Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Balancing family life and the Dhamma, in pursuit of a happy lay life.
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Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by Bijlefeld » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:17 am

Sorry in advance if this is too much personal info, admittedly I’m not really sure where else to seek advice.
I’ve been practicing for just over a year now, and I’m definitely noticing a fair amount of change in the way I’m perceiving and interacting with the world and in my dealings with my wife, coworkers, friends, basically everyone. My wife says I’ve just become sort of neutral on everything aside from studying Dhamma. (She’s not a practitioner, btw. Supportive of what I’m doing, to a point, but has no real interest in studying, meditation, etc.) I can’t say I disagree, from my perspective there’s very little that’s going on out there that I can say seems as important as study and meditation.
We talk regularly about where we’re both at, so I wouldn’t say this is some lack of communication or people just naturally drifting apart due to aging, changing interests and so on. I guess I’m just wondering if any of you have run into these big perceptual shifts where the volume on everything aside from Dhamma gets turned down. And if so, what did you do to make home life easier? Or, in case of those who have considered or taken up ordination, was this one of those make or break situations for you and family/partner/home life?
Any advice or anecdotal information on what you’ve gone through is greatly appreciated.
With Metta,
‘etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ sabba­saṅ­khā­ra­sama­tho sabbū­padhipa­ṭi­nissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:50 am

Greetings Josh,

I discovered Buddhism five years after being married, and one year after the birth of my first son. My wife was unimpressed that the atheist she married was now religious, as she had a deeply ingrained suspicion that religion was nothing more than an instrument of control. I started to experience the benefits of de-amplication (for want of a better word) that aligned with what you describe. On one hand I was becoming more peaceful, calm, and tolerant... meanwhile, her personal development became stunted and she became increasingly resentful about the relationship and life in general.

Seven years after I discovered Buddhism, we divorced. There was a period where I intended to become a monastic, and then there was a period where I intended to become a monastic once my son had finished high school. That didn't happen though, as I married again, and now have an expanding young family. My current wife isn't Buddhist but she is at least a strong advocate of personal development and in being the best person she can be. So whilst the paths are different, the general direction they follow and the qualities and attributes that they value are pretty much aligned.

I'm not sure if you're into Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators at all, but I'm INxJ (the x signifies a pretty even balance of T & F). My first wife was ESFJ. My current wife is INFJ. If you are an "N" and she is an "S", then chances are she's never going to really understand or appreciate your interest... this holds both according to MBTI theory, and my personal experience. (S's are prone to finding little satisfaction in whatever they consider "too deep"). IF that is the case, then brace for potential rockiness ahead...

Either way, good luck.

Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by dharmacorps » Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:21 pm

Thanks for sharing, Josh. I've been married 9 years, and my wife, while not a Buddhist, is some permutation of Christian, and is also a therapist, so we have a lot of commonalities in terms of finding where we are suffering, and trying to put an end to it. While I would never say it is easy to be in a relationship with someone who is not a avid meditator, it can work if you share similar things you value in life. One main one is morality-- this is something that can connect you. The precepts need not be a Buddhist thing, its just good virtues for anyone to practice. Another is mindfulness. My wife teaches mindfulness and uses me as a resource to integrating Buddhist ideas into her practice. But mainly, there needs to be mutual respect about what you guys want to do in life. My spouse is very respectful that one of the main things I want to do with this life is meditate and practice dhamma. There may be sacrifices which come from that for her. There are things I have sacrificed for her as well, but done so gladly because it is out of mutual love and support.

It has long been said that people who meditate can become "boring" by worldly standards because they are calmer, less frantic, and less attached to the ego. In our society, super extraverted, spastic, loud, and talkative people are valued as being stimulating. But calm hearted, insightful, introverted, kind people are often overlooked. Don't be ashamed of engendering more of those good qualities into your life. I believe the goodness that comes from dhamma practice usually wins over people in the end, but there are always those out there who value drama and excitement more than anything else I suppose.

I liked the Myers Briggs reference! I am an INTJ and my wife is an INFX I think.

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by SarathW » Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:35 pm

My understanding is everyone has difficulties in home life.
Perhaps the monastic life could be even worse.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by Bijlefeld » Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:27 am

Thank you all for responding, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so!
It’s a comfort to know that there are other people successfully dealing with navigating married life and being able to dedicate enough time to both family and to study/meditation.

Paul, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and wisdom from your life, I’m happy for you that it sounds like things worked out in the long run with your new family. Fortunately my wife is an ENFJ, and while that’s a very big personality, she’s got her band and career that keep the tempo up for her in her life. We have our quiet time together, and while I’m sure this “new me” she’s dealing with is going to take time to adjust, I think the crossover in the Venn diagram of our lives is a decent one.
Interesting that you brought up the Meyers-Briggs personality test, I hadn’t looked at that in quite a while, it seems very accurate, both for myself and my wife.

