04 February 2009

Me and other people: Love

There is a path from me to you that I am constantly looking for, so I try to keep clear & still as water does with the moon. -Rumi.

My relationship of the last 7 years ended in October, and my life has changed drastically since then. Not how it looks or operates on the outside so much, but how it feels, how it looks, how it tastes. The main area that has changed is my experience of myself in relation to other people.

Of course I felt sad at the ending of the relationship. But I think in general, I feel more loving & open. More vulnerable even. It feels really good. I feel a lot of love for people. I wish it were more; I wish it were all the time. (Being loving all the time toward everyone including myself is the essence of my interest in Buddhist practice.)

Recently when my friend Mike left for a long trip we said "I love you" to each other many times. It was very sweet. I've become very attached to Padmatara (who I live with) as my advisor and person to hash things out with and emerge with greater clarity. Also very recently I resolved to let go of resentment from the distant past with a few different people in the sangha. I would experience a disharmony with someone, ask myself where it was coming from, realize it was coming from me, and resolve to stop creating it (around things that are presently irrelevent). Letting go in this way also feels great.

But with men, it's different now...I experience them as men. Before they were people first, and they were men somewhere in the second or third degree of observation. Now through the emergence of some dark and dusky neediness, they're men and in an entirely non-willed kind of way, I somehow want their love. The only requirement is that the man is single. I do not even have to be attracted to him, though the dynamic will be very subtle if I'm not. So this is the new and most salient expression of thirst, in the Buddhist sense, in my life.

A further irony is that along with this thirst is the conviction - yes I think I can call it a conviction - that the nature of sexual relationships (in fact probably any relationship, but much more for the romantic ones), at least for me, is dukkha, suffering. This means that even if I feel very happy, this way of relating to men, to whatever degree it is happening gives a corresponding sense that I am embarking upon a path of pain. So there's this slight movement inside me toward the thing I harbor the deepest suspicion of. I can do nothing about all the ironies really but watch and be amused.

For years I've sometimes thought about taking the anagarika precept (more info about what that is in the notes below.) But then there's the question, if I did, would it be simply because I have such ultimately incompetent taste in men and figure, what is the point of carrying on? (Not that all my partners haven’t been lovely, just that I could not be happy with them for long.) Obviously I will need to resolve this question to some degree, regardless of whether or not I decide to become an anagarika.

I am determined not to keep doing the same thing, falling into a situation not knowing what it is, really, or who it is with, guided by unknown samskaric trash. A book I read recently (The Brain that Changes Itself) said research has revealed that 'falling in love' and cocaine effect the brain in very similar ways. Also in certain ways the ending of love is neurally indistinguishable from drug withdrawal. So I know all this, and I think I'm going to be sensible about it all but then the hormones or whatever they are (endorphins?) kick in, and I wake up at some point having dug another hole for myself that I'm trying to claw my way out of. The conviction not to do this again seems stronger now than it has in the past. But one never knows. In the face of some things I am quite helpless.

All of which might sound bleak. I am enjoying these realizations. I know that pain cannot be avoided, and that much of the time our attempts to avoid pain simply cause more of it. I am just noticing what's going on, which is to a large degree about my own tangled-upness in regards to sexual relationships, and noticing my subtle (I hope) neediness around some men.

I am noticing how much notions of self-view and self-worth are tied up with sexual relationships. I am noticing that these aren't things I'm deciding to do. Seems more like they are being done on me. They are just happening, and I am trying to be aware and loving as they twirl around and inside me.

More info
What is an anagarika? (another post on this blog)
Breaking Up - 3 Acts (also on this blog, from October 2008)
Image is Hockney's "A Bigger Splash" from Mark Harden's Artchive.

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