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The Buddhist Enneagram: Nine Paths to Warriorship

With wisdom, creativity, and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.

–Tara Brach, Author of Radical Acceptance and Trusting the Gold

once i had a broken heart. it was awful.

September 15, 2007   |   35 Comments

This is my story. What’s yours?

Buddhism gives a unique perspective on relating to a broken heart. Of course, there are broken hearts and then there are broken hearts. No matter how much losing other relationships may have made you cry, there are some endings that transcend everything you’ve ever known about pain. If you’ve had such a heartbreak, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It crushes you. You think you may die and then you wish you would. You lose at least 10 pounds right away. You go to sleep and dream about this loss and then wake up crying about it. You buy a lot of self-help books. At least I did all these things when my heart was broken.

Derek broke my heart. I can’t even really explain why. We had broken up and gotten back together several times during the course of our five-year relationship and I had been the one doing the breaking up. Then during the last one, he started going out with someone else and, I’m not exaggerating, my world fell apart. I had a ferocious longing for his love. Really, I don’t even know why. When I thought about our relationship resuming, I still knew it would never work out and that we would just breakup all over again. But this longing wasn’t about a relationship. It was about his love. I needed it. I couldn’t breathe without it. This experience humbled me, embarrassed me, and I did things I can’t even believe. Like sending him 15 page letters comprised mostly of underlining and exclamation points. And then calling him to read them out loud. Every day. I probably filled five journals, the kind that would normally take me a few years to use up. This may sound like hyperbole, but I don’t think I drew breath for about two years without feeling this pain. I even moved to another town, from Austin to Philadelphia, which was really like shipping out with the French Foreign Legion. (Who would move from Austin to Philadelphia?) But I had to get away.

I hope I never have to go through anything like this again and I hope you don’t either. Except for one thing. It was during this time that I also experienced a deep insight, a “pointing out instruction” as the Buddhists say. It only lasted for a few seconds and I have no idea where it came from, but it contained everything I had ever needed to know and marked the beginning of the path I’m still on.

It actually happened while I was carrying the garbage down to the curb. (Hmm…) It was a very hot Texas morning and I wasn’t wearing shoes but I didn’t care if the pebbles and twigs hurt my feet, or if I got trash on myself. I hadn’t been able to sleep much the night before because every time I dozed off I dreamt up new tableaux to capture the moment my pain began. I would wake up in tears, beg for mercy, fall back asleep, and pick up the dream exactly where it left off, as if it had been bookmarked. This was more than 10 years ago, but I remember everything about it.

Walking down to the curb, of course I was thinking about him and his new girlfriend and sifting through an astonishing output of explanations for his hurtful behavior: I’m paying for his fear of commitment. I gave him the best love he ever got and he just couldn’t handle it. No, no, it was all my fault, if only I wasn’t so needy, we’d still be together. My strength and emotional honesty scared him. (This one was my favorite.) And so on. While conjuring explanations, my mind was also bouncing off other walls. It started to go faster and faster. I wonder if my friends and I will see him when we go out tonight? Well just in case, I’m going to dress really sexy and he is so going to regret his decision. His new relationship can’t last because he has no idea how to love. I shouldn’t have sent him that letter explaining this. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat again. He was my last chance for love. How can I ever get over this? Why is he doing this to me? How can I possibly be experiencing this much pain? Blah, blah, and more blah. All of which was unbelievably painful.

The pain was stabbing me from all directions and I couldn’t get away from it, awake or asleep. There was so much going on, it was overwhelming. But, wait. The moment I thought, “there’s so much going on,” another thought also arose, but this one was different. It almost seemed like someone else’s voice. It said, “there’s nothing going on right now.” I stopped. I looked around. It was just a street in Texas on trash day. Nothing was happening. No one was hurting me. I wasn’t in any fights. The future I was worrying about didn’t appear to be here on this curb. The past I was regretting also wasn’t present. I was just taking out the trash. Everything became very silent. Actually, that’s not accurate. The noise stopped and I noticed that I could have tuned into this silence at any moment because it had always been there. It was like when you suddenly realize that the TV has been blaring the whole time but no one’s watching it. And you just turn it off.

