One City

One City

What would Sid do? Leopards, garudas, and players oh my!

Out of all the dignities the Garuda was known as the close-talker.

Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at age 35 he was a
confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a
spiritual life. He had an overbearing dad, expectations for what he was
supposed to do
with his life, drinks were flowing, lutes were playing, and the
women were all about him. Some called him L.L. Cool S. I imagine
close friends just referred to him as Sid.

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid
as a confused guy struggling with his daily life. What would he do as a
young person trying to find love, cheap drinks, and fun in a city like
New York? We all make mistakes on our spiritual journey; here is where
they’re discussed.


Each week I’ll take on a new question and
give some advice based on what I think Sid, a confused guy working on
his spiritual life in a world of major distraction, would do. Because
let’s face it, you and I are Sid.

Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and I’ll probably get to it!

Q: I’m seeing a guy who is a former “player” and claims he’s “not
that guy” anymore. He claims higher consciousness and past issues in
order to not be a boyfriend but just be a friend. If and when I
get hurt by un-returned calls, I’m told I’m too demanding and that he’s
“not responsible for my (hurt) feelings.” When he wants/needs love and
attention, however, I can’t shake him.


The highs are dizzying. I’m having trouble dealing with the lows
and the disappearances and feeling that I’m not of high enough
“consciousness” to handle it. I’ve been told I’m too sensitive or
tender-hearted. I don’t want to have to play the “mystery’ game.” – Anonymous

Let’s start with the obvious opener: you’ve got a former player on your hands. I’m all for leopards changing their spots so maybe he’s changed. At the same time it seems like he may have changed some spots but not figured out how to shape them into tiger stripes. In other words, he may not be interested in being a player but if he is playing a “mystery game” then he doesn’t yet know how to be a boyfriend.


I can’t advise anyone to go out and try and change their romantic interest. People have to want to change. It sounds like this guy is happy with who he is and what he is doing. Feedback can always be offered but is not a sure fire way to produce results. You, me, and Gandhi? We need to be the change we want to see. As people following in the footsteps of Sid our primary concern is to work with our own ability to love and be loved. From that point of view others may be magnetized by what they see in us.

So let’s talk about what you can do in this situation. You can be try to be accommodating of his transition from player to boyfriend. You can let him know how you feel when he blows you off. But first and foremost you can look at those highs and lows.


There are four dignities in Shambhala Buddhism, one of which is the garuda. The garuda is an animal that can soar through the skies because it is untethered by clinging to a solid sense of “Me” and “What I need.” In other words, the garuda goes beyond hope and fear, beyond the highs and lows.

Just like everyone who has ever been in a relationship ever, I imagine you have come into the situation with an idea as to what you would like this other person to do for you and, perhaps to some extent, who you think they ought to be. When the other person says something you’ve been longing to hear you get excited. When he does not communicate as much as you would like you get disappointed.  Hope and fear. Sound familiar?


However, if you just saw this person for who they are without that level of projection then you might not find yourself falling into heavy emotional traps. Once again, this is something we ALL do. We all expect certain things of our partners and are saddened when that does not come to be. It is incredibly hard to practice the garuda’s discipline of not falling into solidified states of emotion. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche would say, “Jolly good luck.”

Lest you think I would just leave you with advise without opinion I have to say this guy seems a little bogus. I’ve never heard a solid relationship built on one half of the couple saying he’s on some higher consciousness and that his partner can’t meet his level. I’ve also never heard of a good relationship where being tender-hearted was discouraged. So this seems very bogus. Being tender-hearted with another person is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being in a relationship. Totally totally bogus.


In fact, if we are not caught by our hope and fear that level of tenderness and intimacy is exactly the space when we see our lover for who they are. In that moment when we collapse beside one another on the bed (or couch, or kitchen counter, or what-have-you) there’s some sense of just being with that person. No solidified hope as to whether they will tell us they love us, no solidified fear as to whether they will get dressed and go. Just tenderness and openness.

When we hold our lovers in that moment without projection then we genuinely see them for who they are.

Nice work if you can get it. In this situation it seems like there is little room for that. The leopard is saying in a straight-forward way they are not interested in pursuing a relationship, only a friendship, regardless of how garuda-like you can be. You may need to swallow that pill and move on. Even Sid hit the point where he realized in order to grow as a human being he had to part ways with his wife. That relationship, with all the set rules and projections, was not what he needed at that time to experience spiritual growth. You may hit the same point in working with this guy.


Part of working with ourself is attempting to be accommodating of other human beings. At the same time we need to know our limits. Knowing our limits we can stretch ourselves and grow as a human being. But beyond stretching we can break. In the immortal words of the sage Ice Cube, “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.

Comments read comments(7)
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posted June 26, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Lodro, you are great.

