Wednesday 1 March 2017

Buddhism for Break-Ups

Meshel Laurie is well known to Australians as a comedian. I've seen her on the tele a bit, but a number of years ago I suppose, back in the Spicks and Specks days, although I think she is on The Project a bit now, I just don't watch that all that often. And because I don't pay that much attention to things I hadn't realised that she was Buddhist, so initially I was a bit surprised on seeing the title Buddhism for Break-Ups.

I'm not a religious person and I've never really paid much attention to Buddhism (or any of the other major religions to be honest). I was more interested in the Break-Up side of things from this book. I'm just starting to emerge from the end of my marriage 18 months ago, and thinking about all sorts of things. Mainly about ways forward. Mine wasn't a particularly awful break-up in the scheme of things I suppose, but it was my break-up and it was awful enough. I have come to wondering why marriages breakdown but relationships break-up... is that meaningful? I'm not sure.

Meshel's break-up was different to mine, but there were some similarities. 
Meshel's marriage broke down after 19 years, a similar time frame to me. She is frightfully honest about the details of her despair at times. Crying in the shower. Kicking the washing machine.

I was reminded of Anna Karenina's famous opening line

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
No, I haven't kicked the washing machine -yet, but there were certainly days when I could have. Days when maybe I should have. 

Buddhism for Break-Ups aims to help us show ourselves the kindness we would show others, and turn a break-up into a breakthrough. 

As far as Buddha is concerned, the end game is not happiness, but peacefulness
Which is interesting given the modern fixation with being happy. It's what we all strive for, one of the big reasons many marriages breakdown, and the subject of countless books, articles and TED talks. But Buddhism is there to tell us that peace "lasts longer and is more helpful to more people."

I did learn quite a lot about Buddhism along the way. I'm not about to start chanting or meditating or anything, but it's interesting to know a bit about how 10% of the world think, pray and act. 

Buddha realised that it's unrealistic to hope for security, reliability and same-ness, let alone assume we're entitled to them. These ideas are contrary to the reality of life, which is insecure, unreliable and constantly changing. 
Change is certainly a major part of a break-up. "Leaping into an unknown life" is very threatening. Suddenly we have an unknown future, with an unknown future self.
We have an opportunity to redefine ourselves and move towards the person we want to be and the life we want to live. 
We do indeed. It's something I need to work on more. Noone else is in control of my emotions. Anger can only hurt me, and the antidote to anger is patience. 

Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept and Meshel tells us that we won't achieve mindfulness by colouring in! I have bought some books, but not really used them. Although I did some colouring in while waiting in a cafe one time and that was pretty good, actually quite restful.

Intention is everything in Buddhism. 
Buddhists try to approach people with Emptiness, with a blank slate, to see how that person really is in that moment. Which sounds fine in principle, but what does it say of learning and experience? Impermanence and Karma are both rather fascinating to ponder. I didn't realise that Karma is a swirling force over millennia involving cyclic existence, and not just a right back-atcha kind of thing.

Meshel is a comedian though as well as a Buddhist, and a mother of young children, so it's reassuring and perhaps inevitable to see that she leaves her final words to that other philosophic master, Dr Seuss.

You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. 
This is the second book I've read recently after reading an excerpt in the Sunday papers. And also my second read for AWW2017. There is much to think about here, and actually I think I can see myself reading Buddhism for Break-Ups again. It's here at the right time for me. 

You can listen to Meshel Laurie discussing Buddhism for Break-Ups with Wendy Harmer here


Hilary said...

Hi Louise,
I a really sorry to hear about your break-up - hopefully it is no longer hard for you, but it must have been difficult, and sad. Hope things are decidedly looking up for you now!

Sue T said...

I must be part-Buddhist as I've said to my kids a few times that it's not so much about happiness but about - and here I struggled for the word, and the best one I'd come up with was "contentment" but I think "peacefulness" is probably a better word for what I wanted to say. You just can't be happy all the time but you should be able to aim for a sort of inner sense of well-being most of the time.

BTW Thanks for sharing this. I've been wondering how you've been trucking over the last year or so.

Brona said...

I'm so glad you found the right book to get you through this time. I love it when that happens.(The Tao of Pooh helped me go through a bad patch many years ago.)

And as Sue said, glad to see this post that checks in with how you're going xoxo

BTB - Eurovision! WTF?! No more Julia and Sam - how can that be?

Louise said...

Hi Hilary, it's still very much up and down and a day by day battle, it is getting somewhat easier though each week and month. Things are looking up, I'm slowly (ever so slowly) gaining control of my life.

You were wise before your time Sue- no we can't be happy all of the time, and it's folly to think that way I think, noone's life is free from grief or anguish or upset. But separation and divorce is it's own special form of hell. I wasn't sure about sharing this post, it's more than I would normally share about my own situation, but I'm not alone in this world of pain, and it was a post I wanted to write, to help myself get through this, and maybe someone else. We all handle the pain of a divorce quite differently, although there is a basic commonality of experience too. The Buddhist concepts are an interesting way to frame thinking about this rather horrific period of a life. I have no idea how people stump up for a second marriage after the breakdown of a first.

Brona I think I was only able to read and digest this book because I've let enough (well, some) time go past. I read a book last year, but I don't know if it was too soon, or it was too lightweight, but it didn't really help from memory. I would like to read Buddhism for Break-Ups again, I'm sure I would get something different from it next month or even next week because I'll be in a different space myself. Thanks for your comment, I was really quite uncertain about posting it, I did wonder if I'd just write it for myself, and not share it, but then it seemed the right thing to do. And OMG Eurovision without Julia and Sam? WTF indeed. I can't imagine who will replace them, I can't imagine that it will be as good.

Tamara said...

Louise, what a wonderful reflection, and thankyou for posting it... i totally get that there is a right time for some books. When you're dealing with the coalface of pain, you dont want to hear too much of someone elses... this is a wonderful reflection for me at present...(nothing like divorce or separation, just health), and I really appreciate you posting this.

Louise said...

Thanks Tamara for your comment. I really appreciate it. I hope things are on the improve for you