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A Mindful Divorce may sound like a contradiction.  If you are familiar with mindfulness, then you may know that attachment equals suffering, or at least that is what you were taught.  You also know that divorce is painful and this is true for several reasons.

When you marry someone, you open yourself up to another person (body, mind and spirit).  You are, in turn, making yourself vulnerable because when someone knows your weaknesses, they know how to hurt you.

Marriage ultimately pushes you to put your spouse on a pedestal- you idealized this person and believed that they would never ever ever hurt you.  This is the one! I’ve finally found the person who will make me happy for the rest of my life! Well, when it turns out they did not live up to those standards then you are left feeling devastated, incomplete and disappointed.

During a divorce, you will experience pain on some level, which is natural.  The divorce process in this country can be cut-throat.  It can be about who has the better lawyer and who will walk away as the winner.  The court system is not designed for healing, which is what we need during a divorce.  About 50% of marriages end in divorce, and about a third of those are still in litigation (most post-divorce cases) years later!  This means that most ex-spouses continue to be in litigation with one another years after the divorce. Could you imagine?

Of course, a lot of your pain is coming from your head, rather than your heart. Your imagined perfect life with that special someone has been shattered and your expectation is now impossible. These are external ideals- the belief that something in life can be permanent and never changing.

However, divorce can have an upside (really it can, I swear) and that is to  wake you up to a truer sense of how life works. Nothing is guaranteed or permanent (except death and taxes); and nothing can make us happy we need to find happiness within.  

  • My own divorce sent me on a whole new chapter in my life and taught me how to suffer less from painful things. I would most likely still be very much co-dependent today if it had not  been for my divorce, and all the suffering and self-realization that accompanied it made me who I am today. 
  • I can tell you from my own experience that life can change, quite drastically, very quickly, and if you are not prepared to have the rug pulled out from under you (who is?) you will certainly experience some degree of suffering.  So, you may ask, how did I get through it?  What did you learn?  

You may think that external things are what create suffering, such as being cheated on, lied to, or simply losing someone you loved very much at one time.

  • Suffering is created in your mind.
  • Suffering is not the same as pain.  

Pain is something that we feel, something that hurts us.  Suffering is when we let the pain spiral out of control and it begins to affect our lives.  For example, you may not be able to get up and get dressed or cry yourself to sleep every night.  You ask “Why did this happen to me?  What did I do wrong?”  It’s those questions that start the negative thought process that feeds into your suffering.

Sometimes you may think that if only you could change something then the circumstances would change.  You may think that if perhaps you had done something differently this wouldn’t have happened.  Those thoughts will only lead to more disappointment because you cannot change the behavior of others and you cannot make someone love you.  You also cannot go back in time.

But, that is not to say that you cannot completely and totally improve your experience of divorce by working on you. You can learn that expressing angry thoughts might temporarily feel like a release and a relief, but  it doesn’t move us toward the peace and serenity that you ultimately want.

You can learn patience so that interactions with your former spouse are more fruitful and beneficial. You can practice forgiving your former spouse for whatever it is that they have done. (This is not a matter of excusing bad behavior—it’s a matter of letting go of the resentment that poisons our minds and spirits.)  If you can learn to forgive yourself and if you are the one who has hurt the other person, or if you blame yourself somehow for being the one who brought this on somehow (you did not, as I explained that you cannot make anyone do anything in this world).

So, what’s the process?

Well, first and foremost, you have to be committed.  You have to be open-minded.  You have to understand you will not get there overnight. You may try things that are unfamiliar to you, such as meditation and mindfulness practices that can literally retrain your brain to help you become calm, forgiving and happy—even in the midst of a painful experience like divorce. 

By diffusing your emotions you are expanding your ability to see the other person’s pain and viewpoints.

Make a list regarding your divorce;

  • one side should represent all your fears
  • the other side should represent all of your goals

Ask yourself:

Do your goals benefit you?  

How can you resolve the fears?  Maybe, just maybe, you can work on resolving them with your former partner.  

You can experience divorce with peace and love, knowing you did the best you could with what you had, and that you did the best you could for the benefit of your family and emotional well-being. 

No one has the power to “ruin” you – it’s how you take this experience and make it what you want it to be.

I am happier than I ever was and I have to thank my former spouse for that.  My frame of mind is forever changed and I can handle whatever it is that comes my way.  Divorce, like love, is not black and white.  It is many shades of gray, sometimes chaotic, and yes, trying.  If you believe in Karma, you begin to see the big picture, and how whatever it is you are experiencing will ultimately help you be wherever it is you are meant to be.

Buddha said, “Make your life a laboratory in which you can test what I’m saying.”

Whatever it is that you come to learn and to discover about yourself, use it to enhance whatever relationship you may have in the future, whether it be with friends, a child or a new love.  Then, and only then, you will see how being loving, truly loving of yourself and of your world, really works.

Love begins with you.