The Book I Recommend to Everyone: If The Buddha Dated by Charlotte Kasl

You might be skeptically criticizing this book already. Yes, it is a dating/spiritual/self-help book and includes occasional requisite discussions of uncommon religions (like Quakerism and Sufism).  But it is so much more than that!  Charlotte Kasl brings a warm compassion to every reader of this book. She holds your hand and helps you peel away the masks you’ve created for yourself to get closer to true happiness.  This just so happens to be a good strategy for dating, but the book is quite applicable to other relationships and life in general.

I was introduced to this book by a good friend while studying abroad in Northern Ireland, and the concurrent reading of this small dating book made our friendship so much richer and more rewarding.  This is honestly the only book I will ever need when it comes to living life in a spiritually and emotionally healthy way; it is also the only book I’ll ever buy about dating.

Essentially this book discusses how to remain mindful and honest in dating situations.  This first requires you to examine past relationships and set yourself right.  It guides you toward understanding what you’re looking for in life and in relationships.  It teaches you how to be authentic, shedding the masks that conventional dating books and popular culture tell single people that they must don in order to be attractive potential partners.

The most important piece of this book for me has been her lessons on attachment and acceptance.  She discusses how attachment to an idea, a person, or a feeling will inevitably cause suffering.  However, if we live moment to moment, consciously grateful and aware of the lovely things in our lives, and able to welcome new things and let go of losses, we will suffer less.  Unhappiness and heartbreak will come into our lives, and if we aren’t so attached to being always happy, the presence of these feelings will not cause in us so much suffering.  She also advocates acceptance of whatever we’re feeling in the moment, and not judging ourselves for feeling afraid, or angry, or depressed.  Instead she says that certain feelings are cues for us to examine more closely.  We might think, “Interesting, I’m very angry about that, why is that?”

Kasl discusses that when you get wrapped up in thinking or in your thoughts, you might start thinking that your thoughts define reality.  You might think, “I need to keep this relationship.”  This causes you to alter your relationship with reality and with your partner.  We are adults, and do not need any one other person, and if this relationship were to end you would be sad but would eventually heal, and become stronger, and move on.  When we get wrapped up in thoughts like this we do not act in accordance with our authentic self and we may end up clinging to a relationship that is not right for us, simply because of a fear to be alone.

As I’ve been lately trying to be more mindful, through regular meditation and yoga practices, I’ve found some surprising benefits.  I’ve been more focused, productive, peaceful, and happy.  I’ve had a greater awareness of and appreciation for my surroundings and have been surprised by spontaneous bursts of happiness and gratitude.  I’ve only been practicing mindfulness for a short while and it has greatly enriched my life.  However, as a cautionary note: pursuing mindfulness for any goal can be an attachment in itself.

One part of this book that I particularly enjoy discusses how to be alone (which is discussed elsewhere, in poem form).  This part speaks to my heart:

“Sometimes we open our heart, date lots of people, and stay true to our path, yet no lover is forthcoming.  This tests our faith and our ability to accept what we are given…  There may be absolutely nothing wrong – no deep block, no problem, nothing you could have done differently.  It’s just not your time right now, for no particular reason.  Your path is to find acceptance, to be at peace with yourself.”

“Ultimately, life is about knowing who we are and being able to accept the inexplicable rhythm and pulse of our journeys.  We move from asking Why me? to reflecting on what befalls us.  We learn to say, This is my life right now.  What can I make of it?  What can I learn from it?  How can I feel joy? “

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