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Zen and the Art of Dating: Insights from a Zen Monk

Zen and the Art of Dating: Insights from a Zen Monk

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Hi there, everybody: 

 

My dear friend Whitney was in town the other week, and one of the things we talked quite a bit about was how Buddhism has helped her feel more at peace with life. (She wrote a fantastic essay for this month's Marie Claire about how she converted after being a life-long atheist.)

 

One of the key things Buddhists try to keep in mind: When someone does something that makes you feel bad, it's rarely the case that his goal was to hurt you. Rather, he was trying to make himself feel good, or happy--or, at least, to minimize his own pain or discomfort as much as possible. Which is kind of a long way of saying: Don’t take it personally.

 

Familiar as that might sound, it was good to hear what Whitney was explaining—so good that I decided to find out if there was some Buddhism guru out there who might have some tips about how to “stay Zen” while dating. A friend said I should check out Brad Warner, author of HARDCORE ZEN. So I did. And after I contacted him to ask if he had any insight into how to apply Buddhist ideas to dating, he wrote back to say:

 

I’m dating myself right now—and, oh, it's miserable! The only time I ever meet cute women who are interested in dating me is when I'm giving a lecture. I go to parties here in Los Angeles and they run away screaming! OK. I'm exaggerating. A bit. Not much. And I can't get anyone to write me back on the stupid dating sites. OK. Sometimes. But not much. How about YOU give ME some dating tips? ... But no, seriously, let’s talk, and I’ll try to be helpful. Isn’t it funny, though, that people can give advice they themselves can't really put into action but which nevertheless helps those who listen to it?

 

 

 

Brad Warner

 

 

That IS funny.

 

Anyway, I got Brad on the horn, and here’s how our conversation went:

 

HOW TO DEAL IF SOMEONE BLOWS YOU OFF AT A PARTY ... 

ME: I went to this dinner the other week where the host flat-out ignored me—he didn’t even bother to get my name, or re-fill my drink glass—because he was so busy drooling over my admittedly gorgeous friend! I don’t think I’ve ever been that blatantly de-valued before. Any thoughts on how I can deal with something like that if it happens again? Or how to brush it off if I’m at a party and some dude clearly isn’t interested in me, despite the fact I think he’s cute?

 

BRAD: It’s funny you should mention that anecdote. At a party last night, I had a similar experience. It was a typical Hollywood gathering—meaning most of the people there were looking to meet someone who would further their careers! I was introduced to one woman who clearly lost interest in me as soon as she heard I’d written some books about Zen. She literally began looking over my shoulder to see who else was around. 

 

ME: I’m not taking pleasure in your misfortune, but I must say, it’s good to be reminded that even men go through interactions like that. Sometimes, as a female, I feel so disempowered. But you know what? Apparently there are a lot more single women in NYC, and a lot more single men in LA, which probably helps to explain why we’re having these kinds of experiences.

 

BRAD: Maybe we need to switch places! But anyway, here’s how I handled that woman: I finished my sentence, said good-bye, and I walked away. There was no point in continuing the interaction if she didn’t want to be a part of it. And I told myself, “Hey, it’s no big deal; she was looking for something she’ll never be able to find in me.”

 

In your situation, Maura, the dinner host’s mind was not on the present. It was on what he might be able to get in the future. You can’t force someone like that to change his focus. 

 

HOW TO DEAL IF YOUR SELF-ESTEEM HAS TAKEN AN UNPAID VACATION ... 

ME: Okay, so I leave the party. But what happens when I get home and feel like crap about how badly I was treated?

 

BRAD: Let your emotions come up and recognize them and move on. Don’t fixate on them too much. 

 

ME: How am I supposed to do that?!?

 

BRAD: Well, maybe you get home and say to yourself: “I’m so mad! Why didn’t he talk to me? He must think I’m not good enough for him!” And then you might begin to obsess about how you are so unique in your suffering— 

 

ME: Like how I must be the only woman in all of New York City who is in her thirties and has never been in love before, for instance? 

 

BRAD: Exactly. But that’s a misperception. The truth is, you are not nearly as alone as you think you are.

 

HOW TO REMIND YOURSELF YOU’RE NOT ALONE IN THIS CRAZY DATING WORLD!

ME: I guess you just proved that, by telling me you had an almost identical experience. And you know, I think my blog readers really help me (and each other) to feel less alone in the world.

 

So it seems that what you’re saying is: Let people who don’t seem interested go. And keep looking for a good person to come along: someone you can connect with. Stay open to all the possibilities. Don’t let disappointments distract you from the fact that there are tons of other oppotunities and possibilities out there.

 

BRAD: Yes. There are so many interactions we have in life that aren’t useful, and we just have to let them go and move on. 

 

(And now, what I'm moving on from is this blog post. See you tomorrow!)

xxx!

 

 

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