, love…can also be about selflessness, … sacrifice and … self improvement…. This is the raison d’être for the Vajrayana school of romance as a valid path to enlightenment….


Another point of view comes from Bkikshuni Thupten Chödron, teacher, author and Abbess. Ani [Buddhist honorific for a nun] Chödron is a Western white woman who was one of the first to take Buddhist nun’s vows. http://thubtenchodron.org/biography/

Ani Chödron posted a marriage ceremony prayer that she asks the partners say to each other and to their friends and family, which I excerpt, below:
http://thubtenchodron.org/1995/06/wedding-readings-dharma/

…We aspire to make our spiritual path the core of our life together. We will help each other on the path to enlightenment, watering the seeds of love, compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom in each other. As we age and undergo the various ups and downs of cyclic existence, we aspire to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

…We recognize that external conditions in life will not always be smooth, and that internally, our own minds and emotions sometimes get stuck in negative ways of thinking. When this happens, we aspire to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help us grow, to open our hearts, to accept ourselves, others and life itself; and to generate compassion for all others who are also unhappy or suffering at that moment. We aspire to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and will help each other see all the various sides of a situation and to bring acceptance, flexibility and equanimity to it.

…We aspire to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment and to apply Dharma antidotes when these arise in our minds and to help each other do so, also.

…Day to day, as we progress along the path, we aspire to be patient with ourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually…

I have attended a few Buddhist wedding ceremonies and heard about others. They usually include a portion of the vows that ends with “until impermanence intervenes” instead of the more traditional and secular “until death do we part.”


I’ve also heard and read Buddhist teachings that indicate one great reason to be in intimate relationships, whether platonic or sexual: when we are in relationship, we see our own minds better and face our challenges daily with ourselves.

I can attest to the experiences I have had with this exact situation from times I have been on individual, silent retreats: as long as I do not interact with anyone (no eye contact, no conversations, no communication of any kind) and, better yet, don’t even encounter anyone else in a significant way, I believe that I am doing “great” with my practice. I am so patient, so generous, so kind, so loving, so compassionate, so able to rejoice in others’ successes and happiness, so calm and so earnest about wanting to alleviate suffering for all beings. Oh, yes. Ahhhh.

On retreat, I am practically a saint….until I am thwarted or confronted with someone’s saying or doing something I don’t want or preventing me from getting what I do want.

Could be that someone puts their shoes where I usually put mine. Sometimes, I have to wait longer than usual for a meal. Perhaps someone stands where I want to stand, preventing me from seeing something I want to see. Maybe someone “takes” “my” parking space.

parkingspot
image from http://www.smilesforall.com

Provoked by the smallest of infractions or distractions, my ordinary mind and all its selfishness, attachment, pride, jealousy, anger and ignorance rear all their heads at once. There go my delusions of equanimity and of Bodhisattva grandeur: shattered!

The only “realization” I can honestly claim to have is this: I am so far from liberated, I can’t even read the sign for “enlightenment, this way —>.”

It seems to be true that the main spiritual advantage to being in an intimate relationship is that we get our spiritual comeuppance every day, many times a day, and can harbor no such illusions about our proximity to “enlightenment.” When we are engaged in intense, personal relationships with others and paying attention to our own minds, whether that occurs with colleagues, a lover/partner or with friends, our tasks are to be grateful for the challenges, to be glad of the opportunities to grow and improve.

Buddhist teachings exhort us to continue focusing our criticisms on ourselves and our generosity on our partners. We learn to see every interpersonal encounter as a chance to “look in the mirror” and see ourselves better rather than “look out the window” and point at or blame others for our confusions, hurts and complaints. We consider our sangha, the other members of our spiritual community, to be our “guide,” which means they show us the nature of our minds merely by being in our lives.

Lao Tsu knowing others knowing ourselves

This does not mean we shouldn’t remove ourselves from an abusive relationship or ignore people who harm us or others. That is a misconstruction of these instructions. Buddhism also doesn’t encourage “co-dependency” while inspiring unselfishness: fine lines, always.

We simply try to maintain our focus on our own minds when we are feeling angry, resentful, proud, jealous, or afraid. We are attempting to see clearly the nature of our emotions as empty—having no substance—and to discover the source of our own suffering as ignorance, on the path to becoming more patient and spontaneously compassionate toward others.

