All we want is to be close to each other, to feel connected. To love and to be loved. To share the path joyfully and lightly. However, although relationships form a large part of our lives, we fail time and time again to find satisfaction in them, we hurt and we are hurt. Why do we boycott our well-being and that of the other in that way?
Following His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who states that "The best relationships are those in which the love of one another exceeds the need they have of each other," illustrates in a simple line the importance of learning to distinguish between Love of attachment.
WHAT IS ATTACHMENT?
It is one of the three major afflictions taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, derived from root ignorance. How does this mind work like? Once we have exaggerated the good qualities of the other, we project an immense amount of expectations and requirements on the other person for her to give us happiness, security, support, satisfaction. Coming from attachment, we saturate the other with expectations (often demanded explicitly, others not spoken aloud), and then that other vulnerable human being in his condition of suffering and desire to get rid of him, becomes an object for the satisfaction of our needs. In the reasoning of this afflicted mind, the one who is in the center is the self, the one who seeks satisfaction at the expense of the benefit of others.
When we operate from this affliction, we can do all kinds of crazy things to preserve or modify the other for him/her to fit our expectations: we manipulate emotionally and often even sacrifice our moral principles to get what we want.
AND WHEN THE OTHER DOES NOT RESPOND HOW WE EXPECTED, WHAT HAPPENS?
Attachment then becomes anger, and we move to the extreme of exaggerating the negative qualities of the other person until we perceive her completely disfigured by an acid that penetrates far beyond the skin, which destroys ourselves by taking away our peace of mind and hurts the other. When we are angry, the affliction is blinding and we cannot see beyond our self-centered unsatisfied mind and we run the risk of losing respect for the person we love, saying things and acting in ways that we later regret deeply.
Therefore, the foundation upon which all human interaction must be built, in the first place, is respect.
WHEN DOES THE GOOD NEWS OF LOVE COME ABOUT?
Once respect is firmly established, as respect necessarily precedes love.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Very dissociated from the definition popularized in Hollywood movies, love from Buddhist perspective is the desire for a being to be happy.
If we part from the basis that all beings desire happiness for themselves (even in the most destructive impulses, what we want is to rid ourselves of suffering and be content and at peace), then we all have that seed internally.
The work of inner development is therefore in encouraging us to water that seed so that it ripens like a perfumed and leafy grove, expanding that desire towards others. Toward all other beings.
Our effort to build healthy and realistic relationships, in which love and compassion prevail, can then be a catalyst for the development of our universal love, the heart expanded in the ten directions without conditions or fences. The mere fact of imagining such immensity opens our breast and lets out a fresh breeze, which appeases any anguish we are going through.
This is the exalted quality of love: it heals, redeems the mind from egocentric claustrophobia, relieves from the ignorance of conceiving ourselves neurotic and limited.
WHEN WE LOVE, WHERE DOES SATISFACTION COME FROM?
The happiness of a relationship in which love and care for the other prevail, comes more from the way we feel internally towards him/her and from the ways in which we express that love in our attitude and in our actions, different to the tendency of attachment to gain satisfaction only if the other gives us exactly what we desire.
When we love the center is the other, and solidity and strength come from feeling how our inner power grows the more we can cultivate this vast, egoless mind.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF LIMITS WHEN WE LOVE?
Love by definition finds no limits, since it can expand infinitely as we have just pointed out. But many times we can demarcate clear limits on the relationship with the other precisely because of the love and compassion we have for them. For example, we can firmly stop the person we love from committing a non-virtuous action that will lead to suffering, or perpetuate a destructive emotional cycle for herself and the relationship.
Love and compassion do not necessarily manifest externally with tenderness, but their intention to benefit.
After reading these conceptual distinctions, you may feel depressed or hopeless in thinking that you do not build or have the ability to build relationships that are more loving, realistic and healthy. But letting oneself surrender to the harmful habits of the ego is a childish attitude. Our intent may have the reward of delivering an endless amount of happiness to all beings in the long run ... Worthwhile trying, right?
SOME ADVICE FROM BEGINNER TO BEGINNER:
- In the case of a couple or friendship, starting a relationship with a person with similar values nd priorities may be conducive for the relationship to become a field of work and mutual virtuous construction.
- To give a clear exposition of the priorities of each one's path, what one has to offer in the relationship and what one hopes to obtain or cultivate from it can be a beneficial conversation. Repiting this conversation as many times as necessary along the way, too.
- Recognize your mistakes without justifying yourself and exercise the habit of apologizing. Assume yourself human and with the same consciousness, assume the humanity of the other: but forgive his/her faults without needing his apologies.
- Maintaining an honest, clear and open communication. Although there are things we do not say, at the unconscious level we are very connected with those closest to us: it is inevitable to listen to us and our emotions are affected by what is not said.
- Accompanying and encouraging the other on his/her path of growth always. Wanting to see the other happy is to wanting to see her fulfilled.
- Being loyal and faithful in our relationship. Lying, disloyalty - and infidelity in the case of couples - are completely out of the question.
- Respecting personal space as an act of respect and love, so much that by effect we learn to honor and celebrate more that space that is shared.
- Being clear about our Refuge (inner one). In the case of Buddhists, our refuge is in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the case of practitioners of other religions it can be the creator God, in case of people who are not believers it can be their values, principles, their Vital Purpose. A human being cannot provide us with transcendental Happiness, although it is using our internal relationship with other beings as we can achieve that Happiness. When we are clear about our refuge, we avoid over-saturating the other with expectations about what we expect to receive from him. Our relationships are then more realistic and rooted, and the other is a partner on the road and not the goal in itself.
Finally, although much remains to be learned and said, human relationships can be a precious opportunity for the development of our good qualities, such as love, compassion, patience, generosity, ethics ... a field for cultivation of virtue, an opportunity to encounter face to face the egocentric mind again and again and having the courage to confront it (by the power of love), a space conducive for the recognition and gradual overcoming of our afflictions, a catalyst of peace for all humanity.
The commitment we sustain in our relationships, the work we do, and all the Beauty as Value we create from them, can be an offering of peace, a sprout of hope in the afflicted infertility of the world.