When this happened, I didn’t think, “Oh my, I just received a pointing out instruction on the nature of mind.” Instead, I thought, “That was weird. I’m actually not in pain right now.” But then I was again. Still, I saw something on that day that I can now never un-see: when you look closely, you see that there’s hardly anything going on, ever. I know because I’ve checked lots of times since then. If you can shut up even for one second and stop hoping for the best or fearing the worst, all is still. You can always tune your ear to silence, no matter how loud the sounds around you. You can try it anytime and it will always be true.

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35 Comments

  • Posted by:  Dana

    My heart is broken now. I was recently fired from the job that I believed would give me the resources to build a life I wanted, in a place I wanted to live, while leave me the time to create art. I am in shock and despair. I trusted the person who hired me and considered him a dear friend. I had no plan B.
    I can’t sleep, and if I do sleep I wake early, I ruminate and fill my life with hateful self talk. I’m grieving lost opportunities and missed choices, unborn children and unlived lives, and most of all I’m grieving the end of choices. I’ve become too old to be a professional martial artist, doctor, therapist, musician, artist, or mother. I can’t find new dreams for the second half of my life and I am paralyzed by my fear and grief. I’m missing today because I fear the future, and regret the past. I can’t seem to find the still small voice and I don’t know what to do next.
    I was determined to let this firing become the best thing that ever happened to me, to use it to motivate me to create an authentic life. I’ve been trying to work through your Hard Questions for an Authentic Life, and The Artists Way by Cameron. When I try to read and write all I do is cry. I don’t know how to get unstuck so I can find the rest of my life.

  • Posted by:  MK

    Reading this entry on breakups today was perfect for me. I am not actually going through one now but I can see many ways in which I am not over my very first one and all of those that followed.

    I was entangeled last year with a friendship that became flirtatiousthough never physical. I still think of him daily and I hate to admit it. I find myself wondering if he is dwelling on me as well. Because we are both married we had the wisdom to put a stop to the friendship. I am still terribly flattered by the complements he gave. My goal is to be able to accept them with grace and stop ruminating on them as if no other man in the world had ever found me attractive.

    I think I need a passion. I need something in which to throw all of my time and energy so that I do not spend so many hours wondering whether or not he is happy or unhappy or missing me.

    I know that silence is the answer. I don’t know how to turn down the volume. Ideas welcome!

  • Posted by:  susan

    mk, hi. so glad you wrote. you express yourself so elegantly and i understand exactly the pull you’re talking about. i’m sure many others do, too.

    in some ways, a flirtation that never became physical is harder to move past–it remains locked in the fantasy world since it was never consummated. the romance factor can flourish unmitigated. once two people sleep together, the relationship cannot go unresolved–it has to live or die. if not, you can remain in-between, which has special difficulties. it’s really, really hard not to keep playing back what it felt like to get that kind of lovely, appreciative, exciting attention and then playing forward to what it would be like if you could have that kind of attention all the time.

    i don’t know if this is helpful or not, but here’s one way to look at it: what happened in the past is now gone and can never repeat itself, no matter how hard you try. you may still feel the same way if you were sitting together right now, but there’s no way of knowing if this is so. and what you imagine could happen in the future if you jumped into this flirtation a little further is not guaranteed at all. so if you can’t really carry the past into the present and you can’t know for certain what the future holds, there’s only one thing to do: keep pulling your mind into the present. again and again.

    the most difficult thing, the very, very most difficult thing about heartbreak is that it steals your mind from you. whatever dominion you had over your thoughts is basically gone, or can disappear in a second. so here are a few suggestions for getting it back:

    -learn to meditate, which itself is the practice of returning attention to the breath, or to the present moment. it’s called a practice because the more you practice it, the more likely it is you’ll be able to do it when you really, really need to–like when your tender heart is hurting. if you already meditate, try increasing your sessions a little, like from 15 minutes to 20 minutes, or 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

    -invite the feelings in. the next time you find yourself ruminating on what it felt like to receive the compliments you did, let the compliment itself go and instead bring attention to the feeling it created in you. locate the feeling in your body. if you felt proud or loved or pleased, let those feelings be there. feel into them, but without attaching any story to how you came to those feelings or what it means to have them. the next time you find yourself wondering about him, let your idea of him go and instead feel what it feels like to wonder, to have curiosity that goes unsatisfied. let it wash over you. and should you find yourself thinking you need a passion to distract yourself, feel that feeling as well, without wondering if its true, trying to decide which passion is best, or criticizing yourself for even thinking about it.