CONCLUSIONS

If we aren’t interacting in any serious way with others, if we have no “skin in the game,” if all our relationships are superficial, short-term, and insignificant, we won’t be inspired to improve ourselves because, as I believe about myself when I’m alone on retreat, we’ll mistakenly conclude that we are “just fine the way we are.”

Are you in any relationships in which you are “all in,” allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable, exposed, authentic? Or, do you hold yourself back, keep some in reserve, never fully commit or reveal yourself? Only by immersing ourselves in an intense human relationship of some kind can we fully learn to understand our own minds and emotions honestly.

Why hold back? None of us lives all that long….

I am not in a close relationship with a lover right now, but I wish I were. I am in close contact with family members and a few friends, but none of those relationships brings the challenges right to my heart/mind that a lover does. Maybe some day, again…

Trouble is, I am very picky and I have a lot of experience, so I am not inclined to be in a relationship just to be in one. Not now.

My personal ads (when I ran them) did not get many relevant “hits.” Could be because these are my criteria and descriptions: “Serious meditators, only. People my age (61) or thereabouts, only. Kind, intelligent, humorous, interesting people only. No drinkers or smokers. One or no pets. No kids at home.”

I’m willing to be with either a woman or man, which opens up the field considerably, but my chosen categories otherwise make my acceptable potentials (and those who might find me appealing) very small. Also, I’m a Buddhist who was raised Jewish, a feminist and a radical, politically. Unless the other person is, also, or has experience with people similar to me, they probably won’t understand or respect me properly, nor I, them.

Then, add in these facts and you’ll see the pool shrinks into one that holds almost zero candidates: I don’t like to shop except for food that we’ll eat, and I prefer organic and food farmers’ markets, when possible. I don’t wear make-up or perfume or dress up readily. I don’t shave. I don’t wear bras. I’m honest. I’m somewhat psychic. I’m short, but people tell me I’m intimidating even when I don’t say a word. I’m a writer, a blogger, and a talk show host who likes to spend a lot of time alone to accomplish these things. I swim a lot, but I can’t hike (bad leg and back). I don’t have much money (yet). I eschew most sports, don’t like gambling, am not pleased with or want to go to most movies.

I get up at 3 AM and go to bed at about 8 PM, although, with naps, I can push the bedtime back a bit. I’m extremely intelligent and highly educated (doctorate), and I’m not as patient as I ought to be with potential partners who are not well-educated, don’t read much, and/or don’t know how to express themselves and/or don’t talk much. I’m very funny and I appreciate humor, but not if it’s disrespectful or implies derogatory opinions of groups or individuals.

I don’t like most movies or TV programs and won’t watch them. I fall asleep at classical concerts (although I like some of that music) and detest opera. I don’t want to attend most plays or public performances, but there are some I really would like to see.

I’m also not a “Barbie doll.” Therefore, I don’t want to be with someone whose main criteria for a lover start with or center on appearance and “fitness.” I appreciate certain physical qualities, but those aren’t my “screen” and I am not interested in people who screen that way.

I want friendship and interest first, love to have a chance and time to evolve, and for sex to occur as we get to know each other, not as the way to get to know each other. I haven’t had sex for over five years. I can wait.

You see the problems, yes?

subset almost nil
image from http://www.cs.uni.edu

If there is anyone at all left in my subset, what are the odds that this person is alive and living within 15 – 20 miles of me in St. Louis, Missouri USA, right now, AND that I would meet up with him/her by chance and s/he would recognize me and I, him/her?

Let me know when you find such a person(s).

The truth is, because I have had dozens of relationships in my life, from those lasting one-night to twenty+ years, and I have an adult child I am close to and love dearly, as I do his partner, and I have many friends around the country and connections around the world, and relational experiences from dozens of years of living collectively, working closely with and living with people, I have the grounds for being choosy. I’d rather be “alone” than be in a relationship that isn’t healthy or spiritually nourishing.


Love isn’t easy. Love doesn’t always offer fun and sex. Love doesn’t usually include roses or violins.

Is love worthwhile? How should a practicing Buddhist (or anyone conscious) best engage in close relationships?

