by Wayne Ren-Cheng
In the Sigalovada Sutra the Buddha speaks at length about relationships with friends and family to lay-householder Sigala. He teaches of the importance of these relationships and how to honor them through our actions. The Buddha realized that relationships can be a source of joy and contentment, or one of suffering and discontent, and that it was our responsibility to take the appropriate actions to maintain and strengthen them. One category in the Sigalovada Sutra was traditionally called Husband/Wife, what I creatively re-described for contemporary practitioners as Domestic Partners is the intimate relationship most likely to be a cause and effect of suffering, discontent and anguish. There is a path to a rewarding and fun intimate relationship and that way is through PRANA.
In the beginning there is love and it is fantastic! Heart’s a-flutter, breathing is shallow and rapid, and skin tingles. After that comes the relationship and time to put in some effort. After seven months in a monogamous relationship a sense of deep connection and intimacy is formed, you’ve begun to rely on sharing. Seven months isn’t long in terms of time, but it is long in terms of psychoemotional attachment. This is a positive thing. You come to rely on your partner being there for you, and you for them. There is someone to share with. This is something worth effort and commitment. You’ll want to be proactive as a partner. You’ll want to do things that strengthen the bond, engage in activities that bring about positive development. While you know that over time the dynamics of relationships will change, you can keep them on a path of positive transformation.
The seven month figure comes from an article by Robert Epstein in an issue of Scientific American Mind, Jan/Feb 2010. He went on to say, “The fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships: extract a practical technology (knowledge or dharma) from scientific research on how people learn to love each other — and then teach individuals how to use it.” For a pragmatic Buddhist the dharma, and the knowledge gained through making it part of how we are is certainly a practical technology.
P.R.A.N.A. – Dharma Technology
Prana (not to be confused with prajna which means wisdom) is a Sanskrit word that refers to our interconnection between our life force and the causal Universe. It is similar to the Chinese, qi — Japanese, ki — and Greek, pneuma. Each of which also speak to the connective force between people and the world around them. Relationships are all about connection and P.R.A.N.A. is a tool for helping you keep that relationship strong.
There are typical complaints when it comes to relationships. He/She doesn’t listen — has lost interest — doesn’t appreciate me — isn’t affectionate – doesn’t help out around the house. P.R.A.N.A. is a proactive approach that touches on these issues and offers ways to avoid them.
Partings: Before saying goodbye to each other for the day take 2 minutes and ask, “What is one thing you plan to do today?”
Reunions: At the end of each workday have a low-stress conversation. Take 20 minutes to talk about some cool plans for the time away from work, how the garden is looking, or exchange humorous stories about your day.
Appreciation: Take 5 minutes to show genuine (sincere) appreciation for something your partner did for you. This can be as simple as, “Thank you for being you.” After all it is the “you” you fell for in the first place.
Novelty: This is an opportunity to be creative. Arrange a weekly date. For 2 hours find a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere (it could be right there in your own home or in your backyard) and do something together. it can be a shared interest, learning about your partner’s interests, or even sitting quietly and enjoying each other’s company.
Affection: Try a little tenderness. For 5 minutes engage in some hand-holding, kissing, hugging and maybe even a little groping, but do it with tenderness, with gentleness, and most of all with compassion.
Do the math, that’s 5 hours a week to keep a loving, committed relationship creative and fun, 5 hours of pure practice of compassion, and 5 hours that will have lasting karmic effect. This is definitely a win-win situation.
Note that with some minor adjustments P.R.A.N.A. can be a guide when dealing with your children too. For example, after school ask your kid, “Tell me one thing you did at school today and it can’t be about lunch or recess.” It can also be tweaked and applied to family relationships. For example, taking a day each month to spend with a relative can go far in maintaining a stronger, more positive connection. Relationships with friends can also benefit with a little creative re-description of PRANA.
Your relationships, like the Universe, are based on dependent causality. You get out what you put into them. It is your awareness of the needs of your partner or children, your acceptance of ways to fill those needs, and the taking positive action that will lead to a harmonious relationship. Your example will likely become their actions as they realize the positive encompassing effect it is having on both lives.