    the american buddhist nun, pema chodron, says: feel the feelings but drop the story. for me, when it comes to intense feelings, this is the quickest route to the silence you are instinctively reaching for.

    and last but not least, be patient and gentle with yourself. it takes time to work with your own heart…

  • Posted by:  MK

    Thank you this response was most helpful. I really love Pema Chodron’s words. I need them so much. I am quite the amature meditator. I realize that it is not a contest but there are days that I can’t slow down for a minute. I will continue to practice.

  • Posted by:  susan

    hi mk. pema’s words are gold… and i’m so glad the response was helpful. and p.s., we’re all amateurs. the experience of meditation is different every time, so it’s always, always the first time. good news and bad news!!

  • Posted by:  Phil Menger

    “when you look closely, you see that there’s hardly anything going on, ever. ” I love that! Will paste on my bathroom mirror!

  • Posted by:  susan

    It’s pretty strangely true…

  • Posted by:  Sherry

    Susan and all. I am currently in one of the worst break-ups in my life. The thing that makes it so difficult is that there was nothing wrong. Everything was going great, and then, all of a sudden, pow! The other thing that makes it hard is that he said he wanted 2 months to figure out what he wanted. I think it was hard on him to end what we had. The problem is, this is the first guy in my life that I felt was my best friend- not just a boyfriend. He even admitted that he had never had more in common with any other girl.
    Having been through 2 divorces, and countless other relationships, I keep kicking myself for these overwhelming feelings of all sorts. Initially, it seemed the only way to cope was to turn my extreme sadness into anger and curse him. But, then I realized that I am not that type of person, so I was left not knowing what to do, what to think, or what to feel…I was becoming numb. I found myself not being to turn my thoughts away from him for very long at all (even though I am earning a higher degree and am a single mother). I could get my stuff done, but my mind would not stop- stop blaming myself, stop hating the situation, stop wondering if he would decide I was worth it after all. I wrote mantras and marked days off a calendar to signify that I had survived another day. It has been so hard trying to deal with all these thoughts and try to analyze the situation from every angle to try and reach a decision or conclusion. And, I realized that this whole time (6 weeks now), that I have been focusing on him and what he is doing, what he is thinking, instead of what I should be doing and thinking about me- what do I want?
    It is still a daily struggle, that somehow I am managing to survive- but I don’t just want to keep struggling to stay afloat, I want peace. I am reading your new book, and I love it. It has given me true hope, where I thought none existed. I hope anyone who is going through a similar situation can find meditation helpful and be able to start enjoying life again- even if it is on their own. I know I am looking forward to that day. Thank you.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Hi Sherry. I’m so so so glad you wrote. You describe heartbreak so well. Anyone who has ever been through anything like this can relate. Here is the main thing I want to tell you: YOU’RE GOING TO BE OKAY.

    The thing that is so incredibly difficult about heartbreak is that you feel like you lose control of your mind. Just like you say–anything can turn it upside down. It’s wonderful that you’re beginning to turn your thoughts to your own life. That’s not easy to do, but you’re taking possession of your own mind as best you can. It’s a daily struggle to do this, but it sounds like you’re really on the right track. I feel for you!!

    When you just can’t take your mind off of someone or something, putting your thoughts to good use can be better than trying to fight them off. The very best way to “use” them is in the practice of lovingkindness. Don’t ask me why, but this simple and direct practice of offering your love to all beings, even those who have hurt you, gives tremendous healing power. I really recommend it. There are two versions (a long one and a short one) on the site under meditation resources. If you have the energy to give it a try, I hope you’ll find it beneficial. http://www.susanpiver.com/new-book/meditation-resources/

    May I repeat: YOU’RE GOING TO BE OKAY. Your mind and heart will come back into your possession and this pain will gradually ebb away…it always does…

    Please stay in touch.

