Archive for January, 2008

Obsessive relationships

Intimate relationships can be one of the greatest sources of joy in our lives. However, as with most enjoyable things, it is easy to become attached. This occurs when we start to seek too much from the relationship, when we start to see it as integral to our happiness. It is dangerous to seek too much from anything in life. We are each responsible for our own happiness and it is foolish to deny this responsibility. We should avoid being addicted to spending time with our partner, becoming attached to sexual gratification from our partner, or any other situation in which we rely on our partner for our own happiness.

The problems of obsession with a loved one are the same as those of an obsession with anything else. However, in the case of relationships, the seriousness is often downplayed. While everyone knows the harm caused by a gambling addiction, many are not so concerned about a “love addiction”. It is considered normal, maybe even romantic. The crux of the problem lies in the use of the word “love”: people take an obsession or an attachment and they call it love. This leads them to assume that it is a good thing.

Clearly, love is a good thing, but attachment is not. Often we want our partner to be attached to us because it provides reassurance. Many songs contain supposedly romantic lyrics about how much someone “needs” another. In practice however, love most easily arises in the absence of need. Love is an unselfish and open state, which is quite the opposite of need (see Love and need). When a relationship is based on attachment, we have problems such as selfishness, possessiveness, insecurity, and disappointment. A relationship based on love has no such issues.

Therefore, we should avoid attachment in a relationship just as we should avoid attachment in other areas of life. Instead of needing something external for our happiness, we must take responsibility for our own happiness. This does not mean being any less committed to the relationship. On the other hand, it will result in a relationship that is more lasting and stable. We can make the most of the good things in life, giving all that we have, but we should never forget that happiness is from within.

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Relaxing the mind: an every day holiday

The most peaceful moment in time is Now. No matter what is going through our heads, we can drop it all at any time, and rest in the Now. The way to do this is to simply be with the task at hand. When stressful, destructive, or upsetting thoughts arise, we release them, and return to whatever we are doing. In this way, resting the attention with an activity provides us with a holiday from our worries, and allows the mind to refresh and rejuvenate.

We all know that things are better after a good night’s sleep. The principle is that taking our mind off things makes us refreshed, relaxed, and able to deal with life positively. Resting the attention with an activity provides the same boost. If we have a fight with our partner and angry retorts and injustices are whirling around in our heads, a great thing to do is wash the dishes. As thoughts of the fight arise, we gently release them, and continue washing the dishes. Whatever issues that we had with our partner will still be there when we finish the dishes – we have plenty of time to deal with them. However, when we finish with the dishes, we may also find that some of those so-called important issues have faded away. Taking our mind off things for a while gives us a great deal more perspective, which almost always results in a more positive outlook.

We all have different activities that we find relaxing in life. Some of us like to go for a run. Others read a book. For some of us, the only time that we take our mind off things is in sleep, and even this may be plagued with dreams or insomnia. The good news is that with a little practice we can find almost anything relaxing. The trick is just to let the attention rest with it – whether it be leisure or work. Even the most unpleasant of tasks is refreshing when we do this.

Destructive emotions reside in the past and the future. When we feel sad or angry, it is not usually related to the task directly in front of us. Although it is definitely important to deal with issues in our life, and to give the mind time to wander and think creatively, it is also important that we can drop things when we choose to do so. During our morning shower, we may contemplate that fight with our partner, and think of how we would like things to be different. This is fine, but if such thoughts continue non-stop throughout the day, we quickly become worn out and irrational. Thinking must be controlled, and perspective must be maintained. The ability to drop thoughts and return to the present moment is one of the most important skills we can ever develop.

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