The Zen of Relationships

Zen Heart

In one of our previous posts, Love and need: Are they the same?, we touched on the idea of Love versus the attachment to another human being.  Now, these ideas are easy to understand, but what about when an event happens, such as the loss of someone you care about, through the end of a relationship?  This is all written with the background that this writer had a relationship end quite recently!

Enter the Zen of Relationships.

Why Zen of relationships, and not END of relationships?  Well, even after a separation, you still have a relationship with someone.  Even if you do not speak, you have shared experiences and created memories.  These memories still form views of relationships in your mind, and shape relationships to come.  Also, this person is someone you once cared for tremendously.  To cut them off, with no remorse is, in essence, cutting off a part of yourself, and not acknowledging the love that existed in the first place.

Remember that Love is described as “unselfish loyal concern for the good of another”.  The key word here is unselfish.  This is synonymous with the words “if you love something, let it go”.  If you truly love, then no matter another’s actions of reciprocity towards you, you continue to act benevolently towards them.  You are looking out for their best interest out of a genuine, caring place.  Even at the end of a relationship, if you truly loved or cared for that previous partner, you want what is best for them; even if that means them being with people other than yourself.

These things being said to lay the foundation of thought, here are some ways that can help move through the end of a relationship.

1.  Act with dignity.  This is simple: Be polite, amicable.  If the other person has decided to end the relationship, then be civilized.  Treat them with respect and dignity.  Do not insult them; that will only further their belief that the relationship was wrong, and leave them with bad memories of your reaction to the event.  Remember, Life is not only about events, but more about how we REACT to those events.

2. What did you learn?  Ask yourself, what did this other person, or the situation, teach you about life, your self, other people, and relationships?  By realizing what you learnt in the relationship, you will consciously appreciate some extra details in your day-to-day life, as well as take new learnings to your next relationship, your friendships, or even just for solo adventures.

3. What did you teach them?  It is important to think about what you taught the other person,  not from the mindset that they needed to learn or that you are better, but from the mindset of proper self worth and appreciation of your gifts.  By realizing what you have to offer to the world, as well as understanding what you have learnt (Step #3), you can realize that you are a constantly changing and improving being, that has tremendous worth and love to give to the people around you.

4. Set some minimum time apart and give yourself time.  Yes, even though I am saying Zen of Relationships, it does not mean that you necessarily say involved at the outset!  After all, we are still human beings with very powerful emotional responses.  It is still important to set some time apart, and decrease the intimate & emotional familiarity that was created between two people.  It is important to take time and re-connect with being independent, and remember all of the things that make you a wonderful human being.  This goes hand in hand with #5.

5.  Let go of the relationship.  The idea of attachment is a key concept in Buddhist thinking.  It is one of the components that can lead to suffering in our lives.  By being attached to the way things are, were, could be, or could have been, we tend to create emotional sufferings that are far greater than the end of a relationship.  As Sheng Ts’an said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.  Events that cause us pain will happen, no matter what.  How we choose to respond to these events is what will create great freedom in our lives.  Why?  Because  thoughts of attachment can follow us and affect or day-to-day emotions, behaviours, and thoughts.  Letting go of them allow us to have room for new possibilities and potentials.  In particular, one should:

  •    Focus on the steps above and see the relationship as it was.
  •    Spend some time letting go of the past. Realize that the relationship ended, and that you now have room to create something new.
  •    Enjoy the present moment, and the things that give you happiness. Bike riding, time with friends, hobbies of all kinds.
  •    Accept the thoughts of the past relationship, thank them for what they mean, an return to the present.
  •    Stop justifying and thinking about what could have been. Take the lessons you learned, and apply them in your life, for the next time. Every relationship teaches us something which can be used to build stronger relationships in the future.

6. Love yourself, and others.  Be open to love again.  It is easy to build an emotional wall and say “I won’t get hurt again!”  This emotional cut-off will prevent love and strong binds between you and others.  In order to love and be loved, one must take the risk and be vulnerable.  One cannot truly love if naked vulnerability is not present.

Sometimes, you have to accept that some people can only be in your heart, not in you life.