1. Impermanence (Anicca)
The idea of impermanence appears as one of the 3 marks of existence taught in Buddhism. Flowers bloom in spring and die in winter. Beauty fades with time. Buddha believed the reason why we suffer in life is because we cling to what can never truly last (tanha). Our lover can become a sense of comfort, love and affection, a constant figure in the chaos of life. But we have to realize that everything in life are in constant motion, changing from moment to moment.
Even when we are in love, our relationship changes and develops as we experience things and learn more about ourselves and the world we find ourselves in.
And yes, sometimes these changes lead to break-ups. I’m not saying become a pessimist about love and start tweeting various flavors of the phrase “bros before hoes.” But by becoming more aware of impermanence as a prevailing concept in our lives, we can replace some of the typical post-break-up resentment, anger, and sadness with a new open-minded gratitude: a gratitude for every moment of love we share with another person and for the opportunity to grow as a human being.
2. Nothing Is Real but This Moment
As Alan Watts points out in the chapter “The Marvelous Moment” from his book The Wisdom of Insecurity, everything in our world is in flux. Even you are not the same person you were just a moment before reading this sentence. With every experience, you grow and change, even if you may not directly perceive it. Once we begin to understand this simple truth, we can begin to appreciate the idea that there is no certainty in our lives, there is nothing real to cling to except for the moment we are in right now.
And maybe, dear reader, though I hope it isn’t so, but just maybe you have recently been through a devastating break-up. In the quiet moments, your mind clings to the past memories of love, the past you. It reaches back into the security of what you once knew and what is no longer a reality. And when you do this, you are doing no more than creating pain for yourself. More importantly, you are turning your back on the moment you are in right now, the opportunity of the moment. Instead of lingering in the painful non-real, embrace the present and enjoy each new moment as a step into the unknown.
3. Judo (The Gentle Way)
Judo is a physical, mental, and moral Japanese teaching, most famously known as a martial art. And no, I’m not suggesting that you go find your ex-lover, strike a disciplined pose, judo-flip them on their ass, and proudly proclaim that you are over them. Judo’s central tenant is – and I hope you’ll see where I’m going with this – mastering a force by giving into it. An illustrative example of this ideal is water. Water overcomes all of its obstacles through its gentleness and pliability, not by deliberate, impatient force. It flows effortlessly and adapts to the changing landscape beneath it.
You cannot fight heartbreak; you cannot expect to remain the same person you were before the relationship.
You have to embrace your situation and flow with it like water in a gorge. Use your heartbreak as a time for self-examination. Are you happy with yourself? What do you want to change? Where do you want to go? When you start to view your break-up as a positive opportunity, you will find that it will send you forward into the great, unknown world, where new experiences are right at your fingertips.
4. Throw Away Your Painful Thoughts (Mindfulness)
I can already see the comments: “Easier said the done, fella” or “Wish I’d thought of that earlier. Brb while I go decide to be happy.” And I will admit, I had the same reaction when I came across this piece of advice. But the truth is: it is that easy. We have this mistaken idea that we are at the complete mercy of our emotions and mental activity. But in truth, we have the power to disown our painful thoughts at any time.
No, I’m not talking about numbing them or drowning them out with excessive and desperate stimuli. (Tinder one night stands, drugs, alcohol, a misguided re-discovery of your true calling as a rapper, etc.) I’m telling you to muster up some of that good ole human will power and cast those negative thoughts out of your head. Here’s an example: You’re lying on the floor resenting the hell out of your ex for never texting you back, for hooking up with someone else, for not loving you the way you loved them. Ultimately, you feel inadequate and lonely.
These are painful, damaging thoughts and they do you absolutely zero good. Zero, nil, nada! Wallowing in these thoughts is the mental equivalent of doing naked somersaults through a cactus field. It is only through mindful self-awareness that the destructive nature of your emotions will be exposed and the ability to cast them out will become yours. When it comes to your mind, there is only one ruler of the castle and that ruler is you.
5. The 4 Divine Abidings (Brahma Viharas)
The Divine Abidings are considered the highest emotional states in Buddhism. They are as follows: loving-kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity. Loving-kindness (yes, it has a kind of bubbly name but try to look past that) is often explained as the desire for the well-being of others. Compassion is being able to empathize, to imagine and understand the feelings of others as your own. Equanimity is the ability to remain emotionally balanced in distressing situations. Joy in the joy of others is pretty straightforward, the exact opposite of spite and envy.
If you begin to think in terms of these concepts, you can break the negative habits your mind has during a break-up.
Instead of resenting your ex, you may begin to understand them, realize that they did not choose not to love you but that they are simply a human like you trying to find what’s best for them in life. And I know, these emotional states are no cake-walk to achieve in everyday life let alone in a period of an intense emotional break-up. It takes practice to fully make these concepts a part of your mental habits.
There are many resources on how to cultivate these emotions through meditation and daily mindfulness. I personally have used the book Aware, Awake, Alive by Elliott Dacher and found it to be a great starting point.