    Love, Susan

  • Posted by:  John

    This is a really amazing story. It is taking me years to get over my broken heart; but recently the practice of mindfulness and the ‘realism’ of the Buddha is helping me to escape from the torment of a past I feel responsbible for breaking and the anxiety of a future I feel powerless to influence. Thank you for sharing your story. John 🙂

  • Posted by:  Sherry

    Hello all. Here is an update. After having just completed the first 36 hours of the 7-day meditation program, I can admit that I feel so different about life. I was very nervous at first. I was afraid that if I found out my “true” self, that I would discover that I didn’t like myself, or that I was a freak…fortunately, I discovered neither!
    I read the entire book called “The Art of Happiness,” and it helped to reinforce, in a very analytical way, all Susan’s teachings in her book. For example, I realized how my own dilusional thoughts created my own misery. How many of us have thought, “Oh, he (she) hasn’t called me in 2 days. He must not like me and I just know he is going to break up with me. Maybe I better call him and just make sure that everything is okay with ‘us’.” Surely as I was dialing his number- my logic was saying Don’t do it-Don’t call, and as soon as I called, I was kicking myself for letting myself down. It seemed that now matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t resist the temptation. But, the meditation program and the book really helped. Now I can recognize the difference between calling for good reasons (just wanting to talk or share some good news) versus bad reasons (ones that stem from jealousy or insecurity). I think it helps to really have the proper perspective on what is motivating us.
    The other remarkable thing that I realized is that if he had not broken up with me, I would have missed out on this wonderful opportunity to finally make the changes I had been seeking for years to change. He is the first person in my life that I cared enough about, that when he broke up with me, I realized that I had just lost something completely wonderful- my best friend. This loss provided me with the impetus to do something. After the break-up, I vascillated between blaming myself with thoughts of “I am so stupid, how could I have let this happen…If only I hadn’t acted that way, then none of this would happen,” to playing the victim and blaming him “Why did he do this to me?” But, it is not one single person’s fault- the same result might have occurred regardless of my actions because he might have had his own issues that motivated the break-up. But, one thing is for sure, I am grateful for the opportunity for growth that he provided (even if that wasn’t his intention). So, for what it is worth, I highly recommend the 7-day program and the book “The Art of Happiness.” I am very much looking forward to starting life over again, with a new outlook and new tools to combat my habitual patterns of the past. Thank you.

  • Posted by:  susan

    John, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Broken heartedness is so painful–and such an opportunity. It sounds like you’re jumping into your own as an opportunity for spiritual practice, which is the best way of working with it. I wish you the best!! Susan

  • Posted by:  susan

    Sherry, it’s great to get this update. Are you talking about “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama? If so, that is truly an amazing book, I completely agree. And how lucky we are to live in a world where such books are available!

    I wish you the very, very best in your 7-day program. Are you doing the one in my book? Wasn’t quite clear. In any case, it’s great to dive into it with the focus and openness that your e-mail shows.

    It takes so much courage to look at your broken heart for what it can be (and is): the chance to, as you say, “finally make the changes I had been seeking for years to change.”

    Please, please keep us posted on your 7-day program.

    Sending you support and encouragement from cyberspace–

    Susan

  • Posted by:  Sherry

    Susan,
    Yes, to both of your questions. The book The Art of Happiness is by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler. And I am doing your 7-day meditation program from your new book How Not to be Afraid of Your Own Life. I am recommending both books to all my friends, and even one of my ex-husbands 🙂 Thank you for turning me onto such a fresh, realistic approach to life and thoughts. Thank you for all the support. I know that everything is going to be okay- in fact, great!

  • Posted by:  susan

    Hi Sherry. Wonderful! I feel inspired to re-read The Art of Happiness too. Susan.

