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What Would Sid Do: Why Can't I Just Be Single?

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Image previewMany people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. Every week in this column we look at what it might be like if Siddhartha was on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? What would Sid do? is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.

 

Every week I'll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a fictional Siddhartha, would do. Here Sid is not yet a buddha, he's just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way. Because let's face it, you and I are Sid.


Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and Lodro will probably get to it!

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I'm single, gay, 40. I have had many relationships and enjoyed them. Now I want to live a single life and be happy on my own. Why do we feel that we have to be in relationship and why is it such a struggle to remain single? - Martin

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I think anyone who has waded into the dating pool has experienced this essential paradox: when you are looking to meet someone there are no prospects around yet when you relax and decide you are not looking Mr. or Mrs. Right comes knocking down your door. It's not surprising that when you give off the air of desperation people find you unattractive, but when you are naturally at home with who you are it's hard to remain single.

I think Sid would have a few thoughts on this interesting conflict. The first piece of advice he might recommend is to contemplate your motivation for staying single. Why is it you feel that you want to be on your own right now? Is it heartache? A desire to explore yourself? A sense of frustration with the dating scene? If the "perfect" person for you showed up at a bar and bought you a drink what would you do? Exploring why you want to stay single will help your resolve when you strumble across a tempting potential mate.

On the meditation cushion we guard ourselves against being carried away by strong emotions by acknowledging them, cutting through them, and returning to the breath. In the same way you can spend a significant amount of time contemplating your motivation for staying single and, when you find yourself tempted to break away from it, cut through that temptation and come back to your root motivation. Just like you come back to the breath in shamatha.

Having determined your motivation for hanging up that shirt/tube top/suit of armor that makes you irresistable to the sex of your preference it might be a good idea to do some things that you have longed to do but never found the time to. That lengthy meditation retreat you had an interest in? Maybe this is the time. Learning a new language via DVD? Settle in at home and try it out. Finding a few areas of interest that allow you to explore yourself more than not only is fulfilling in the short term but allows you to sink deeper into your own skin over time.

I would say that there is no one reason we tend to drift away from singledom and into a couple. In his book Ruling Your World, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche offers one possible explanation, "We all love to be in love, because deep inside we love caring for others." I think Sid would elaborate on this topic and say that while we all experience that desire to care for others it doesn't always have to manifest as romance. If you are committed to staying single then this might be a good time to spend more time with friends and family with whom you can share your heart fully.

In fact, this might be a good time to contemplate compassion on the whole. If you agree with the Sakyong's words then this period of being single might be the time to see how you can share your heart with everyone you encounter.

Sid would likely recommend you know your motivation fully in order to prepare for the temptations that inevitably pop up. If you are resolved to staying single take advantage of the opportunity. You can go deeper in learning more about you. The more you can become comfortable with who you are the more you are able to share your nyingje, your noble heart. From there compassion naturally flows.

For a short teaching by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on nyingje and compassion please check out the video below.

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