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posted June 27, 2009 at 8:09 am

Good answer, Lodro. Judith Simmer-Brown has some interesting things to say about romantic love, also.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Great stuff. I’d have to say from experience, tho’, sometimes saying to your partner, “I have no hope or fear of your staying with me or leaving me” can be read as a bit too cold; of course how other people interpret our words is not for us to manage or control. But I wouldn’t, um, lead with that.
And one big note: I realize this Q&A is about a rather early stage in a relationship, but I found this bit: “In that moment when we collapse beside one another on the bed (or couch, or kitchen counter, or what-have-you) there’s some sense of just being with that person. No solidified hope as to whether they will tell us they love us, no solidified fear as to whether they will get dressed and go. Just tenderness and openness” to be a pretty good description of marriage or a long-term committed partnership.
A good relationship, with that much space in it, somehow paradoxically demands some level of commitment beyond “no hope, no fear”. A solid commitment between two people can make the relationship itself a teacher, a reality with which you deal continually, thru vagaries of emotional storms and calm weather, regardless. (As long as overall one is not getting beaten or abused, of course.)
As a married person, emphasizing the “no hope, no fear” thing too much makes that whole going-to-the-huppah/chapel/City Hall thing seem a little weird. Like if my husband and I have no real interest in whether the other person on the couch is gonna be there tomorrow, why did we get married? For the appliances? Lemme tell ya, toasters break. (Word to the wise: Mixers don’t, so much, esp that KitchenAid stand mixer. Put on the list if you like muffins.)
Seriously, we got married because we wanted to experience a relationship together as a team. We know it can end at any time, with our without our consent, but we also realize cause and effect: if we put in generosity, tolerance, patience, and lovingkindness, we can get the result of a loving relationship. If we decide to work with our emotions in the context of a relationship, we know it won’t all be sweetness but it will be a relatioship. If all we put in is “no hope no fear; I might be gone if I get pissed off at you one day” it won’t.
Interesting stuff. I’d tell the writer to lose the spotty boy. He’s pretty clear about what he is; if you don’t want that, try another aisle.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I believe this is the first time I’ve read Ellen respond to a relationship blog. I’ve been waiting for a long time. Thanks.
What’s written above is great including the heartbreak link but there is something that needs to be addressed.
The person somehow knows it’s not right but yet has not made the connection that there is a reason they themselves are chosing to stay. Whatever the source. They need to find it because even if they leave this guy. They are going to find it again.
This isn’t just about the confusion arising from our cultural ideas of romance. It’s also about the fundamental sense of worth.
Also offering some buddhist adages is helpful but incomplete. This person has already stated that they are having a hard time leaving. Even though they are feeling pain and I’m sure they have already spoken to another confidant besides Sid.
Sometimes telling a person to leave is like telling a crackhead to drop the pipe as they are raising it to meet their lips. They’re unable to really to hear you.
Not only is self analysis needed as mentioned by the others above but what’s also needed is an exit strategy. They need to learn how to slowly but surely let go and sometimes letting go is a step by step process.

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posted June 29, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Thanks, Ellen, that was a really helpful comment.
I puzzled for a few minutes over why you seem to say that long-term commitment is necessary for “no hope/no fear” openhearted-presence together.
I think I might get it it now though– in some ways, if things are so casual that you REALLY don’t care if someone goes or stays, it’s not really “practice” to try staying in “no hope no fear” mode. Maybe long-term commitments, where you have openly stated/felt a compelling, strong connection, and in some ways you have more to lose, are the most real/best practicing ground for “no hope no fear”? (Does that make any sense?)
I also hear how it’s a paradox– or at least, that there’s potential tension between commitment and “no hope no fear”. Maybe that’s when “aspiration” becomes useful as a separate idea from “need” or “strong wish”. Like, we aspire to be a team that figures out this life-love-openhearted-human business together…
not sure I’ve illuminated anything… just taking it in :)

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posted June 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

“Maybe long-term commitments, where you have openly stated/felt a compelling, strong connection, and in some ways you have more to lose, are the most real/best practicing ground for “no hope no fear”? (Does that make any sense?)”
Yes, it does, to me! When there is a strong connection, it is a great ground for practicing “no hope no fear.” I sometimes try look at relationship the way I try to look at reality. I can practice with being present to reality, or I can try to escape it. When a relationship has a strong component of commitment, there is room for The Wisdom of No Escape to emerge.
That also points to Damaris’s commment: “even if they leave this guy. They are going to find it again.” Even if I think I am “leaving” the reality of this job, this person, this feeling, until I stare it down, as it were, and see what it really is, I will find that same situation again. Cause I put it there.

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posted July 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

Ellen I agreed with what you wrote above except for “cause I put it there”.
A person may not necessary put it there and if they did it wasn’t all by themselves. Remember interdepence. There’s karmic activity taking place on all sides. We are always drawn to the specific types of situations.
What the person does put there is the time and the energy to either make it grow or to make it die.

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