Monday, November 22, 2010

Relationships and Buddhism: is there a conflict?

Today's pic is sponsored by Honda.
Test drive the new CR-Z today!
No, not really.
 Regarding Buddhism, getting rid of the "delusions" which are mostly referring to the "wanting" of material things, objects or people...getting rid of attachments in the sense that your mind is not cluttered and bothered by problems, ultimately achieving inner peace. 
Is it possible to achieve all this yet live in today's modern society, still cultivate relationships, even romantic ones? According to what I have learned thus far, it is not possible. For to reach the utmost inner peace, we must free ourselves of "said delusions"- which is defined as attachments to both people and things...achieve inner peace so that we can ultimately help others.
I'LL TELL YOU HOW I understand these concepts, but you should ask a pro. Attachment means your mind gets stuck on something, some goal. Attachment is triggered by desire. Desire for what? You can desire to keep things the way they are, to get more of something (pleasure, attention, spiritual progress), or to get less of something (fear, loneliness, confusion). When your desire is activated, your mind sticks to things, like those sticky hands you used to get at the arcade. Rather then just letting your experience be what it is, the mind sticks to some goal and then starts having a conversation about how to get there.

Say, for instance, you're about to go on a date. Dating triggers your desire to be accepted and be deemed worthy and have a relationship, and you start thinking about what you need to get there. I need to be on. I need to be gregarious. I need to be interesting. I need to be confident. I need to seem like I have my shit together. I need to be likable. Then you might look at your experience and say "oh shit." I'm not on. I don't feel fearless. I'm doubting myself. That can't be confidence. What is confidence? Well, I can be confident if I just believe in myself. What are my strengths? Was that how I got confident last time? Maybe I just need to remember that other people have fears too. Yeah, that's it. I feel a little better now, but I still feel uneasy. Let me think about it a --

Aaaaaand you're absolutely. fucking. insane. You're completely lost in your head and your thoughts are racing. What you're doing is trying to force your experience away from self-doubt and towards this goal of fearlessness. You've become attached to this ideal state, so much that you're denying what's already here. Rather than experience your self-doubt and confusion and just waiting, you're forcing it away. Unacceptable! GRRR. And in that process, you become alienated from your self, alienated from your feelings, alienated from your body. You becomes estranged from yourself. That's real misery. That's suffering.

The whole thing is premised on the incorrect assumption (delusion) that the goal is "out there" somewhere and that attaining it will bring you lasting satisfaction. That the possession and preservation of certain things -- money, success, pleasure, intelligence, confident, likability, relationships, marriage -- and the elimination of other competing things -- self-doubt, confusion, inferiority, "issues," physical flaws, and other things I don't have will finally give you peace. :-) But as we just said, it's precisely this striving and the demands we place on ourselves that generates our misery. Peace of mind is better thought of as a function of your willingness to experience whatever's already here without being in a rush to grow, preserve, or deny, i.e., without having some agenda driven by desire. When you start paying attention to what's already here, it's not so bad. Even boredom, confusion, self-doubt, inferiority, spiritual emptiness, and emotional exhaustion aren't so bad. Eventually you make friends with it, and your innate warmth, joy and playfulness naturally emerge. You're estranged no more.

Of course, you're going to have an agenda at first. We all do. You don't have to beat it out of yourself by repressing it -- that's just more agenda. You just experience what it's like to have an agenda and when it settles, you experience what takes its place. Hm. Interesting.

Relationships trigger a host of desires and related attachments because we think it's gonna be the thing that ultimately fulfills us. We want the recognition, the closeness, the affection and adoration, the lifestyle, the kids, the acceptance, and a chance to live out a picture in our heads of where we expected ourselves to be. And all this makes us completely fucking insane. We start thinking, thinking, thinking, reading books, doing quizzes, having super-serial talks everyday to try and stay the course and keep everything in top form. And in doing so, we become alienated from our feelings and bodies, and by extension, from our partners. Suffering. 

That isn't to say that the one should strive to become completely complacent. There are times when you should talk to your partner and make an adjustment. But it's important to stay open with what's happening and not let your thinking and attachments completely overcome you and sever your connection to yourself. The clearest and wisest decisions are made when you're in touch with what's happening anyway.

So the recipe for peace is essentially being honest with yourself. Being honest with your experience rather than denying it or distorting it or trying to preserve it (which is another way of saying you're trying to deny something else). It's being brave enough to be honest and let things be as they are, knowing somewhere that it's safe to do that. It's also being kind and forgiving yourself for not being someone "better." You don't have to deliberately make yourself brave or kind, you can just listen to how things already are, and starting with your breath is a fantastic training tool. Can you lean to 

As far as I can tell, a relationship can either facilitate that honesty (especially with a supportive spouse), or it can complicate it. If you stay honest with yourself when you're in a relationship, and when you're not in a relationship, you're good. That doesn't mean you have to announce every single thought and sensation you have to your partner. That's just annoying. You've gotta use your wisdom and intellect to decide what to do with all that content, but that's something that you'll intuitively know how to do once you cultivate your innate warmth and joy and playfulness, i.e., your true self.

So, ridding yourself of attachments isn't synonymous with getting rid of your connections to people. It's better thought of as examining the goals you've inherited and the demands you place on yourself that cause you to deny your current experience and try to force it to be something else. 

