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Lions Roar : November 2018
MY PARTNER DISAPPROVES I’m a new meditator and I’m beginning to relate to my life in an entirely different (and often helpful) way. But my partner isn’t a meditator, and doesn’t really approve of what I’m doing. I don’t want to stop practicing but I’m worried about our relationship. SUSAN PIVER: Dear new meditator, it is wonderful that you are beginning to practice and seeing the ordinary/extraor- dinary consequences! I relate to part of your question, by the way. My partner is not a meditator either. I don’t find this to be a problem. In fact, there is a sort of secret benefit: because we don’t share the prac- tice, the only way I can communicate to him about the benefits is to manifest them (rather than talk about them). I can only walk the talk. It is very direct and practical. But this doesn’t get to the actual problem in your question, which is that your partner does not approve of what you are doing. This gives me pause. How can approval be withheld for something that is helping you? And why is approval required? It’s one thing not to share the practice (which is fine), but it’s another to be judged for it. I think you are well within your rights to move ahead with whatever practice you choose without requiring anyone’s approval. And if you find yourself having to choose between a relationship and a practice that supports you, I would find myself questioning the nature of the relationship. I wish you (and your partner) well! SUSAN PIVER is founder of The Open Heart Project, an online mindfulness meditation center. Her newest book is The Four Noble Truths of Love. I’M STILL A SCHMUCK I’ve been meditating for a long time, but I don’t seem to be a better person than when I started. And to be honest, my non-Buddhist friends seem to be just as good people as my Buddhist friends. If I’m not acting and treating people better, what’s the point of practice? SYLVIA BOORSTEIN: His Holiness the Dalai Lama likes to say, “The point of life is to be happy.” Recently, I heard him emphasize that it does not matter to him whether a person is a Buddhist or not. “What matters,” he said, “is whether someone is an ethical person.” Here is the connection between ethicality, practice, and happiness, as I see it. I was brought up to be fundamentally ethical. My parents were kind and moral, and nonharming behavior is what they admired. Since then, I’m sure that my mindfulness practice has strengthened my commitment to ethicality and kindness. It alerts me, sooner than it used to, to the arising of unwholesome states (greed and anger) in my mind so that they do not, for the most part, find expression in word or deed. I feel bad when I do something motivated by greed or anger. Greed and anger are painful, just by themselves. So also are the guilt and shame I feel afterward when I realize I have behaved heedlessly and caused pain. My husband asked me, many years into my practice and study of Buddhism, “How has all of this changed you?” I replied, “I became kind.” He said, “You were always kind.” I said, “Then, I became kinder.” I did not start my practice because I wanted to learn kind- ness. I wanted to be less anxious. I am less anxious. But I am also kinder. And happier. SYLVIA BOORSTEIN is a PhD psychologist, leading teacher of Insight Meditation, and author of many bestselling books of Buddhist teachings. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 51