The Four Noble Truths of Breaking Up

There is a reason the majority of the best songs ever written are about breaking up. Ending a long term relationship can be one of the hardest things you ever go through, and we’re lucky to have musicians who manage to put our heartbreaking sorrow into words and set it to music.

In the midst of a break up, there are many stages one goes though not unlike those of grieving for a loved one. From anger, to bargaining, to depression, when you’re in the throes of a messy break up, it can actually be physically painful. However, through all the advice that people give, from “picking up a new hobby” to “spending time with friends and family,” we’ve found that the ultimate advice for how to deal with a break up is centered in the ancient practice of Buddhism, and the Four Noble Truths that it is based upon.

The Four Noble Truths are as follows:

  1. Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another.
  2. Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.
  3. Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
  4. Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.

Okay, calm down. We know it looks like a lot of dreamy, mystical messiness. But stay with us here- what does this mean for the heartbroken? Whether or not you are a spiritual person, using these four tenants to release yourself from the pain of a break up is a surefire way to get back on your feet. In the context of break ups:

1) Life is a series of unpleasant break ups, plain and simple. These events, along with others, tip us into a lifelong cycle of suffering. Think about it. How many relationships have you had end where you thought it was the end of the world, were heart broken and miserable and thought the pain would never end. Looking back on those times and realizing how you grew from them will help you move on.

2) The reason that we suffer from these break ups is because we allow ourselves to become too attached to our relationships. Now, we all love the feeling of giving ourselves completely to another person who we love and care about. However, if you sink completely into a relationship, it’s often possible to actually lose your sense of self.

3) Only when we realize that pain and break ups are inevitable can we truly enjoy our relationships with people. Once you understand that it is possible to go on living after a break up, you’ll be able to take the end with grace, appreciating and enjoying the good while moving on and learning from the bad.

4) Okay, this is where the translation into a dating context can get a little more confusing. How can we separate ourselves from the cycle of self-doubt and become fully self-satisfied? I think this depends on the person, but finding an activity that brings you joy and removes you from the context of your relationship is a great start.  Since we’re talking in the context of the Noble Truths, of course yoga is a great activity to help you meditate and take full, unbiased account of your life. Any activity that you do alone, that helps you sink fully into yourself instead of someone else, is the route you should go. Surfing, hiking, biking, running, reading… all of these are great ways to pull you from the cycle of suffering and into a life where break ups aren’t the end of the world, but are in fact the beginning of a new one!

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