  • Posted by:  kate

    Hi Susan,

    I’m currently so confused….experiencing a lot of the same feelings described in previous emails. I was enjoying being in a relationship with a man who said he cared a lot about me and expressed the fact that we have many common interests. We got along well but then I found out (he told me) that he has a female friend that he will not exclude from his life. He said that he is attracted to her but would never take it further. He said that I should trust him and that his friend also agrees that nothing physical can ever happen between them (because they are at different stages in their life). I am not against him having female friends but going to her place by himself (he won’t introduce me) to watch videos is difficult to accept. I decided to give him an ultimatum…either he stops seeing her or I won’t see him again. Now I’m regretting my decision and think that I shouldn’t have pushed the issue.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Hi Kate. Thanks for taking the time write. It’s so incredibly hard to know what the right thing is in a situation like this. But it sounds like you’re looking for an exclusive relationship and perhaps he is not. If so, it’s really, really hard to “convert” the other person. I think it’s great that he told you the truth and you were honest about your wishes. I’m sorry it came to a “do or die” moment, but maybe better now than later? If she was just a friend, it would be one thing, but if he’s attracted to her, that places the friendship in a different zone.

    Ultimately, it’s about feeling loved and “chosen.” If you don’t feel either, what can you do but what you did?

    All best and keep us posted–

  • Posted by:  sandy

    a boyfriend that has female friends that he forbids his girlfriend to meet? DANGER-DANGER-DANGER!!! too complicated! if this woman is such a great friend, why can’t all 3 of you hang out and all be friends together?

    you did the right thing, kate.

    and sherry, i too just recently got dumped by someone who led me to bigger and better things. this site, for example. and meditation, and buddhist/toaist books. i was baffled by his change of heart as we seemed to have so much in common, and hurt by the rejection. over many rejections and many years, i’ve become willing to work really hard at relationships. in the last 5, i’ve dated everything from bikers to buddhists with equal affection, effort and flexibility, but feel like i can’t find anyone who is willing to do the same for me. am i trying too hard or not hard enough? everyone says “be yourself”. that’s the only way you’ll find someone truly right for you. but who am i? i truly believe in effort and flexibility, but how far should that go? where’s the fine line between fair, loving compromise and compromising myself?

    an article on this site by susan about marriage helped me see the difficulties of relationships as “morter instead of landmines”. knowing it and doing it are 2 different things!

  • Posted by:  mk

    I agree with Sandy. Please re-read my post from earlier on this thread. It is not that I do not believe platonic friendships cannot exist. They probably can. I believe however that had this friend of mine not told me how attracted he was that I would have focused soley on my mariage. Instead I let myself fall in love with the “love” that this person thought he had for me. My husband and I are still together and my husband knew about my friendship. What I don’t think he quite understands is how much I was and still am affected by this other man’s attention.

    What bothers me about Kate’s situation is how controlling and secretive her male partner was regarding his friendship.

    I check this blog often when feeling down. I still feel depressed about my flirtation with this “friend”. We no longer talk, but the last time we did there was still some holding on (to the fantasy of a relationship) on his part. Once again, I held on to my own fantasy of being the dreamgirl.

    I guess that the desire this person had for me was like a balm that soothed the times that I have been rejected in the past.

    I realize too that for my friend to try to heal his rocky marriage that he will eventually have to reject me. We don’t talk or write anymore so I will be spared the kiss off, yet I know that it has to come for him to return to psychological health. I want it to come for him. I want him to love his wife fully and to realize that finding me after many years was a mistake that it did niether of us any favors.

    I too need to find the kiss off. I can’t allow myself to keep strugeling with the romance fantasy. It makes me deeply depressed, yet it is so tempting to sit around and think about how loved I am.
    I am approaching the one year mark of the height of this ill-fated friendship. Perhaps that is why I needed to write so much tonight. “Feel the feelings but drop the story.” Great advice, difficult practice.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Yes, difficult to follow. But even just trying is a great start. I’m not just saying that. Even if you can only do it for one second, that’s one more second of fresh air and creative possibility. Plus it’s such a courageous thing to do–when you give up explanations (even really helpful ones), there is nothing standing between you and the raw emotion. It hurts. It burns. But you get two things out of this: first, the emotion seems to pass more quickly, and, second, it has a chance to speak to you, to teach you something. What that something is, is different for all of us.

    Once I asked my teacher (Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche) what to do because when I opened myself to my feelings (which is necessary to develop compassion), all I did was cry. When I let myself feel all the hurt I have and all the hurt I sense in others, I just lose it. That can’t be of much use to anyone… He said, “some of the greatest meditators have cried a lot.” What this meant to me was it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to hurt. When the great ones look inside, they encounter the same pain we all do. Perhaps they sit with it for as long as it takes and, in some way, it deepens their practice.

