I was craving a little dharma reading the other day and picked Thich Nhat Hanh’s Teachings on Love off my book shelf. I’ve also recently started dating someone, so I thought it might provide a little preventative care and help me to approach my relationship more mindfully.
I’m still in the process of reading it, but I did want to share one piece of advice that I’ve already incorporated and which seems to be helping. In the section on self-love, he discusses the importance of meditating on our perceptions and points out that it is often our faulty perceptions which cause us to suffer. He advises writing the sentence “Are you sure?” on a piece of paper and taping it to the wall. While this may seem a little strange to house guests, I thought it was really smart advice, especially when entering into a romantic relationship. Lots of quick assumptions are made and it seems like good practice to slow down and contemplate the evidence backing up our perceptions.
Yesterday as I was entering the subway, I received a text from the significant other that could have been interpreted in quite a few ways. (As an aside, I think “are you sure?” is especially useful in regard to texts and e-mails which can easily be misinterpreted.) Anyway, I immediately got that “something’s wrong, this was too good to be true feeling”. I texted back to clarify, but was then going to be underground for a while precluding an immediate response. This did allow me some time to think and as I glanced at the book in my bag, I was reminded of the advice and slowed down. First, I realized that assuming that the text in question was directly related to me or us was self-centered and that I was in fact not sure at all what was going on. It was also a good opportunity to recognize clinging and attachment. Relationships are impermanent (some more than others) and if we can accept that, we can approach them with far less anxiety.
The end of the story is that it didn’t have anything to do with me or us and I was able to listen and provide support and we had a lovely date. Had I arrived upset, the evening might have taken an unnecessary detour. So, whether you tape it to your wall or not, good and useful advice nonetheless.