Cultivating a deep and intimate relationship over a period of decades means there will be times of transcendent happiness and also times of suffering and unhappiness. There is this duality in a relationship.
Learning how to stick it out is an art. John Welwood’s article “Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible” in Lion’s Roar (September 2017) offers some guidance.
This involves learning to ride the waves of our feelings rather than becoming submerged by them. This requires mindfulness of where we are in the cycle of emotional experience. A skilled surfer is aware of exactly where he is on the wave, whereas an unskilled surfer winds up getting creamed. By their very nature, waves are rising fifty percent of the time and falling the other fifty percent. Instead of fighting the down cycles of our emotional life, we need to learn to keep our seat on the surfboard and have a full, conscious experience going down.
Can you live and practice with the ups and downs of our relationships? My experience is that it’s possible and offers a richness to life that can’t be compared.
Earlier this week I shared in our sangha newsletter a series of questions presented by Thich Nhat Hanh in Hong Kong this past May. He simply read off about 20 questions at the beginning of the Public Talk and invited the listeners to allow them to penetrate into their heart. They weren’t easy questions necessary. Please allow me to share a few of them with you now.
- Are you in love?
- Are you still in love?
- Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love?
- Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy?
- Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself?
- Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering?
- Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person?
- Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less?
- Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation?
- Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself?
- Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness?
This doesn’t only need to pertain to our intimate relationships, but can also apply to other important relationships in our lives such as parents, children, friends, etc.
Suffering was the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha. There is suffering. Suffering isn’t something to be afraid of, to avoid, or to suppress. The question is do we know how to take care of our suffering. More importantly, do we know the goodness of suffering? The goodness of suffering is knowing that we can use our practice to transform the suffering into peace, joy, and happiness. It’s like the compost for the garden. We need to know how to take the garbage and use the compost to grow a beautiful flower or a vegetable garden. Continue reading “Working with our Relationships”
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