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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 21 ON FEBRUARY 9, 2006, I read in the newspa- per that Mattel had released a statement about Barbie. Two years ago, apparently, Barbie had become bored with Ken and called it quits. She then hooked up with the Australian surfer Blaine. Blaine was cool! Ken was not. And what good were all her bikinis, racecars, and home furnish- ings without a partner to share them with, one who could really appreciate them? Ken, still with the helmet hair and snorkeling gear, was simply stuck in the past. Barbie couldn’t allow herself to be held back! Heartbroken, announced Mattel, Ken spent two years soul-searching, “making stops in Eu- rope and the Middle East, dabbling in Buddhism and Catholicism, teaching himself how to cook and slowly weaning himself off the beach-bum life.” (I’m not making this up.) Now he had come back, refreshed and ready to reclaim Barbie, armed with a downtown wardrobe and twenty- first-century spiritual cred. I couldn’t help but wonder what lies in store for this couple, now that Ken has been on a search for self. Will the shoe now be on the oth- er, less-highly-arched foot? Will Ken insist that Barbie also explore her true nature? Will he get frustrated that she won’t meditate with him, and say things like, “I can’t be with someone who isn’t on a path”? Will Barbie feel threatened when Ken goes off on retreat for a month or starts hanging out with dharma dolls? Are toy zafus in their future, or tiny his-and-hers divorce attorneys? On occasion, my husband and I have posed similar questions about our relationship. I’m a Buddhist and he isn’t. Can this marriage last? When our relationship was still quite new, I began to practice and study Buddhism. I set up a practice area in my apartment, and then in our home when we began living together. Duncan was neither for nor against spiritual searching, so my pursuit was a solitary one—which I liked. (I guess I thought I could run to my shrine room and try to come back to my breath whenever things became too difficult.) Since I wasn’t very involved with my sangha, my refuge vows never took me too far from home. Meditation remained personal and private. In 1998, we were married in a Buddhist ceremony, which I really wanted and he was fine with. So everything was okay. Then about five years ago I realized it was time to deepen my practice. All that privacy had made me very lazy. Not to mention, I wasn’t getting any younger. I told Duncan of my intention and went on a three- week retreat. We were both frightened I wouldn’t come home, and I almost didn’t. The following year, I went on a two-month retreat, and then another one the year after that. I made commitments to practice that were time-consuming, difficult, and joyous. Things began to heat up. I received training to become a medi- tation instructor; I got more involved in my sangha. Practice and study began to inform the way I wanted to spend money, pursue friendships, and plan vacations. Gradually, I began to long for our household to be a practice environment too. My small shrine room had begun to feel out of place, not quite integrated with Your Path or Mine? Your partner isn’t a Buddhist? No problem, says SUSAN PIVER. Unless you make it one. (And you will.) ILLUSTRATIONBYANDRÉSLOB SUSAN PIVER is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Hard Questions. She is frequently featured in the media and has appeared on Oprah, the To d a y show, CNN, and other programs.