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Turning Our Attention To Relationships

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

In this series of posts I will present some practical ways that we can bring our attention to our relationships so as to more fully incorporate them into our Dharma practice and support them being more happy making and fulfilling. To be clear, when referring to relationships, I mean the breadth of relationship from meeting someone for the first time to a living together, partnered situation.

Viewing Relationships as Practice

When Dharma students ask me how they can use their practice to support their relationships, I ask them if they view their relationships as Dharma practice. Do they bring the same intention to be present to their relationships as they do to their sitting meditation? Usually, the answer to that is not exactly. Then we discuss how they might close that gap.

The whole thrust of Buddhist practice is to move from a state of suffering to a state of unconditional happiness. This does not just happen because we wish for it. Wishing for it is a good start and intention, but more needs to be done. This includes seeing clearly what thoughts, speech and actions lead to us suffering and which ones don’t. There is no arena of life better for this exploration than our relationships. If we are paying attention, it becomes very clear: When I say this, my partner reacts this way every time. When I act this way, I feel terrible afterwards, or I feel uplifted afterwards.

One time the Buddha was speaking to his son Rahul. He said that before, during and after he spoke or took action he should consider whether what he was about to say or do, was saying or doing, or had said or had done would lead to suffering or to happiness for himself, others or both. This simple, yet profound instruction has the capacity to transform our relationships for the better. First we need the intention to bring this practice to our relationships. This intention will be supported by our having the view that our relationships are Dharma practice. Without this view, we will not have the intention to bring any kind of appreciable attention or practice to our relationships. Then we need to remember (Sati/Mindfulness) to consider what the Buddha said to his son Rahul.

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