Dharmacorps, thank you for the words of encouragement. I’m glad to hear your wife is so supportive and understanding of your practice! After looking at the MBTI personality breakdowns and seeing that most INFP (my type) folks want to try to mediate conflicts, it makes sense that I’m drawn to look for answers on how to “fix” this. Old habits die hard!

SarathW, I absolutely agree with your point, I've never known anyone in my life without their share of difficulties, seeing and experiencing that amount of stress are the main reasons I began to study as much as I have. I imagine monastic life would present a whole new list of things to adjust to. I guess I was mostly curious if this de-amplification (as Paul put it) was the impetus for anyone to ordain.

Anyway, thank you all again for sharing.
With Metta,
‘etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ sabba­saṅ­khā­ra­sama­tho sabbū­padhipa­ṭi­nissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by mal4mac » Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:43 am

SarathW wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:35 pm
My understanding is everyone has difficulties in home life.
Perhaps the monastic life could be even worse.
"The Buddha was well known in contemporary ascetic circles for being in favour of silence and retreat... e.g. at D I 179; D III 37; M I 514; M II 2; M II 23; M II 30; A V 185; and A V 190; the Buddha and his followers are characterized as being “in favour of silence, practising silence, praising silence”. The Buddha emphatically exhorted his disciples to make an effort at living in seclusion. According to A III 422, seclusion is in fact a necessary requirement for gaining real control over the mind. Cf. also It 39 and Sn 822, where the Buddha spoke again in praise of seclusion. At Vin I 92 the Buddha even exempted junior monks from the need to live in dependence on a teacher if they were meditating in seclusion. Living in community almost appears to be a second-rate alternative, since at S I 154 such community life is recommended to those monks who are unable to find delight in seclusion (cf. also Ray 1994: p.96). The importance of seclusion in the historically early stages of the Buddhist monastic community is also noted by Panabokke 1993: p.14. To live in seclusion, however, requires some degree of meditative proficiency, as the Buddha pointed out at M I 17 and A V 202. If such meditative proficiency was lacking, the Buddha would advise monks against going off into seclusion (cf. the cases of Upãli at A V 202 and Meghiya at Ud 34)."

https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg ... t-path.pdf p.273

What "degree of meditative proficiency" is necessary? Maybe I should read those references... in silence...
- Mal

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by JohnK » Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:59 pm

I like this story and discussion(pp.287-289 from Amaro's The Breakthrough) ... e=English
Many years ago in the early days of Chithurst Monastery, before the Ten
Precept Sīladharā ordination was established for the nuns, one of the sisters was
planning to visit her parents. They were particularly averse to her being a nun
and were very critical, angry and upset with her. They thought she was wasting
her life and had made an appallingly wrong choice. They were so hostile to the
whole thing that they wouldn’t allow her shaven head to be seen in their house,
so when she would go to visit them she had to wear a woolly hat. It was a tense
and somewhat anguished relationship. On the day before she was to set off for a family visit, she asked Ajahn Sumedho
for advice about how she could establish a quality of harmony between them all.
It was a very sincere and heartful question. Ajahn Sumedho said something in
reply that struck me very deeply at that time, and which has stayed with me
ever since. He said: ‘The kindest thing you can do for your parents is not to
create them.’
Now there’s a thought. ‘The kindest thing you can do for your parents is not
to create them’ – it was a phrase I’d never heard him use before. I don’t think he
had ever heard himself use it before. It came out of the void fully-formed, and
he seemed to be surprised to hear it as well. But it was clearly on target. This
Sister was trying very hard to get it right. She was very sincere and distressed
about how bad things were at that time. And yet she was not seeing that the
mind had created a ‘me’ here, a ‘them’ out there, and ‘I’m trying to get it right
between us’. Ajahn Sumedho’s comment pointed right at the habit of self-view,
creating self and other, and then trying to get the self and the other to work
together harmoniously. But that dynamic can never really work, because selfview
is based on that which is not real; it’s not actually in accord with Dhamma,
with the natural order of things. So if we mistakenly believe that there is a solid
‘me’ here and a solid ‘you’ there, we can never get it right between us. It is only
when there is a letting go of self-view, of self-centred thinking, and the mind no
longer creates ‘you’ and ‘me’, that real communication can happen. These are just thoughts to offer for consideration. You don’t have to take
this to be true, but I would encourage you to pick it up and consider it. The
kindest thing you can do for your loved ones is not to create them.
When you have a difficulty in your life with your parents or children,
your siblings, partner or ex-partner, or would-be-ex-partner, allow yourself
to become aware of how you fabricate yourself and others, how you create a
mental image of yourself and the other.
Notice how you may say to yourself, ‘She’s thinking like this, and he’s like
that, and when we talk he’s going to say this and I should say that to him, and
when I say that to him he’s going to respond with this, and when he says that
then I’m going to say…’ I certainly did this a lot with my parents through my
teens, and then in my early years as a monk. I would spend a huge amount of
time scripting dialogues with my parents that never actually happened.
You spend all this time writing the scripts, and then the other people don’t
learn their lines! You are all prepared with what you are going to say and how
you are going to respond, and then they follow a different script altogether.
The discussion continues beyond what I have quoted.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by Bijlefeld » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:22 pm

