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iLove's avatar

A relationship question for those studying or practicing Buddhism...

Asked by iLove (2339 points ) June 29th, 2011

I am somewhat new to a consistent Buddhist practice even though I have been interested in Buddhism for years. I found a center really close to my home that I like, and my boyfriend at the time was interested in joining. He had never been interested in Buddhism practices prior.

I found great peace at this place and have greatly enjoyed my practice.

Now that we have broken up, and I am doing the work to remove myself from suffering this loss, he is still attending the center even though we are not speaking. Even though I have changed which side of the shrine room I sit in during meditation, he continues to sit near me.

My questions are: do I use my resistance to his presence as a tool to deepen my practice? Because I find it somewhat distracting that he is there. Do I ask him to relocate, or is that contradictory to the healing I am seeking?

this breakup is particularly challenging for me since we shared such a deep connection; yet he did not want to be in a committed relationship with me by his own choice

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10 Answers

tom_g's avatar

@iLove – This sounds like a challenging situation. Sorry you are going through this.

Here are my thoughts…Is there an different sangha nearby that you can go to for now? This isn’t to say that you should resist and run. Rather, is it possible that you may be able to go deeper in your practice if he is not in your presence right now.

Another approach might be to try what you describe above and use his presence as a tool. If I were in your shoes, I cannot imagine being able to pull this off, but maybe you could. I would imagine that some initial healing would have to happen prior to me using this as an opportunity/tool.

Sorry I don’t have anything valuable to add. Just thinking out loud and realized that I do not have an answer. I sincerely hope you find what will work for you. It might take some painful experimentation, but you will come out a stronger person.

wundayatta's avatar

What this makes me wonder is why he always sits near you? Is he trying to torture you? Is he playing some kind of passive-aggressive game? Could he possibly actually be there to learn and he just happens to find that the only chairs available are near you?

It would be a challenge to redirect your mind back to your practice when he is there but is it really any more of a challenge than when you think about him and losing him at any other time of the day or night?

Loss is horrible and hard and all that. Coping with it when there are constant reminders… pretty much par for the course.

I think I would forgive myself for being distracted by his presence. In fact, I might even thank him (in my mind) for providing this opportunity practice. I would try to be grateful for his presence for the challenge it provides. I would try to see it as a gift, not torture.

Everything in the world is upside down when you stand on your head. So, think of it this way. When you’re at the center, you’re learning to stand on your head.

Cruiser's avatar

Buddhists AFAICT practice a form of non-attachment. This can be anything and I believe involves not allowing yourself to be attached to a thing of “value” that brings no value to your life.

I would say it seems you are still allowing yourself to be attached or available to be attached by your ex. It is all up to you to not allow yourself to still be attachable to your past relationship no matter how close he chooses to put himself to you. Just think no…

gorillapaws's avatar

Sounds like you’re attached to that particular location. You know what the Buddha would do…

…Abandon his family, friends, relationships, strip down naked and hang out in the woods in silence for a few years.

iLove's avatar

@Cruiser – yes. Attachment. it is the obvious thing here. When we recite the 4 immeasurables prayer, I do realize it is attachment I am dealing with. As I mentioned, this is a new practice for me so I am doing my best to understand how to move away from attachment.

@wundayatta – thank you – one of the things you mentioned was being grateful for his presence. I found myself doing just that when I felt distracted – sending him thanks for the challenge I was provided with.

thorninmud's avatar

The practice isn’t a pleasant detour around the things that we find hard to deal with. In fact, it brings us squarely face to face with them. This has great value. We’ve spent most of our pre-practice lives trying to avoid dukkha, the various forms of discontent that are part of our human heritage. Practice invites us to adopt dukkha as our teacher, because only dukkha can show us where our delusions lie.

I’m reminded of the description in the sutras of what Shakyamuni Buddha went through during his final push toward awakening. Those 7 days under the Bo tree weren’t a vacation from his troubles. It’s said that he saw Mara (the demon-like metaphorical representation of delusion) and his vast army arrayed against him, coming at him with their arrows and battle axes.

We all deal with some form of this very thing on our own path to awakening. This guy is, in a sense, your Mara (as, perhaps, you are his). But Mara wasn’t the Buddha’s enemy. If the Buddha had taken that stance, Mara would have won. The sutra says that Mara’s weapons turned to flowers as he attacked. This is how we are called upon to deal with our own Maras. They are blessings in disguise, instructing us rather than obstructing us. Take a stance against them, and the arrows feel all too real. See them as the manifestation of our own clinging, and they have rendered us an invaluable service. They are then the embodiment of the first and second Noble Truths.

iLove's avatar

@thorninmud – ahhhhhh yes. Thank you so much for your response. Some of the things you mentioned I have found in my studies, and some are still new to me. But this is exactly what I was looking for… I am familiar with the story of Shakyamuni and Mara, and your analogy of this to my current situation is quite helpful.

The most valuable part of your response for me was:
They are blessings in disguise, instructing us rather than obstructing us. Take a stance against them, and the arrows feel all too real. See them as the manifestation of our own clinging, and they have rendered us an invaluable service. They are then the embodiment of the first and second Noble Truths.

Thank you!

longtresses's avatar

First of all, sorry to hear about the break-up and the difficulty you’re going through..

It’s very hard to sit next to someone who stirs a strong emotional reaction inside you. For many months at my local sitting group, I was sharing my morning meditation with the said person. I never sat right next to the person, always across the room, but still…

Some days it was hard not to think of ways to avoid this person. Other days, I found that I was doing pretty OK. If I stuck to the breath, I found that everything was going to be all right most of the time. And it was. Truth being that all things are transient in nature; conditions change; feelings therefore don’t last. It’s sad yet comforting at the same time.

The suggestion I often receive is that when you’re dealing with strong emotions/sensations, either you run away or you face them, depending on where you’re at. If with difficult situations, either you change those situations, or you change yourself. In my opinion it doesn’t matter what you pick; either way you’re going to learn something down the road.

If the practice gets too hard, you may think of it as doing it for the sake of your kids (if you have any) or your family. You’re not just sitting for yourself, to solve some philosophical dilemma, but for the people around you who need your calm presence in their lives. You give your self up and dedicate your sitting for the benefit of others. When you’re self less in that sense, surrendering to the moment becomes easier. At least that’s how I came to understand it..

Good luck! Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them. :-)

iLove's avatar

@longtresses – thanks for your story… how did it turn out for you? I am curious to know more. Thanks for the advice on dedicating my practice to my daughter. That is an excellent suggestion. :)

longtresses's avatar

@iLove I happened to move out of the city, so that was the end of sitting with that sangha. Nothing said or done, no apologies, etc. I didn’t care.

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