July 28, 2009

Falling in Love and Feeling Lonely

As an intern at Tricycle, I am also a degree candidate at the New School University, where I am the cohost of a radio show called Sex, Lies & Radiowaves. My partner-in-crime is a gorgeous, free-spirited female with hair that enters the room before she does, and a laugh so infectious it reaches your blood stream instantly.  And guess what… I’m falling in love with her, which is entirely organic and something that I didn’t see coming. However I must confess, there’s a catch. She is not completely available.

There’s more to the story, of course, but I want to focus on the "falling in love" part, and how it brings up desire and the fear of being lonely.  It was Chögyam Trungpa, in The Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who made me think when he said, "I don't think anybody can fall in love unless they feel lonely."

I suppose what I'm getting at (and I’ve only been able to come to this practice as an ardent Buddhist and meditator) is that it’s all an opportunity to take what comes up—the joy and the sorrow—and apply it to the sacred path: the path of feeling, of experiencing without bias, and being present. And nothing else. Which is easier said than done.  I heard that's why it's called "practice."

In that same vein, in the Shambhala Sun recently, the great master Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche said, “When a confused thought or emotion (Desire, Loneliness) arises, we make use of it, instead of throwing it away. Then our life is meaningful…. Our emotions are no longer ordinary; they are sacred. Why? Because we are taking them onto the path.”

® Photo by Shane Michael Manieri

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George Chamilothoris's picture

Dear Shane, Hi.
I am a staring meditator myself - so i apologize beforhand for my ignorance and for spending your time reading this.
Falling in love (in greek "eros" - a special word to distingush from love) is indeed a biology-fostered or instinctive drive leading to attachment. However, it has some special, and i think interesting, features: (i) it is a form of recognition,or offering to the natural, real beauty existing within a person; in this sense it has a spiritual content (ii) our nature has it that eros is rather short-lived; in this sense it is a rather "safe" diversion of our energy (iii) it can be an opportunity to brake societal or interpersonal barriers (on both sides) and open the way to a meaningful and enriching relationship; this is perhaps the underpinning of the 'romantic' dream so persistent in human expression.

Julia May's picture

Hi Shane,
Great post. Love is my favorite box to open in the Buddhist storage center of contradictory issues. The big, conventional snag I see is the statement "she is not completely available." Not to go Standard Western Dating on you - but is she in a relationship? Married? Engaged? If so, then I think the only respectful thing to do is channel your energy into friendship and take care of yourself and your boundaries. Otherwise you bring suffering to yourself and others. If the situation is less defined than that, the most *loving* thing for you to do is still to offer your friendship only. Mutual love, interdependent like all things, owes its success to, among other things, timing.

Shane Michael Manieri's picture

Thanks, Alejandro.

I was just talking about that yesterday with a Dharma buddy. Conjuring up Bodhicitta, that awakened consciousness to help and care for other sentient beings, whether it be through falling-in-love or any other activity is great advice—a wonderful reminder!

Alejandro Sancho's picture

...with my best intentions...

Alejandro Sancho's picture

I apologize by my unpulished english. Azarously I arrive to this blog and read your post. It has been a surprise for me because in the meditation of this morning I'd read something about your trouble. I extract the idea from Lam Rim Chen Mo (Vol 2) of LAma Tsongkapa, concretely of the VI Capitle, To Hold the Boddicitta.

I seems to understand that you know (perhaps also take) the boddhisattva vows. Well, there is no matter, no problems, with the object of the senses if you don't leave the boddhicitta, but if you protect yourself of the object of senses ir order to obtain the buddahood for yourself without to consider the others, then you fall in the hinayana view, the path of sravaka or pratiekabudda.
So, if you are able to hold in your heart the compassion for all the sentients beings and you sincerely aspire to give them ultimate happines, then there are no problem indeed to fall in love. How to add good people to this world without good buddhist parents? You can think also in this result of your falling in love that could be highly benefitial for the sentient beings.
If this words written roughly, without understanding of your language, can help you

shannon's picture

You all worry too much. Falling in love is good. It means you see the beauty of another person. Don't over-analyze it.

babs's picture

I do agree that we are all LOVE. However we can fall into a commitment, attachment, passionate love or even lust. But, is it really love? One needs to ask oneself, "Do I (fear love)?" because fear can cause loneliness.

liz s.'s picture

Well, i take it back...i'm not going to through my ramblings up here. Too much Lizzy crap thrown in there.
But, to comment on this in as few words as possible:
I dont think they are talking about inhibiting pair bonding, per say, but whether or not we are able to stay away from attaching ourselves to one another. This world is a pretty scary place. I do not wish to walk it alone. That does not mean, however, that I have to absorb myself into the partner. Passionate love/attraction is there for a reason. We need it to find our mates....avoiding that is avoiding what makes us human. When you try to change nature- it's a disaster waiting to happen.
It all comes down to keeping everything in "check"....no extremes....
...in my wordy opinion ....Namaste.

liz s.'s picture

WOW! I was just about to blog a piece on this!! Perhaps I should copy it over to here...Standbye!

Seth Goldberg's picture

From a biological point of view it seems pretty clear that there are very strong genetic components to monogamous pair bonding, which seems very closely related to certain aspects of attachment. See the vole studies for example, which show the difference that a single gene affecting the distribution of a neurotransmitter receptor can make at:
So the question then arises, suppose there was a pill which could strongly inhibit monogamous pair bonding, would you take it, and when? Hopefully, not after you already had children. But in other circumstances?
Because we do not have a fixed, strongly invariant personal self, we are open to all sorts of modifications which nonetheless give me great pause as they seem to make us "less human". This is even without considering the consequences of monetary considerations - e.g. : "Use xxxxx, and wash that man right out of your hair".

Shane Michael Manieri's picture

I hear you, Tenzin. And I agree with you that we are "love," and that attachment can play a big role in our love affairs. Recognizing that is the first step to suffering less and loving longer. Which is actually what I am practicing here.

But, I have to disagree with you: I don't fear commitment, though I have in the past, rather I am being judicious and focusing on letting go of my attachment to having it my way. Which is so freeing. And precisely what I am pointing to.

And thanks for the advice... meditating on emptiness daily is a wonderful way to practice non-attachment. And a great way to work with desire and fear.

tenzin tsultrim parkin's picture

just have to respond to this. the whole concept of "falling in love," i think, is bogus; we are LOVE. and we fall into attachment....it is karma and it is chemistry and cause and condition and any other Buddhist philosophical definitions you can find to apply. the relationships we "fall into" while they can be for life or for shorter periods....can be informative, endearing and even produce other little karmic sentient beings. but the impermanence and the ALONE quality of our death and Bardo will all ways remain, no matter who we FALL in love with. I think i can go out on a limb and say you fear commitment....so the package of who you are falling in love with sounds really extra extra special. if you take it all away, she is bones and blood and then emptiness. I am all in favor of great LOVE affairs....but keep your reality close to your daily meditation on emptiness...and you will suffer less...and love longer!!!!

prasana's picture

I too felt the same...as i had experienced a similar kind of feeling.
too true..only people who have fell in love can understand this one..