February 14, 2014

Meditation Month: Zen and the Art of Dating a Buddhist

Day fourteen of our monthlong challengeEmma Varvaloucas

February is Meditation Month! The Tricycle team members have challenged ourselves—and our readers—to meditate every day and blog about our experiences. We needed a little help, so we called in bestselling author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg to lead our meditation-themed retreat this month and speak to us on how to incorporate meditation practice into the workplace. We’re also featuring three meditation e-books: Tricycle Teachings: MeditationTricycle Teachings: Meditation, Vol. 2, and Tricycle Teachings: Commit to Sit. Last but certainly not least, back by popular demand is Brad Warner, known this month as our Meditation Doctor, here to answer any questions we have about our personal practice.

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Some months ago, a friend of mine told me the story of his latest doomed romance. It was one of those relationships that survives for as long as it does only because it's feeding off a vortex of interminable drama. "Where did you meet her?" I asked when he was done telling the tale. "A Buddhist retreat," he answered. I laughed. "That was your first mistake," I told him. "That was your first mistake."

I was (mostly) joking, because you really can't fault someone for wanting to date a person who shares your interests and values. How many relationships have sprouted in sanghas or synagogues or Sikh temples, where not only are you surrounded by people who are similar to you in very important ways, but where you also end up spending a lot of time? It makes perfect sense that you would want a partner who supports your religious efforts, especially when, as a Buddhist, that could mean disappearing into retreat for months or years at a time.

The person I'm currently dating is not Buddhist, but unbeknownst to him, he gave me a fantastic Valentine's Day gift a couple of weeks ago. Out of the conversational blue, he turned to me and said, "I'd like to try meditating with you." You would? Be still, my beating heart! 

It's pure luck to have found a non-Buddhist someone who understands if I can't hang out because it's "Meditation Month, and I haven't sat yet today." But as others have already asked during the challenge, what's the best approach to take when your significant other is either uninterested in your practice or worse, actively prevents you from practicing? (By the by, both this and its inverse have happened to me: One previous, non-Buddhist flame told me that my thangka of Chenrezig, which hangs in my room, was "crazy." On the other hand, a Buddhist interest once told me that I was a klesha—a mental hindrance—which was pretty offensive and also didn't make a whole lot of sense.)

I'm no relationship guru, but my intuition tells me that the worst thing you can do is try to force your partner to be interested in something that he or she simply isn't interested in. Evangelists are annoying, and that goes for meditation evangelists, too. But I'm sure there's a way to communicate that having a daily habit of meditation is like having a daily habit of going to the gym—in the end, it benefits both of you.

Image courtesy Jay Cross.

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