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.