  • Posted by:  sandy

    wow!!! that’s good to hear susan, as i consider myself one of the world’s most sensitive people. but since that makes others so uncomfortable, i try to hide it. i do anything to keep from crying, and see crying as a weakness. sometimes i feel that if i start crying, i’ll never stop. i’ve always secretly thought being sensitive and caring was a good thing, but because sensitivity gets so much criticism, i try so hard not to be. facing pain is so incredibly scary. and being virtually alone in this life –no parents, siblings, partner, or children– makes it especially so. what happens if i completely fall apart?

    i’ve had several people over the course of my adult life tell me that i have very strong spiritual powers. healing powers, even. but as i’ve gotten older and life more complicated, i’ve found myself being so busy trying to keep body and soul together that developing my spirituality gets put on the back burner. the relationship disappointment i recently experienced woke me up and strengthened my resolve to bring spirituality (and independence) back to the forefront, but my resolve wavers. going up and down several times each day, defined by the conflict between avoiding fear and desiring joy. perhaps the very thing i fear the most is joy itself?

    anyway….i can’t tell you how much this site helps me. knowing that there are others who take life as seriously as i do, and that its ok! i’m not nuts! thank you everyone as i embark upon new paths of self-discovery, armed with all the resources i could ever need! :o)

  • Posted by:  mk

    Susan,

    Thank you for your reassurances. I was really down last Thursday when I wrote. I ruminate alot and if it was not this situation it would be something else. Work, Parents, who knows…

    I saw my friend tonight — quite by accident on my part.
    He says he still thinks about me all of the time.

    I gave him the route to this blog site in hopes that he will find comfort here.

    My hope is that he will read the other posts on relationships and other areas. I particularly like ” I do.” Reading that post helps center me when I am feeling restless.

  • Posted by:  p&l

    I had to end a relationship with someone I loved because of the fact we were both married. I am still in love with her and unfortunately, I did something that I am ashamed of. I went out of my way to cross paths with her recently and I feel as if I violated a trust that we had. I want to call her and apologize, but each time I contact her I am afraid that I am opening up wounds or causing her more pain. I miss her and I just can not seem to let go. I have never had feelings this strong and I am unsure what to do. Prayer, meditation and reading help, but sometimes all they do is remind me of her. I read Pema Chodron and the first thing I did was email her the information about the book! I regret visiting her because it may have harmed her, yet I was thrilled to see her at the same time. I suppose I need to trust that she will know I meant her no harm.I wish her only peace love and happiness. I have tried to convince myself that it is OK not to deny these feelings of love because we sure need more love in this world. Thanks for allowing me to share and I hope to find comfort and clarity from this site.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Sandy, hello and thanks for the response. I understand the discomfort of sensitivity. I sometimes think the entire point of spiritual or emotional work is to learn to stabilize one’s heart in the open position. Do you know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve had the experience of the joy such openness can bring–it allows you to love deeply and to magically know how and when to give what is needed. Without openness, it’s just not possible to act lovingly, I truly believe. So we have to learn how to honor the gift of natural openness, which feels like a burden when not stabilized but like the very essence of lovingkindness when it is. Not an easy line to walk, is it??

    I’ve learned to really have faith that my practice can hold me together. (That said, I still go very, very slow when working with my most difficult emotions.) In Buddhist tradition, there are 3 things that you can rely on to hold you together–what they call the 3 jewels: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. The Buddha means the awakened state. The Dharma refers to the teachings–Buddhist (if you’re a Buddhist), but also to the vast body of knowledge that is constantly trying to present itself to us. Sangha means community and this means your fellow practitioners (if you practice within a tradition) but it also simply means everybody. The community of sentient beings.

    Hope that wasn’t too much information! But it is very important to figure out how to meet and befriend your own natural wakefulness. The one good thing that can be said about relationship pain is that it can force you to take a deep dive into your inner world to discover this.

    I’m so very happy you find the site helpful. I have no idea, sitting at my desk writing about things that are of interest to me, if others find it useful. So it’s nice to meet a fellow traveler who is trying to embrace her own natural seriousness!

