9 Things I Learned from “If the Buddha Dated”
I have accrued over $1.10 in library fines for Charlotte Kasl’s book, If the Buddha Dated (heretofore, simply “ITBD”). And I’m not a library fine accruing kind of lady. I think about everything else that dollar could do before I spend it. And unless the item is a nautical themed halter dress or a cheetah print anything, it is not leaving my faux snake skin wallet. But this book had so many requests on it that I couldn’t renew it. And I wasn’t about to return it.
My references to ITBD had become incessant over the past two or maybe even three months. It started becoming “a problem.” My friends have begun to finish any sentence that begins with “I was reading in…” or “According to…” This book had become a guide, a muse, a great key to some proverbial secret treasure trove with the answers to all of humanity’s questions. Written in 1999, I imagine it’s been on the shelves of the San Francisco Public Library since then. That’s where I got it. The thing was falling apart, taped and bound twice over. Clearly I’m not the only confused person in San Francisco. I can tell that it has given many, many people wisdom. It has been the inspiration for many overdue fines, I have no doubt.
I’d heard about this book from my boss about four years ago. We were two people brought together by the sheer ruthless tyranny of the 9-to-5. She was particularly susceptible to my never-ending schemes to get us out of the office. I remember she talked about ITBD and I wrote it down. I never forgot the title.
Years later – at the beginning of the biggest breakup of my twenties – I decided to read it. In the month leading up to my thirtieth birthday I felt a fearlessness that was foreign and wondrously liberating. I would wake up in the morning with incredible clarity about my life and what was happening in it. For the first time in what seemed like forever I felt like I was on the precipice of some great change. I asked myself “what would you do if you weren’t afraid of what might happen?” The answer: a lot.
I could only read two or three pages a day, and sometimes days would pass before I picked it up again. I had to dedicate those days to processing. It was a tremendous educational experience.
So here’s what I learned:
1. Many of us believe things about ourselves that are fundamentally untrue, like “no one will ever love me.”
These false beliefs hinder our ability to see ourselves, the world and people as they truly are.
2. We have been taught to use a capitalistic/accumulationist/commoditizing lens and language when thinking about love, e.g. “I want a man,” “I want a marriage,” “I want a relationship.”
The truly scary question is “What do I actually desire?” Guess what? It probably isn’t really wearing white tulle and spending $25,000 on chicken or fish and Jordan almonds (ok, maybe the tulle desire is real).
3. Self pity is a form of egoism.
What!? This was a tough one to swallow. You mean when I cry in the mirror loathing myself and my inability to love I’m actually being a self-centered princess?
4. We can choose to listen to the child in ourselves (the one who says “me me me… I want… everyone has love but me!…”) or we can choose to silence that voice.
When the child voice comes up remember that it is not real. These things are just thoughts and we can choose to latch onto them or we can choose to let them go. Choosing not to needlessly dwell is a very adult thing to do.
5. There are different ways that people choose partners and the way you choose your partner determines your long-term success.
We can choose partners based on material possessions/looks (most people choose partners this way). We can choose partners based on politics or intellect. We can choose partners based on spiritual goals and desires. You can figure out how you’re seeking a partner by writing a list of what you seek in an ideal partner and see how many of the things on the list fall in each category.
6. Stop blaming your parents for all of your intimacy issues.
Another really rough one! Our parents made mistakes but the compassion we give to them is the compassion we give to ourselves.
7. Opening your heart takes practice.
Dating can be part of that practice! Practice loving and being open without an agenda. It gets easier with time.
8. Be honest – with yourself and with others – about what you really desire.
Honesty feels scary but it fosters authentic connections.
9. A great way to know when you’re genuinely ready to connect is when your thoughts go from “what do I stand to gain?” to “what do I have to give?”
So, I give this book an eight on the woo scale. I’m still dealing with my unresolved issues with highly woo literature, but I highly recommend that if you’re ready to reconsider your love style that you read this book immediately!