How to Get Over a Breakup, the Buddhist Way
Heartbreak is a devastating experience that can leave anyone grasping to understand what went wrong-and all too often this search for answers leads to your ex's Facebook page or the bottom of a bottle of pinot noir. The impulse to drink or to reach out to the one who hurt you is understandable, but it's rarely productive. So, then, what's a better way to figure out how to get over a breakup?
That's the question we posed to Lodro Rinzler, a New York City–based Buddhist meditation teacher and author of the new book Love Hurts, a pocket-size guide to healing from heartbreak, inspired in part by his own experience dealing with a broken engagement, the death of his best friend, and the loss of his job in quick succession. In writing this volume, he sat one-on-one with dozens of New Yorkers who told him their personal stories of love and disappointment, and the responses were wide-ranging and heartfelt.
"It was very interesting to see the full-blown saga that heartbreak looks so different from person to person, and each relationship has its own unique one, but the underlying emotions there are often the same-feeling betrayed, feeling angry, feeling depressed, feeling like you will never love again, whatever it might be-that we all experience these things at different points whether in romantic heartbreak or otherwise," says Rinzler.
Drawing from these themes, along with his study of the 2,500-year-old wisdom tradition that is Buddhism, Rinzler offers time-tested insights and advice to help with the healing process of heartbreak. The next time you find yourself in the aftermath of a bad breakup, follow the four steps outlined below to help you feel better faster than you can open that bottle of wine.
1. Practice Self-Care
In Love Hurts, Rinzler references a secret set of teachings known as the Four Exhilarations, which were hidden in the monasteries deep in Tibet for centuries. It is said if you do all four of these in one day you will feel uplifted and have a renewed sense of energy. It just so happens that these practices also align with wellness advice you might get from a health coach, trainer, or psychologist, and are things you're likely to neglect when you're reeling from the end of a relationship:
- Eat well
- Sleep well
These practices may sound simple, but deep heartbreak is traumatic; it shocks the system and your body needs rest, proper nourishment, and space in order to heal from it. There's more to this idea than ancient folklore-mounting research shows that quality sleep, meditation, and exercise all have positive effects on mood (sometimes working in a matter of minutes) and can also help alleviate the long-term effects of depression.
Experiment with various ways of taking care of yourself. As much as you can, choose wholesome foods (or at the very least, eat something) and allow yourself more sleep than you usually need. If you're new to meditation, follow the instructions in #2 below to get started. If one activity feels particularly potent, like going for a run, then try to work that into your daily schedule. That way, you'll know that for at least one portion of the day, you will be taking care of yourself in the midst of heartbreak, advises Rinzler.
2. Change the Story You Tell Yourself
In order to heal from rejection and get over a breakup, we have to abandon a lot of the stories we tell ourselves about how we will always be treated or how we will never find love. "So much of our suffering is perpetuated by story line," says Rinzler. "When we feel heartbroken over a romantic relationship, we often don't just say, 'There's this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and I just feel exhausted.' We say, 'I wonder what they're doing right now, I wonder if they're seeing someone...' The stories perpetuate the suffering."
One of the most effective ways to cut through this internal dialogue is with meditation. The type of meditation Rinzler teaches is often referred to as "mindfulness" because it involves bringing the full mind to one thing: the breath. (We have your Beginner's Guide to Meditation.)
To get started, he recommends simply trying it for 10 minutes a day. Sit comfortably on a cushion or chair in an uncluttered space, set a timer for 10 minutes, and just be with yourself. Breathe naturally and pay attention to the breath. If your mind wanders into thoughts, simply acknowledge that, perhaps by silently saying "thinking," and then come back to the breath with a clear mind. This may happen many times over the course of the 10 minutes and that's okay. At the end of the session, stretch for a moment and enter your day with mindfulness and an open heart.
3. When You're Tempted to Contact Your Ex, Do This Instead
Between text messages, Instagram, and other social media outlets, there are endless ways to connect with the person who caused you heartbreak. But that's not how you get over a breakup. Often when we do this it's not because we want to clear the air, but because we've lost the normal way of interacting with that person and are bargaining for some semblance of what we used to have, Rinzler writes in Love Hurts.
When you have an urge to contact your ex, pause and look at the motivation for why you want to reach out, he advises. Is it because you have something meaningful you want to say, or is it just for some temporary sense of relief?
If your motivation isn't clear or very good (and be honest with yourself here!), Rinzler recommends you try this exercise: Take a deep breath. Put down your phone. Place your hand on your heart and reconnect with your body. Meditation and exercise are both good ways to do this. The key is to restrain yourself from indulging the impulse to reach out-over time the itch will go away. (See also: 5 Ways to Deal with the 'Blindsided' Breakup)
4. Let Go of Your Pain
"One of the wisest beings I know, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, once gave a pithy equation for how to let go of the painful aspects of our experience," Rinzler shares in his book. "'Love mixed with space is called letting go.'"
If you yearn to let go of your pain, increase one or both of these things and see what happens, says Rinzler. "When people go through heartbreak they really don't think they'll ever get over it, and they may not in the ways that they want to because it can take so long to heal these things. But we do change over time. We are constantly changing and much more fluid than we may think. Our hearts are resilient to accommodate life's pain and we all heal in some form. I think that's the primary message of the book: That no matter what, you will heal."