You tell me. http://www.sallyember.com/blog

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Although she won’t listen, I’m giving my 16-year-old self advice: Guest Post on Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog

Although she won’t listen, I’m giving my 16-year-old self advice: Guest Post originally on Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog

I turn 61 today, so in a great age inversion, I’m again sending advice to my 16-year-old self: this was originally posted on May 7, 2015, on http://www.krystenlindsay.com/blog/although-she-wont-listen-im-giving-my-16-year-old-self-advice-by-sally-ember-edd. Thanks, Krysten!

Maybe she’ll listen THIS time…?


Dear 16-year-old Sally,

Sally 1971
Sally at 16

From the impossibly ripe old age of 61, I send you/me advice, based on knowing how things turn out for us and recognizing choice points we could decide differently about, if we are so inclined.

If so, given the simultaneous nature of time and quantum physics’ declaration that anything that CAN happen DOES happen, we will make millions of different choices, rendering some of this advice moot. Even so, here we go.

1) Friends
The “cool” kids aren’t better friends. In fact, they’re usually so intent on keeping their “cool” status (which is always precarious) that they can be deceitful, mean-spirited, unfaithful, disloyal and unreliable in every way. Cultivate and BE the type of friend who cares more about being a good friend than anyone’s perceived (and quite temporary) status. Keeping good friends is a lot more important than attaining “cool” status.

Status in high school will be long-forgotten and completely irrelevant as soon as you graduate. Decades after high school is over, you’ll still be friends with the people worth befriending. You won’t even remember the names of those you were so keen to impress at 16 or why you (or anyone) thought they were so “cool.”

Do you still like graphs and diagrams? Here are four quadrants explaining the four types of friendships people can have and where one’s distribution of friends are likely to fall.
—Quadrant 1 (Q1) is in the TOP RIGHT = IDEAL, which are friendships that are Healthy and Enjoyable, both. If you’re lucky, most of your friendships belong here.
—Quadrant 2 (Q2) is in the BOTTOM RIGHT = PROBLEMATIC, which are friendships that are Healthy but Not Enjoyable You can change what you think is “enjoyable,” but you can’t create “healthy” so easily. Change your point of view.
—Quadrant 3 (Q3) is in the TOP LEFT = PROBLEMATIC, which are friendships that are Enjoyable but Not Healthy What makes these “enjoyable”? Really? Cut it out. Get out.
—Quadrant 4 (Q4) is in the BOTTOM LEFT = “COME ON,” which are friendships that are Neither Health NOR Enjoyable if your’re smart, NONE of your friendships belongs here.

Friendship quadrant
image from http://waitbutwhy.com

2) Relationships with Boys (and Girls)
You will mostly be infatuated and not in love. Feelings of attraction, interest, lust, even love are not the same as being “in love,” but they SEEM to be and can fool you. These other feelings can be very strong and important, but they aren’t meant to help you choose a life partner, just a date or a relationship for a few months. Plan accordingly.

Never blow off a good friend (male or female) to go on a date or spend more time with your date or sex partner. Sex partners/dates will change frequently; friends can last a lifetime, if you’re careful and sincere. Be a good friend and you’ll HAVE good friends.

Great litmus test for whether or not your feelings are deep and/or significant for a date/sex partner: imagine that one of you is in a serious car accident and left with injuries that cause that person to become a quadriplegic. Would either of you be loyal and devoted enough to the other to take care of the paralyzed partner for the rest of your lives? You might never have sex again with that person (or, if you’re monogamous, with anyone else, either). You might never be touched again by/touch that person (paralyzed: remember?). You might never sleep in the same bed, never dance together upright, never take walks next to each other holding hands.

NOW: are you still convinced that you’re “in love”? That’s okay. Have a good time, but don’t make life-long promises.

young-couple-man-wheelchair-11763960
image from http://www.dreamstime.com

3) Sex, Birth Control, Sexuality, STDs, Sexual Identity
You don’t need to be in love to have sex. You don’t need to be having sex to purchase/acquire birth control and STDs protection (condoms, pills, IUDs, etc.), and, in fact, DON’T WAIT! If you are even considering having intercourse or fluids-exchanging sex with ANYONE, go to Planned Parenthood or a free clinic or your doctor and find out what your best choices are. BE PREPARED.