  • Posted by:  susan

    MK, hello. I’m so happy you wrote again. It’s quite a roller coaster ride, this relationship pain, no?? One day up, the next day down. Both are so real. And both have something important to teach us.

    I hope you’ll keep me/us posted.

  • Posted by:  susan

    P&L, hello. Many thanks for taking the time to write. I can totally, absolutely relate to the turmoil and confusion that come from loving someone to whom you have no access. It’s so painful.

    I think you’re on to something when you say it’s ok not to deny these feelings of love. However, it’s really hard to do this without feeling depressed, which is a form of aggression toward yourself.

    One good–great–way to tune into the tremendous amount of love you feel and offer it to the world (because you’re right, we DO need more love in the world) is through a traditional Buddhist practice called Maitri or Lovingkindness meditation. You totally don’t have to be a Buddhist to do it. It’s associated with Buddhism, but really has nothing to do with religion–more with the way your heart naturally works. I encourage you to visit “meditation resources” on this site and try the practice. (I’ve provided audio instruction.) I’ve found (and I know Pema writes about this so clearly and beautifully) that the trick with emotional pain is to open your heart wider. It feels counterintuitive, but it is true. And is best tried with guidance! Maitri provides just this guidance.

    If you try it (or if you don’t!) please keep us posted on how you’re doing.

  • Posted by:  mk

    Well it has been a whole week since my friend followed me to a shopping center and then followed up with an apologetic post and email.
    I am not mad. What I want to do is call and engage him on all of his complex thoughts and feelings, to be his marriage counselor. To do so would place me in a morally ambiguous position in my own marriage. I would ineffect be practicing what Trungopa Rinpoche calls “idiot compassion.”
    I am doing my best to do nothing.

  • Posted by:  Lindsay

    Sherry! I’m in much the same situation. I had a 5 year blissful relationship, no sign of any problems, only talk of buying our first home, marriage, etc..

    Suddenly, he decided he needed to “find himself” and broke up with me. I’m trying to be understanding, but our lives were so blended, and it’s so painful. It’s been just over a month, and I find that for every step I take forward, I take a few back.

    I was just wondering if we could get another update. How are you coping? Did things ever work out, or did you move on?

    Thank you for sharing. It helps so much to know I’m not alone.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Hi Lindsay. I wish you the best! And I hope Sherry will be back to give us all an update.

    Please remember: you are not alone. We’ve ALL been there (or will be someday) and those who make it through become the most loving, caring, powerful people you’d ever want to know.

    So hang in there and don’t let any of the ups or downs throw you off–

    Keep us posted–

    Susan

  • Posted by:  Julie

    It is amazing to me to read parts of Sandy’s email. My mouth was agape all through it. I just thought at times, “Wow, you could be me!” I too have been through so many relationships, being flexible & accepting, loving & forward progressing in a spiritual growth kind of way & been dumped or treated rather cruelly so many times. This most recent breakup however was unique.
    I met this great person 7 months ago, he was a practicing Buddhist. We both knew it right away – we were so very much alike in so many ways – we both knew early on that it was truly Love. He treated me better than anyone I have ever been with, with loving kindness most of the time (he is human, after all) and tenderness. And large amounts of Love in general. Things were going so very well until just Sunday last . Aaaaand that’s all folks – I knew he had wanted to become more involved in helping others, which I gladly support – and he had mentioned that he had considered becoming a monastic. Sunday he told me that he wanted to devote his life to the greater good & eventually (not right now) enter the Sangha. And so, rather than split up 10 years down the road after so much together, that it would be easier for us both now. He said he didn’t regret one moment of our time together, & that he loved me very much, that we were really perfectly great together. He said he couldn’t be a monastic & in a relationship (obviously, I suppose). We had become so intensely close; it was truly as though we had found our “soul mate”, however cliched that idea may be. He said he had agonized over the decision. It just killed me. He also specified we have no contact at all, as it would make things more difficult & would drag the pain out longer. I know that he goes on to do great works of kindness for others (to which I now feel excluded, I may add, though as he prays for all beings I am certain I am included in that), and I feel somewhat selfish in that I still want to be there for his own personal life. This one is really, really tough (no break up isn’t tough.) It has only been 4 days. He really has helped me in many ways, including introducing me to more Buddhist teachings & I am grateful for that. I am grateful for his Love. I will always wonder about him, & this pain is pretty big. It is very very hard. Letting go of the one person that has treated you truly well.
    Reading this post has been helpful, & who knows, perhaps I can now explore more deeply for myself the teachings. I wish the was some way for me to simply skip all this pain. I dread time alone right now. And of course, reflection is the only thing that will help…right? Wish me LOTS of luck – please…
    Namaste; Julie

