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Modern Love: Live the romantic life of a monk

2023-01-16T12:58:10.723Z

We are not here to be impressed. We are here to connect.



Ten years ago, when I was 25, I hadn't dated—hadn't even considered romance—in over three years.

During that time, I had practiced as

a Hindu monk

, meditating, studying the ancient scriptures, traveling and working throughout India and Europe with my fellow monks.

Monks are famous for their celibacy, but celibacy doesn't just mean not having sex.

It means that you

don't interact with other people

in a way that could be considered romantic.

The Sanskrit word for monk, brahmacharyi, means "

the right use of energy."

It's not that romanticism and sexual energy are wrong.

But my practice teaches that we all have a limited amount of energy, which can be directed in multiple directions or in just one.

When the energy is

dispersed

, it is difficult to create momentum or impact.

As monks, we were trained to direct our energy towards understanding our psyche, how we see and interact with the world.

If you haven't developed a deep understanding of your motivations and obstacles, it's harder to move through life with

patience and compassion

.

We tried to avoid anything that would distract us from this mission of self-actualization, whether it was playing video games, going out with friends, or going on dates.

When I returned to London as a monk, one of my old friends told me:

“We used to be each other's partner.

But you no longer drink.

You don't date girls anymore.

What are we going to do now?".

Becoming a monk profoundly changed my orientation.

During university in London, I had spent so much time in a long-distance relationship with a girlfriend that I missed most of my classes.

Celibacy allowed me to use that time and space to understand myself, and to develop the ability to

quiet my mind.

I thought that I would be a monk forever, but I decided that this was no longer the way to go.

When I left the ashram for good, I had not watched TV, watched a movie or listened to music for three years.

He did not know who had won the World Cup or who was the Prime Minister of England.

And apparently he had no idea

how to impress

a woman.

He had forgotten that he shouldn't even try to impress a woman.

Within a few months of leaving the ashram, she was already reverting to the social norms of romanticism, trying to make the best first impression...and failing.

“Do you think they have anything vegan on the menu?” my date asked.

We were at Locanda Locatelli, one of the best restaurants in London, but as a vegan, she seemed more worried than excited.

“They're famous for their fresh pasta,” I said, trying to sound optimistic, but he'd signed us up for a special tasting menu and I didn't know how many options I'd have.

"Fresh pasta

usually has eggs

, but we'll see," he said.

Radhi and I had organized a charity event together as volunteers.

She thought people should be encouraged to attend from the moment they left the tube station, so we arranged for a street performer to drum with his trash can by the exit, next to a banner for our event.

Radhi had been the soul of our team and I already knew that I liked him.

Once the event was organized, I began to plan the date, reserving the restaurant a month in advance.

He was short on money—he tutored college students—and had taken her to see “Wicked” before dinner.

The night was going to cost me almost

a week's salary

, and I wanted it to be perfect.

When we sat down in a leather cabinet, I shuddered;

vegans don't usually appreciate leather cabinets.

But the lights were dim, the atmosphere was beautiful, and I was still waiting to hear how impressed she was.

“The service is amazing, right?”

I told.

"And this pasta...".

He smiled kindly, but

he wasn't eating much.

After dinner, I took her home and left her at the door of her apartment.

He thanked me and said a friendly goodbye, but the evening had failed.

It was clear that he had no idea what he was doing.

I had joined the monks because I wanted to find my purpose and serve others.

I didn't leave because I rejected anything I had studied.

Instead, I left because I wanted

to take

what I had learned to the world.

He was starting to do it now that he was back in London, giving little workshops on the intersection of Eastern philosophy and modern life to anyone who showed up.

But I still hadn't figured out how to transfer what I had learned to my search for a partner.

Monks never try to impress anyone.

As a monk, you strive to master your ego and your mind.

We believe that love is its own puzzle, but when you explore the dark pathways of your own mind, as monks are trained to do, you develop patience, understanding, and compassion for yourself, which you can then carry over into all your relationships.

Going through the process of learning to love yourself, something monks also train to do,

teaches you to love others

.

The fancy restaurant thing was a bravado maneuver.

My ego wanted to charm Radhi, wanted her to say:

"Wow, thanks for bringing me here.

How did you get this reservation?”

Instead of what he actually said: "I would be perfectly happy to go to a grocery store and buy some bread."

My ego wanted to look good and win her admiration, but it distracted me from what I really wanted, which was

to meet Radhi

and for her to meet me.

Before I became a monk, my dating habits got me nowhere.

Driven by my insecurity or my need to feel valued, I would do nice things for women to get them to validate me.

When I became a monk, I happily left that dynamic behind, but now, out of habit, I had returned to it.

My monk teachers never tried to impress me and they never wanted me to impress them.

When he looked back on all that he had learned from them, through hours of class, study, and stories, one simple gesture stood out as representative of much of philosophy:

bowing

.

When we saw a senior monk, we would bow down to him.

My teacher always returned my bow.

Older than me, wiser and more worldly, compassionate and pure, he leaned out of respect and connection.

I didn't have to do anything or be anyone for him to bow down to me.

Our bows said that no matter who you are, no matter what position or background,

you are never better or worse than anyone

, and you don't try to be.

That was the underlying belief that I wanted to convey to Radhi, a belief that I hoped to build our relationship on.

We're not here to impress each other.

We are here to connect.

To recognize and accept each other.

Bowing was the greatest lesson he had ever learned about love.

Radhi would later tell me that her community was concerned that she was dating a former monk.

His grandmother was worried that he would leave her and go back to the ashram.

His friends assumed that I was against watching TV or going to the movies, and they imagined that the only thing we could do together was

sit and meditate.

Even Radhi herself was concerned that spending time with me would lead me away from my spiritual practice.

But monastic training is a training of the mind.

Being a monk may have closed me off to certain things—I haven't gone back to eating meat or drinking alcohol, for example—but it opened my mind to

understanding and acceptance.

I respected that each one progressed at their own pace, at their own time.

My path was neither right nor wrong;

they were neither too slow nor too fast.

I learned to see the essence of a monk in everyone I met.

Everyone has a part of themselves that is compassionate, loving, and beautiful.

I saw that essence in Radhi from the moment we met.

He did not need to go to an ashram to acquire it.

She was more of a monk than I would ever be, and we didn't need a fancy restaurant to connect.

For our next date, I took her to an outdoor ropes course, where we helped each other swing from trees, climb walls, and walk down narrow balance beams.

We bowed to each other, in our own way.

Radhi and I have been together ever since.

I brought the lesson of reverence and everything I learned from the monks into our relationship, and now I teach those lessons to others.

The monks, who say nothing about romantic love, had taught me everything I needed to know about it.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

look also

Modern Love: A web between her body and mine

Modern Love: Was something this good really possible?

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-01-16

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