It is not romantic, fun, easy or worthwhile to become pregnant at 16 or contract an STD, ever. Get educated. Find out what is contagious, how easy it is to get pregnant even before or without having actual heterosexual intercourse, how quickly and easily fluids can be exchanged that carry diseases between sex partners and be SMART and PREVENTIVE.

If you can’t talk about these things with your potential sex partner, if you can’t take off your clothes and touch each other with some lights on, if you can’t talk about what you like and don’t like regarding sexual touching, YOU ARE NOT READY TO HAVE SEX and/or YOU ARE WITH THE WRONG PERSON. For real. Don’t do it.

90% of sexual pleasure is in your BRAIN. So, if you’re not feeling safe, cared about, respected, listened to, wanted, known, you won’t climax (come; have an orgasm) AND you won’t feel good afterwards about what you’re doing with that person.

Consent must be given and received before having sex, but it is NOT an obligation to give (or get) consent.

Sex WON’T “fix” a relationship, “bring you closer” or make a tentative connection “better.” It’s just sex. You might temporarily feel more connected after having some sexual contact, but when your clothes are back on, you’re back to being yourselves and you’re stuck with whatever relationship you already have.

Having sex doesn’t cause you to become more mature, smart, “cool,” or ready for responsibility. You’re still YOU; you’ve just added sex to the mix and that is usually NOT a good idea at your age. TRULY.

Be honest with yourself. What turns you on? What/which kinds of people? Are you attracted only to certain types of people? One or more genders?

Here are some clues: “Nice” is NOT boring. Meanness doesn’t signify someone with higher intelligence, just a facility with sarcasm. Humor that is unkind reveals a person using it who is not kind. Pretty eyes, a great voice, fascinating hands or other body parts do NOT lead to having a good relationship: a PERSON has to be attached to these features whom you actually like.

Sex aids
image from http://www.nydailynews.com

4) School, Science and Writing You will have some horrible science teachers and some excellent English/writing teachers. Your math teachers will mostly be all right, but not great. Same with social studies and other subjects: good, but not great. Don’t let the qualities of your teacher determine what YOU are interested in pursuing.

You will use writing throughout your life, for almost everything related to education and work. So, continue to improve your writing/editing skills. You will never regret becoming a good writer.

If you love science (or anything else), stick with it, even if the teachers are awful in high school. It gets better in college and beyond. You can also learn on your own throughout your life, so learn how to learn: that is key.

High school is only 4 years of your life: don’t let it define you or your future choices overly much. Right now, high school is one-fourth of your years on earth, but the older you get, the smaller that percentage becomes. By the time you’re thirty, these four years aren’t even one-eighth of your life. See?

Dr. Seuss quote
quote from The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

5) Meditation and Religion You won’t feel connected to Judaism, regardless of how many years you are forced to attend religious education classes and how many of your friends and family members are Jewish. That’s all right.

You will find meditation, then Buddhism to be spiritual “home” for you. Say “yes” when your friends offer to bring you to meditation classes. Say “no” when people try to push you into anything that doesn’t feel right to you.

You will have to pave your own way, even though you’re the only one in your family to travel this spiritual path. You’ll be happy with yourself and you don’t harm anyone else, so go for it.

Buddhist meditation pose
image from http://www.opendharma.org

I hope you’ll take these pieces of advice to heart and follow them. If not, you’ll not be any worse off, at least.

Love,

Older Sally


Sci-fi/romance author, former writing teacher and editor and LIVE talk show host of the almost weekly G+ HOA/Youtube videochat, CHANGES conversations between authors, Sally Ember, Ed.D., is my guest blogger today.

Profile pic fewer distractions 2015

“I have been passionate about writing since I was nine years old, when I wrote and published my first story, a fairy tale about an inquisitive princess (see? I started out autobiographical). Always competitive, I’m absurdly proud that I won prizes for my poetry, stories, songs and plays early in life. Did I use up my creativity good karma too soon?

“I was born Jewish on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, which seems to mean that my life has been infused with change. Currently, I meditate, write, swim, read and host CHANGES most Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA, in St. Louis, Missouri. I have one older brother and two younger sisters (none lives in St. Louis but we’re in close contact) and I used to have seven step-sisters and two step-brothers (we’re not in touch).