Sorry for the long post. There was a lot to cover. If you keep meditating and this stuff will all start to crystallize on its own. Then you'll start a blog, and I'll have to run you out of business, because there can only be one. :-o

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting response. Very detailed and leads to a lot of introspective thinking. Although you refer a lot to specifics. Which I am sure is very helpful to many and applicable to specific situations. I am actually not so much interested in teh minute details for example of dating when you bring up insecurities and jumping the gun- from ine date to where is this headed..what will they think...blah blah...What about generalities? Which are actually principles which lead to these sordid details. In general specific to Buddhism (albeit I am a beginner in learning about it) they refer to any attachment that brings suffering and happiness if parallel- as *delusions* and *attachments* that you need to detach yourself from. For example- If I like enchiladas- and they bring me great happiness and satisfaction the first time I eat it, and the second, third, fourth...(you get the idea) but by the fifth time- I am absolutelky nauseated and disgusted and do not want to have it again, And then it is followed by weight gain, or vomit- ya know just unpleasant. Than that is an *attachment* that never should have happened. Perhaos have the enchilada once and leave it at that. Then you could have avoided so many unnecessary unpleasant feelings that actually began as this deluded *happy* one. Now, apply this to a car- a range rover for example- always wanted one- got one- then start comparing it to other cars out there, feeling guilty over the money spent, gas etc...etc... so what was once a happy thing- is now a delusion of happiness. An *attachment* that never should have occurred. Now take it one step further to a relationship. One that is in a commited relationship- forms an attachment- in the beginning is usually happy. Eventually leads to all sorts of unpleasant feelings sometimes dependent on triggers and sometimes not even necessarily so. For example- jealousy, miscommunications, deep hurt, betrayal, infidelity, feeling trapped, I mean the list goes on and on and could be anything and everything. My point is once again, something that was supposedly "happy" formed from an *attachment* is now the source of a cluttered mind and a sense of inner chaos. This is the opposite of what Buddhism teaches. Just to reiterate- they teach that ANYTHING that has parallels of happiness and suffering- is not happiness at all- and is an attachment. Buddhism teaches that the only way to achieve inner peace is by getting rid of all these delusions- some of which I mentioned here. Being a monk or nun obviously takes away many of these delusions/attachements thereby making it much easier to lead to true inner peace, Now how do we, as "simplistic" individuals living in modern society with wants/desires for material things/ relationships/friendships/sexuality have true inner peace without completely absolving ourselves of what Buddhism teaches- are actually deluded attachments?

Anonymous said...

Interesting response. Very detailed and leads to a lot of introspective thinking. Although you refer a lot to specifics. Which I am sure is very helpful to many and applicable to specific situations. I am actually not so much interested in teh minute details for example of dating when you bring up insecurities and jumping the gun- from ine date to where is this headed..what will they think...blah blah...What about generalities? Which are actually principles which lead to these sordid details. In general specific to Buddhism (albeit I am a beginner in learning about it) they refer to any attachment that brings suffering and happiness if parallel- as *delusions* and *attachments* that you need to detach yourself from. For example- If I like enchiladas- and they bring me great happiness and satisfaction the first time I eat it, and the second, third, fourth...(you get the idea) but by the fifth time- I am absolutelky nauseated and disgusted and do not want to have it again, And then it is followed by weight gain, or vomit- ya know just unpleasant. Than that is an *attachment* that never should have happened. Perhaos have the enchilada once and leave it at that. Then you could have avoided so many unnecessary unpleasant feelings that actually began as this deluded *happy* one. Now, apply this to a car- a range rover for example- always wanted one- got one- then start comparing it to other cars out there, feeling guilty over the money spent, gas etc...etc... so what was once a happy thing- is now a delusion of happiness. An *attachment* that never should have occurred. Now take it one step further to a relationship. One that is in a commited relationship- forms an attachment- in the beginning is usually happy. Eventually leads to all sorts of unpleasant feelings sometimes dependent on triggers and sometimes not even necessarily so. For example- jealousy, miscommunications, deep hurt, betrayal, infidelity, feeling trapped, I mean the list goes on and on and could be anything and everything. My point is once again, something that was supposedly "happy" formed from an *attachment* is now the source of a cluttered mind and a sense of inner chaos. This is the opposite of what Buddhism teaches. Just to reiterate- they teach that ANYTHING that has parallels of happiness and suffering- is not happiness at all- and is an attachment. Buddhism teaches that the only way to achieve inner peace is by getting rid of all these delusions- some of which I mentioned here. Being a monk or nun obviously takes away many of these delusions/attachements thereby making it much easier to lead to true inner peace, Now how do we, as "simplistic" individuals living in modern society with wants/desires for material things/ relationships/friendships/sexuality have true inner peace without completely absolving ourselves of what Buddhism teaches- are actually deluded attachments?

Anonymous said...

"So, ridding yourself of attachments isn't synonymous with getting rid of your connections to people. It's better thought of as examining the goals you've inherited and the demands you place on yourself that cause you to deny your current experience and try to force it to be something else"-

So why do Buddhists become monks, dress in robes, eat vegetarian/abstain from sex and relationships? because they do not even put themselves in a situation of conflict where they even have to clutter their mind and worry about turning a mind filled with chaos and go through the process of reverting *back* to peace. They are already there and stay there by abstaining from all stumbling blocks. They have blocked all challenges- thereby maintaining a constant state of inner peace. Easy...thoughts?

Edahn said...

@#3, yes, I concur.

Edahn said...

@#1 & 2, your reply was longer than my post, holy shit.

Anonymous said...

So basically, you just concur. Very "buddhist" of u ;) You weren't supposed to agree with #3- because now this puts my mind in a state of chaos. I'm thinking now my only true resolution is to become a nun, get some red and gold robes and move to my local Buddhist center.