  • Posted by:  sandy

    wow….that HARD, julie!!! i certainly do wish you all the best best best LOTS of luck.

    i’ve myself have never been able to decide which is harder….being rejected cruelly or caringly….

  • Posted by:  michelle

    what a beautiful gift to find this web site tonight. to find community of the heart here. i am going through a most difficult, painful breakup of a 15 year relationship. although i was the one who ended it the pain is no less. as mentioned above we cannot change another and so a separation is often better coming sooner rather than later. well i did not get this.
    i have tried for a very long time to initiate a change in my husband to accept me and the things in life that i enjoy, and finally have realized that he will not.
    for the last few years i was not completely my authentic self in hopes that he would love me enough one day to accept all of me. sad to say the day never came and i knew that i was only hurting myself by staying.
    i came to the point that i could no longer be afraid of being without him and had to begin to live my true life.

    susan, when i saw the name of your new book i had to find out who you were and that is how i found your site. how fortunate for me and what a remarkable web site….i love it and can’t wait to read more. naturally the i had a broken heart caught my immediate attention.
    i think my heart feels broken since to be told by someone that they love you, to me means that they also accept who you are and want your dreams to manifest. now faced with the reality that in fact he does not “accept” who i am, i wonder who was he loving?…certainly not me.
    he is a remarkable man in many ways and to have to give him up is so painful. but the pain of not being myself is greater.
    what a choice. lately i have felt that i had to chose between him or myself, obviously for many years i chose him. i truly believe that meditating, writing and those practices that we try to do diligently have helped me to be able to take this step, scary and painful as it is. i have learned to accept myself.
    susan, i also loved how you wrote how you filled journals so rapidly. my writing as been my ally through this and when i see how much has come out i am at least grateful that i did not have to keep it all inside of me, and also i have gained much insight with my feelings being on paper.
    i will try to practice more experiencing the feelings without the story….i already feel a bit relieved that this is indeed possible.
    so i know that i will forge ahead and how wonderful to have found this safe and loving place.
    it feels strange to click submit as i have never written on the internet before…here goes

  • Posted by:  Edel

    Dear All, I broke up 6 months ago with my ex, we were in between moving house at the time and he returned mid moving and just told me he could not do this anymore. He left that day with some of his stuff and never returned for the rest.I later sent them to his Moms via a friend. Two weeks passed and there was little contact except a few text messages, all the while I thought he would come back. After a fortnight I rang him and he told me he no longer loved me and that he had not done for 3 months previous to the break up. We have never spoken since and although I know I deserve better my confidence and my heart are broken. He not only left me broken he also left my son( from a previous relationship) sad and upset. I lost a lot of weight initi
    Then just as I began to pick myself up initially I tried to feel loved by meeting others that I normally have no interest in, but alas none of this worked in fact I think I felt worse if anything. would have no inter try to get on with my life my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer he died only 7 weeks ago and my e did not even attend the funeral or send a card. I feel I am at the lowest point in my life right now, I know I shall to overcome this and I find comfort in knowing others have also.

  • Posted by:  L

    Thank you so much for the article, it made me feel better, if only for a second. I had been living with my bf for the past 7 months, and he called it quits via text. Its hard to be in my apartment because all of his stuff is still here. I cant stop crying, and i cant stop thinking about it. I even kinda knew it was coming. We weren’t getting along. we fought all this time. I thought i wasnt in love with him anymore. There wasnt that spark. But here i am, drenched in tears

    • Posted by:  Susan

      If the piece helped for a second, I’m glad. I do not blame you one bit for being deluged by tears, especially surrounded by all of his stuff. Hang in there! Take it easy and be very, very kind to yourself, and also to him, as best you can. Please keep in touch. You are not alone.

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