Many people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. Every other week in this column we look at what it might be like if Siddhartha were on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? "What Would Sid Do?" is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.
Every other week I'll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a fictional Siddhartha, would do. Here Sid is not yet a buddha; he's just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way. Because let's face it: You and I are Sid.
This week's question comes from "L":
What do you think Sid would tell a person who was dumped by their partner after their partner falls in love with someone else? Basically, I wonder whether Sid would tell us it's OK to be friends with your ex after the storm has passed, even if you don't really want to or because it's really difficult due to aversion (pain, hurt, attachment to memories, etc...).
It may be because I'm starting to turn my mind towards a class I'm teaching on the Four Dignities of Tibetan Buddhism but it strikes me that the qualities of the first of the four, the tiger, might apply directly to what you are going through in your breakup.
There are three qualities of the tiger which I think our friend Sid would recommend for such a rough parting with your partner:
Kindness to Yourself
While the tiger is often considered a violent beast, if you have ever seen a mother playing with her cub you will know that a tiger can be an extremely gentle animal. There is tremendous strength within being gentle.
In your case I imagine all sorts of feelings come up: anger over your partner leaving you for another, longing to connect with someone you hold dear, pain that this person has betrayed you and much more. The important thing is to remember that whatever emotions come up it's ok. Being gentle and kind to yourself during this painful transition is extremely important.
Nowhere in the records of what the historical Buddha said did he ever encourage people to beat themselves up over the way they felt. People did all kinds of stupid stuff around him but he never once said, "Yeah. Feel worse about yourself. Being a prick to yourself will lead to a better emotional place!" He only offered them kindness. In turn, they learned to be gentle and kind with themselves.
Being Present and Inquisitive
As the tiger moves through her jungle she does so with majestic grace. There is incredible precision in her movement. It is important to take great care of yourself as you undergo this transitional time. Instead of rushing through your day, take time to slow down and tune in to how you feel right now. Take the time to rest your mind and body and just let yourself feel whatever it is that you are feeling.
You can be inquisitive and playful in this process. You don't have to just say "I feel yucky" and move on with your day. Instead, try to figure out where you feel yucky. Is it lethargy in your legs? Is it sadness weighing down your chest? From there you can get even more curious: What does that lethargy look like? Where exactly does that sadness reside? Do these emotions have a color? A shape?
The more you begin to tune into the present moment and become curious about what is happening with your emotional states the less solid they begin to seem. From there you can relax and begin to construct a plan for how you might want to move forward.
The tiger is very decisive as she walks through her jungle. She takes in all of her surroundings before acting. She looks before she leaps.
For you, that might translate as contemplating what exactly you are comfortable with in your new relationship with your ex. If you cannot genuinely be friends with them because they have hurt you very badly there is no shame in openly expressing that in a kind manner and letting things be.
No one, including Sid, can tell you whether you should be friends with your ex. That is something you need to decide on your own. If you believe that this new friendship with your ex would be too painful, there is no shame in rejecting it. If you think it would help you move on with your life, accept it. Learning what we can accept and what to reject is part of our spiritual path.
Utilizing the qualities of the tiger I hope you can find a way to move forward with your ex in a way that is kind to both of you but also gives you the space you need to figure out how you feel. Good luck!
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