Monday, October 3, 2011

Relationship Dharma

Relationships are great. They give our lives meaning. And there is probably nothing that leads more people to spirituality in general and Buddhism in specific than the suffering that comes from them. We do not have to wait to the break up to sometimes feel empty, jilted, cheated on, or dissatisfied. All we have in life are relationships -- most of them not romantic. So why is the romance so tough? Maybe it's the roles we play. Kloncke has a great take on it.

A couple who meditates in bed together... usually ends up doing something else. Sit in the living room.

Relationship Dhamma
Katie (, tweaked with love by Wisdom Quarterly
Concluding this spontaneous miniseries on companionship (spontaneous yes, but maybe not concluding), we arrive at Ryan. Who? You know, my partner, the guy from Kale vs. Flowers and Bad Good Romance.

The other day, I read a passage from James Agee’s Southern novel A Death in the Family that reminded me of our household dynamic. Specifically, it reminded me of the ways we negotiate gendered roles, try to both anticipate and discuss each others’ needs, and occasionally discover “dhamma,” or insights about the nature of things, right in the (dis)comfort of our own home.

In this scene from the book, Jay is jolted awake in the dead of night thanks to a call... Jay has decided to take the train up to his parents’ town, and he and his wife Mary, also awakened by the phone call, are getting him ready to leave.

Ryan tells this funny joke sometimes about one method -- half-conscious at best -- by which person X tries to evade domestic work and pile it on a partner:

  • “But you’re so good at [cooking, doing laundry, calming a fretful child]. If I do it, I’ll just [bleep] it up.”

This is a passive-aggressive compliment-trap, which leaves the other person feeling obligated to do the thing s/he is so much better at doing.

Obviously, this is one of the big problems with the naturalization of gender roles in hetero-normative family systems. Men are raised to believe that they don’t have to learn how to cook/clean/mend/mind children because women are so naturally good at it. More

  • This s*cks, what about the sex? Dharma-sharma, Zen pita sandwich. If we encouraged gutsier behavior from American Buddhist guys, or tamped down women telling people to have boundaries all over the place, I for one would be a happier camper. Let free love be free. Chemistry first, then worry about the details? - Lovedoll
  • Oh, Katie. My heart feels good reading this, I’ve been thinking about things like this, and I love when I get to hear where you’re thinking and the spaces you make for it. A blessing! - Leorasf
  • I've been practicing and studying the Buddha Way since 1993 and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I was privileged to meet many practitioners of engaged Dharma including Robert Aitken Roshi, who told me that THERE IS NO BUDDHISM THAT IS NOT ENGAGED. Now I direct the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program along with Roshi Joan Halifax, where we forge new pathways of everyday engagement and servant leadership. - Maia Duerr

Mrs. and Mr. Goenka practice the Art of Living as married householders (