“I began meditating at age 17 with Transcendental Meditation (T.M., like the Beatles) and have been meditating for over 40 years. I became a Buddhist in 1996 (in this lifetime, anyway).

“In my ‘other’ professional life, I have worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager in colleges, universities and private nonprofits for over thirty-five years in New England (every state), New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area before returning to live in St. Louis, MO, in August, 2014. I have a BA in Elementary Education, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

“I enjoy blurring the lines between fact and fiction in a multiverse of multiple timelines, often including exciting elements of utopian science fiction and Buddhism. My sci-fi /romance/ speculative fiction/ paranormal/ multiverse/ utopian/Buddhist-infused, Jewish-themed ebooks for New Adult/adult/YA audiences, The Spanners Series, which are unique, uplifting, intriguing and challenging, according to readers. Vol I, This Changes Everything, is now FREE everywhere since Vol II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, released June, 2014. Look for Vol III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in 2015, and Vol IV – X in subsequent years; about two per year is the plan.

“I have one son, Merlyn, who is a computer network engineer and musician. Merlyn, my sisters, my mom and several friends serve as my beta readers and sounding boards for much of my writing and also contribute ideas and characters for my books, as do others in my family and friendship circles (voluntarily or not). The stories in The Spanners Series are completely true and all these characters and situations exist in some timeline or another.

“Since I alternate the POVs and focus on characters and situations to feature those who are younger/YA/NA for even-numbered Volumes of The Spanners Series and feature older adults (primarily) in odd-numbered Volumes, I plan to ‘crowdcreate’ Volume VIII with younger writers and Volume IX with those closer to my age (older adults). I invite readers to submit to me your ideas and suggestions and/or volunteer to collaborate in other ways for either of these Volumes (your choice) no later than January 31, 2016. sallyember AT yahoo DOT com

logoAuthorsDen

“I am also a some-time editor/proofreader, infrequent reviewer (but PLEASE do not send me your books or requests; I choose what to review and I rarely do it since I focus on writing and hosting), frequent blogger and talk-show host, so I geared the ‘rewards’ for my Patreon Crowdfunding campaign to be useful to those who choose to donate (as little as $4 gets a donor something). The Patreon page features videos of me singing (a capella; be nice) an original song about my campaign and describing the campaign goals and rewards. Link is below.

“I blog regularly on a wide range of topics and I also include reviews, interviews, guest blog posts, and excerpts from my ebooks. Visit and comment, follow, ‘like,’ and share.” http://www.sallyember.com/blog

BOOK BLURBS:

Volume I, This Changes Everything, The Spanners Series, by Sally Ember, Ed.D., PERMAFREE

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks
Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, 58, begins having secret visits from holographic representations of  beings from the Many Worlds Collective, a consortium of planet and star systems in the multiverse.  When Earth is invited to join the consortium, the secret visits are made public. Now Earthers must adjust their beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture, identity and everything they think and are. The MWC selects Clara to be the liaison between Earth and the Many Worlds Collective and she chooses Esperanza Enlaces to be the Media Contact. They team up to provide information to stave off riots and uncertainty. The Many Worlds Collective holos train Clara and the Psi-Warriors for the Psi Wars with the rebelling Psi-Defiers, communicate effectively with many species on Earth and off-planet, eliminate ordinary, elected governments and political boundaries, convene a new group of Global Leaders, and deal with family’s and friends’ reactions. In what multiple timelines of the ever-expanding multiverse do Clara and her long-time love, Epifanio Dang, get to be together and which leave Clara alone and lonely as the leader of Earth? This Changes Everything spans the 30-year story of Clara’s term as Earth’s first Chief Communicator, continuing in nine more Volumes of The Spanners Series. Are YOU ready for the changes?

Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series $3.99

51-N7O96ZSL._UY250_
Intrigued by multiple timelines, aliens, psi skills, romance and planetary change? Clara and the alien “Band” are back in Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever. Now as Chief Communicator, Clara leads the way for interspecies communication on- and off-planet. Fighting these changes are the Psi-Defiers, led by one of the oldest friends of the Chief of the Psi-Warriors, its reluctant leader, Rabbi Moran Ackerman. Stories from younger Spanners about the first five years of The Transition fill Volume II. How would YOU do with the changes?

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