How can you bring spirituality and humor to dating? Or, as one writer so aptly put it: What if the Buddha dated? How would he handle getting to know someone? How would he bring spirituality and “enlightenment” to the process?
Although as far as I know, the Buddha didn’t date (supposedly, he left his wife and child to become “The Buddha”), it’s fun to wonder how he would do it. For example, would he insist on meditation and silence as part of the date? Would you have to experience existential pain and suffering to “win” him over? Enough with that speculative stuff; let’s see how we can use the idea of dating with the Buddha to help make OUR dating a more enjoyable and “spiritual” experience.
These questions come from a workshop of the same title that I have facilitated multiple times. If you want to have the workshop experience, just follow along and answer the questions. Hopefully, you’ll find it both enjoyable and enlightening.
To start, let yourself find a comfortable place to sit, have some paper and a pen next to you, and take a few deep breathes. As you breathe in, let your belly expand a little, then your middle chest, and then your upper chest. You might even let your shoulder blades rise a bit as you let your breath fill the very top of your chest. This kind of breathing is very calming. Feel free to use it any time you feel tense or anxious. As you exhale, allow the breath to leave your upper chest first, middle chest and abdomen. As the breath leaves you, allow your body to release and let go of any thoughts, tension or worry.
Now that you’re more relaxed. Let yourself muse on these questions:
What is spirituality to me?
How would a spiritually enlightened person (e.g., the Buddha/Dalai Lama, a Quaker elder, Rumi, Jesus, Gandhi, Teresa of Avila) date?
How would I date if I was more enlightened?
Feel free to write down what comes to you…or don’t, if that feels better. Trust your intuition.
Do you ever sit quietly? Meditate? Pray? Some form of inward process? I invite you to try it, right now, for 1 minute. Right now.
What was that like for you?
What did you notice?
Again, you can write about it or not: your choice.
The Buddha talked about the difference between between PAIN and SUFFERING. My understanding of this is that life is painful, and we can’t avoid that. What we can avoid is suffering. The suffering is that something “extra” that we add to a painful situation. Here’s an example:
I go out on a date with someone I really like. I want to see him again. He doesn’t call. I feel pain: I didn’t get what I want, and that hurts. I feel this pain. Now comes the interesting part: do I “add” suffering to the mix? Suffering could mean telling myself stuff like:
“Men are jerks”.
“I must have done something wrong”.
“I’ll always be alone”.
See where I’m going with this? When something is painful: can I refrain from adding suffering to it? My pain is real and it will help me to face that, feel it, and observe it. The suffering – all that extra crap I could tell myself about the painful situation – is “optional”. I don’t need to go there. Now, take an example from your own life:
Describe a painful dating experience:
How did you add “suffering” to it?
Buddhist author Pema Chodron wrote a wonderful book called, “Comfortable With Uncertainty”. Years’ ago, a dear friend gave it to me for my birthday. After I pulled the wrapping paper off and saw the title, I had an impulse to throw the book at the wall: “I don’t want to be comfortable with uncertainty; I want certainty!” was what I wanted to scream. I didn’t, of course, and thanked my friend for the book…letting it sit on the shelf for weeks before starting to read it.
Are you comfortable with uncertainty?
Are you willing to be?
“Control” is another word for certainty.
What is “control” for you?
What happens when you let go of control?
Are you comfortable with not feeling in control?
For many of us, the idea of “control” comes up a lot when we’re dating. I think it’s because the dating process is so fraught with uncertainty and feeling not in control that it terrifies us. As a result, we cling to an “illusion” of control, and are inevitably dismayed when someone we’re dating doesn’t do what we want them to do (like not call us).
A big part of many spiritual practices is releasing attachment to results, e.g., giving up control. I imagine that if the Buddha or Jesus was dating someone and he/she didn’t call them back after they had a great time hanging out at the Marketplace (or wherever), I don’t think they’d get pissed off and say, “Screw them, I deserve better than that. I hope they rot in Hell.” Yet don’t we often find ourselves angry when someone we’re dating doesn’t behave as we think they should? Ponder these questions, if you would:
What happens when someone I’m dating doesn’t do what I want them to do?
Do I typically try to control them (overtly or covertly) to get what I want?
To me, in my own spiritual practice, it’s been crucial that I focus on and develop a sense of humor about the whole thing. The same thing is true for my dating “practice”: there are just so many things that can go wrong, people I meet that don’t behave as I wish, and situations that make me uncomfortable, that without a sense of humor, I probably wouldn’t leave the house. You too? If so, consider these questions:
Describe your sense of humor:
How has it helped you in dating?
I invite you to consider your own sense of spirituality and how it relates to dating.
Describe your own spirituality (however you define it)
How has it helped you in dating?
Consider this last question:
From what you have read and the above questions you’ve considered, how can you make your dating experience more “Buddha-like”?