One City

One City

What would Sid do: Living with a non-meditator

by Lodro Rinzler

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? How would he combine Buddhism and dating? 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 Lodro will probably get to it!

I’ve been meditating for several months but my girlfriend of the last few years just moved in with me. She’s not a meditator and I’m finding it hard to keep up a daily practice when she’s around. Help! – Too Little Time


First off Too Little Time, I’m glad you’re not one of those people who feel like they can only date people who also meditate. I imagine Sid would find that sort of logic pretty closed-minded but you’d be surprised by how many die-hard practitioners feel that way. The heart loves who it loves and assuming you have a healthy relationship with your partner I see no problem with dating a non-practitioner. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

I’m no relationship expert but I do know it helps if you have clear lines of communication about what you need. If you’re like me, you need a regular meditation practice. In order to have a regular meditation practice it has to be a part of your shared life together.


It’s best to be clear about why you meditate, how you feel it effects your life, as well as what it is that you do when you meditate. That way your partner gets a sense as to the importance of your practice and understands that it’s not something foreign but is a part of who you are. I think if explained well there’s no one out there who isn’t into their significant other practicing mindfulness and trying to open their heart to the world around them.

It might also be nice to invite her to an introductory meditation session or talk that you particularly enjoy. Be clear: this is not to win her over as a convert! This is so she gets a flavor of what it is you do. In the best case scenario she enjoys it and pursues meditation and it could be something you do together. Awesome. In the worst case scenario she doesn’t like it but at least appreciates what it is (and how challenging it can be).


It’s also helpful, spouse or no, to determine a regular time that you meditate on a daily (or semi-daily) basis. It doesn’t have to be exact but since so many of us have habitual schedules it’s nice to work your practice into that as opposed to it always being something extra that you have to find time for.

Some people really like to meditate in the morning. I’m not one of those people. My reluctance is only compounded by the fact that I love to wake up with my partner. The meditation cushion may only be on the other side of the wall but it’s too far if that means I can’t cuddle (I’m a cuddler, I admit it).  Still, if you are the sort of person who can get up a little bit before your partner then that’s a good way to fit in your meditation practice.


Alternatively if you work at different times then it’s easy to find a time when you can practice without taking time away from your relationship. If you work similar schedules and hate the mornings then try and set up a routine with her. It could even be you practicing while she gets ready for bed or she might want to catch up with friends while you practice.

As with everything else in a relationship, communication is key. As long as you communicate how important it is to you to have a regular practice I’m sure your partner will be open-minded enough to encourage you. In fact, don’t be surprised if she likes the effect it has on you and nudges you to stick to your meditation routine. I think Sid would agree that such a girlfriend is nothing but a true spiritual friend.

Comments read comments(5)
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Jonathan Weiss

posted October 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Enjoyable article, cleverly and sincerely written.
I have an interesting background in meditation. Practiced TM through the 70’s, pursued yoga for a brief time after that. My first wife practiced TM with me for a number of years, then stopped. I also stopped (for specific reasons which I would rather not share) but began practicing yoga again after the turn of the century. This then led to resuming of my meditation practice, which is still ongoing. My second wife practices hatha yoga in the evening, while I meditate in the morning or sometimes early afternoon. (Works out well). I have encouraged my wife to meditate, and she began to just recently take a few minutes for this purpose. She has always given me space to pursue my spiritualism for which I am forever grateful…….
Just sharing a few thoughts………thanks again for the article.

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posted October 25, 2009 at 3:45 pm

i appreciate the positive take on mixed marriages and how they can work well. i’ve also found it challenging. for example, it’s harder to spend my spare vacation time on retreat if my partner has no idea why that would be so important. “a month away? are you nuts?” so i agree having some experience, even just a weekend, so he/she can empathize with what’s so important to you seems sound advice.
but i’ve had some of the same issues even in relationship with practitioners, where one person is super into certain kinds of practice or retreat and the other isn’t. so who is to say that even just dating fellow practitioners is going to be any easier? relationship, for me, seems to be where the rubber of my practice most hits the road, and therefore where i find the most challenge and where i see how i’m still hooked by shenpa most of the time.
i’m thinking for me, independent of my partner’s path, mostly i wish for someone who empathizes with how much we all get hooked by things and aspires to go beyond that simple dynamic / and is willing to work with the hooks as they arise nonetheless.

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Anan E. Maus

posted October 25, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Frankly, in my experience, this kind of issue is not that easy to resolve…and can actually lead to a break-up of the relationship.
So, if you think it is headed in that direction, I would think about couples counseling.
I was in couples counseling with a former girlfriend and it definitely helped us stay together and have a better relationship.
As far as meditative practice goes, I would not necessarily try to convince your girlfriend to do it. I would try and meditate before she gets up and after she goes to sleep and try to remove the practice from her as much as you can. I think that does many things.
First of all, it says to her quite clearly, that you respect her individuality and do not want to force her to do anything. So, that might give her the confidence to explore something unknown…when it is in a realm where it is clearly not being forced.
So, there is that.
Another thing you might try and see and identify areas of spirituality which you do share in common. That could be a love of nature, hiking, listening to classical music, etc. etc. etc. And if you can actively share that spirituality with her, I think it would help you both to feel fulfilled in that arena. So, while she may not want to meditate with you, perhaps she would enjoy going to see some Buddhist or Oriental art form…like, say taiko drumming or an exhibit of netsuke… but really, I would just let her have her space…and come to you, if and when she is ready.

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Your Name

posted October 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Anan: I don’t think listening to classical music is spirituality. What next? Heavy metal rock music is spiritual too? It sounds like you’re trying to twist everything you enjoy (hiking, nature, etc) into something spiritual. Stop bending the dharma to your personal desires. You want to be spiritual by practicing Buddhism? Meditate.
Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to hide your meditation practice. Then it seems villainous and sneaky. Why should you have to hide something you love from someone you love? That is foolish.
Just my 2cents. Thanks for the article Lodro.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted October 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm

My wife doesn’t meditate, never has, but she really appreciates what I get out of it. It works fine and she respects my practice. I will say, however, that if I treat my practice as something to “fix” me, I’ll create a space around me that’s uneasy and insecure – the exact opposite of what I wish – and the people around me will sense that and in turn, be uncomfortable with my practice. There was a time when my meditation was a “have to,” as in, “if I don’t get my hour in this morning, I will be crabby and you will suffer.” And that doesn’t work. Nor does “I’m meditating and you’re not so I’m better than you.” Simply accepting your partner as they are and as they are not will create the space you’re looking for; it can create peace. And at some point, possibly, your partner may be inspired to take on his or her own practice. But you can’t force that, and the harder you try, the less it’ll work.
p.s. and don’t hide anything – that just makes it harder!

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