JohnK, thank you, that passage is great. It’s crazy how this misguided self view can be so quick to come in and insist on being right or real. Thank you for the reminder on checking it, just shows how much work is left to be done, huh?
With Metta,
‘etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ sabba­saṅ­khā­ra­sama­tho sabbū­padhipa­ṭi­nissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:43 am

being in a relationship with a buddhist seems like it would be weird. like, you know that sex is unwholesome but you do it because reasons
at the same time, being in a relationship with a non-buddhist seems like a road leading nowhere. in the canon there are couples that are celibate some wearing white

but it would be natural to drift away from unwholesome influences and i doubt that y'all ever had a real thing because why would she not be supportive of you or interested. finding the dhamma is like a light being shone in the darkness and when you have a grasp of it you want to share it with everyone you're close to. well don't try to make things work because that is just going to be stressful. that is, if it's going to end; only you can know
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5 ... 34/?type=3 ... allytaught

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by rolling_boulder » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:57 am

Difficulties with home life? Who doesn't?
Let me tell you, when I left home to come live at the monastery, oh boy, that was a touchy situation.

What I regret is that when my family was yelling at me, I yelled back and said some unskillful things.

What I don't regret was that I went through with it anyway, despite the lack of support from them.

You can't make anyone else understand.
That doesn't mean don't try, but don't get frustrated when they don't see it your way.

Try to understand that people are resistant to change and would prefer you to be the same person forever.

That shouldn't prevent you from changing, as it's impossible that you will not change, especially upon encountering the Dhamma at a higher level.

Take space when you need it. For your sake as well as theirs.
Don't live a lie.

wishing you well
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by Crazy cloud » Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:03 am

"home life" was difficult before I trusted the teachings enough to stop worrying about being judged a spiritual oddball by normal people.
And in my experience there is no way one can enjoy both "worlds".


If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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Re: Anyone else running into difficulties with home life?

Post by J.Lee.Nelson » Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:59 am

Hi Josh!

I live with a non-Buddhist atheist and although my spouse was skeptical at first, I very recently got a comment, "I like it when J.Lee.Nelson comes back from meditation. You're so...enlightened." Of course, by "enlightened" I think my spouse meant "calmer, more peaceful, happier". So there's that, but there have been some rough spots in the time since I began formally practicing.

At some point I realized, as you and retrofuturist noted, that anything besides dhamma was de-amplified. In particular, I noticed that the house was getting really untidy and dirty—because I used to clean only when I was angry enough about the mess to be moved to action! No anger, no cleaning. As soon as I realized this, I explained and apologized to my spouse, "Honey, I'm sorry the house is so dirty and untidy. It just doesn't bother me like it used to, so I have a hard time mobilizing myself. I guess there's going to be a period where I have to retrain myself to do things because they need doing, not because of my emotional state." On my side, part of this training has been to learn what kinds of chores monks and nuns do regularly and build a regular routine.

I've found that some of the dhutanga practices can be adapted to lay life. For example, you don't have to pick at your neighbors' trash for clothes, but you can commit to buying your clothes only at Goodwill or other charity shops. You don't have to wear only the triple robe, but you can have sort of a uniform that you wear (e.g. Jeans and a white button-up shirt or leggings and a tunic) You don't have to go for pindapata and not eat for the rest of the day, but you can commit to eating only leftovers mixed together in one bowl for lunch and not eating between noon and when you have your sit-down dinner with your family. You don't have to live out in the shade of a tree, but you can spend more time on your porch or patio out in the natural temperatures while you drink coffee or read, go camping for family vacations, or go to a local park or your back yard for formal meditation.

The hardest part of living with a non-Buddhist has been the question of alcohol. When we were dating, I was really quite a worldly lush and we enjoyed drinking fine wines and other liquors together. It's a work in progress. I'll take the 5th Precept when I'm sure I can keep it. In the meantime when I do drink due to a celebration or something, it often turns into mindful observation on the effects of alcohol on my body, speech, and mind. So maybe the 5th isn't that far in the future, especially since, despite being Russian, my spouse insists that whatever policies I set will be okay. :hug:

As for de-amplification being a reason to ordain, well... Despite understanding that it's only by convention that I'm responsible for my children, I also understand that to leave them at this stage in life would make a lot of bad feelings, if not bad kamma. I guess that like past-retrofuturist I have a notion to join the monastics when my spouse has passed and my children graduate college, but who knows if that will come to pass? I'm content as things are; my practice of the Middle Way involves balancing worldly family life with dhamma practice.

I guess that's everything useful that I have to say about that. I hope things work out well for you!

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