Buddhism & a Broken Heart

November 14, 2007   |   11 Comments  |   FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Am in a bit of a no man’s land regarding the next book I want to write. I want to write about heartbreak from this perspective: there is wisdom in it. The good news and the bad news is that it basically destroys self-view. You are no longer able to see yourself or your life in the same terms; the slate is wiped clean and even though it doesn’t feel very good, there is extraordinary wisdom in this not knowing. A broken heart is like the world’s swiftest BS meter. Whatever is without genuine value–stale friendships, responsibilities that don’t align with your deeper intentions, empty aspirations–simply drops away. You no longer have the stomach for these things, or at least you see them for what they are. You see what everyone and everything in your life is actually made of. You are able to see clearly.

In the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, we talk a lot about spiritual warriorship. What is a warrior? One who is tough enough never to feel pain, never become intimidated? No. That is actually thought of as stupidity. A real warrior embraces clear seeing. She has the intelligence to look directly into her pain and to build from it deeper wisdom. If you can do this, if you can sit night after night with your broken heart, tasting it, feeling it, tolerating it in order to learn its lessons, you deserve to wear the badge of extreme courage. This is a warrior. I bow to you.

I want to write this book so much. I hope my publisher will like it. We shall see.

“So each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence, they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height, there is only one possible place to land: on the ground; the ground of truth. And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice, then falling is in no way a disaster but the discovery of an inner refuge..

Difficulties and obstacles, if properly understood and used, can often turn out to be an unexpected source of strength. In the biographies of the masters, you will often find that had they not faced difficulties and obstacles, they would not have discovered the strength they needed to rise above them. This was true, for example, of Gesar, the great warrior king of Tibet, whose escapades form the greatest epic of Tibetan literature. Gesar means “indomitable,” someone who can never be put down. From the moment Gesar was born, his evil uncle Trotung tried all kinds of means to kill him. But with each attempt Gesar only grew stronger and stronger. It was thanks to Trotung’s efforts, in fact, that Gesar was to become so great. This gave rise to a Tibetan proverb: “Trotung tro ma tung na, Gesar ge mi sar,” which means that if Trotung had not been so malicious and scheming, Gesar could never have risen so high.

For the Tibetans Gesar is not only a martial warrior but also a spiritual one. To be a spiritual warrior means to develop a special kind of courage, one that is innately intelligent, gentle, and fearless. Spiritual warriors can still be frightened, but even so they are courageous enough to taste suffering, to relate clearly to their fundamental fear, and to draw out without evasion the lessons from difficulties. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche tells us, becoming a warrior means that “we can trade our small-minded struggle for security for a much vaster vision, one of fearlessness, openness, and genuine heroism…” To enter the transforming field of that much vaster vision is to learn how to be at home in change, and how to make impermanence our friend.

~From The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche

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  • Posted by:  Lori

    What a fantastic idea!

  • Posted by:  mk

    I hope that you have a chance to write this book. I believe that it will help many people.

  • Posted by:  susan

    Thanks Lori and mk. I hope very much to write. I will one way or another!

    Your encouragement is meaningful to me, so many thanks.

  • Posted by:  Sarah

    I am officially 3 months into a breakup, (boooo) and I’ve been looking to everyone and everything to help make sense of these feelings. One Sunday after a particularly annoying dream, I woke up and immediately googled, “Buddhism Broken Heart” and found your blog entry about your own break-up experience. It meant sooo much to me, so dead on to what I was experiencing…that day I went to my first Buddhist meditation class and I’m definitely finding my stride again. I’m not saying the pits are ever too far away, but I can finally breathe again, and that is a huge step.

    This morning before work I went to read that again and found this new entry!! Susan, write that book. And you make those people publish it;)

  • Posted by:  ophelka

    thank you so much for this article, you brought peace into my mind in very difficult struggle

  • Posted by:  susan

    I am very glad to hear this, Ophelka.

  • Posted by:  Erin

    I was so glad to read this. I love how you present Buddhism. I’m reading this book and How not to be Afraid of Your Own Life. Thank you so much for writing these. I think I may have finally found my calling in Shambhala Buddhism. My last relationship was with a narcissist i was in love with for almost two years. Now I understand what was happening. I’ve even started to pray for him because he will never know happiness the way he is and I feel sorry for him. And my wounded broken heart is healing. I feel fearless now. I survived what should have been a devistating blow with grace and dignity and courage. This article has helped me so much. Thank you so much for this website. I’m now a regular here šŸ˜‰

  • Posted by:  Susan

    So glad to know you, Erin! Sending love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Briana

    I’m 4 months off a long term breakup, one book I found that really helped me was called “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart” it had a slight buddhist slant too it, but I definitely would be interested in reading something with an even more buddhist perspective.
    Either way it might be a good research resource for you to start with.
    Good luck!

    • Posted by:  Briana

      Oh wow, I should obviously pay more attention when I comment on things, my apologies! Anyway, I seriously enjoyed the book, and would love to read one with a more buddhist slant šŸ™‚

      • Posted by:  Susan

        briana, you and me both!!!!

        and seriously–so glad you enjoyed the book, enough to recommend it…

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