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Excerpted from If the Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl. Copyright 2001 by Charlotte Kasl. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I learned that my conditioning and expectations created my turmoil, not the words or actions of the other person."

  Charlotte Kasl, If the Buddha Married, Part 3

We can extend this idea of unity to everything in our daily lives. In his commentaries on The Heart of Understanding, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, "Everything contains everything else." He uses the phrase "inter-are." We are the clouds, the water, the forest, the earth that is contained in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink. We also are permeated by the vibration of our partner's touch, voice, laughter, kisses, smiles, and frowns. Everything becomes a form of energy, moving and shifting within us and between us. It is only an illusion that we are separate. As we become conscious of the deep level of "interbeing" with our partner and all people, we become exquisitely, aware of the importance of being mindful of our behavior and words.

2. Using the four noble truths to create awareness

At the foundation of Buddha's teachings are the four noble truths. They show how we create our own suffering through our attachments, expectations, and demands that people and situations be different than they are. By examining our attachments, we see the numerous ways in which we try to control others instead of accepting them as they are.

The first noble truth is that suffering is inherent to life. The second noble truth asserts that we suffer because of our attachments -- our craving, clinging, and demanding. The third noble truth is that Nirvana -- equanimity, peace, and cessation of craving is possible and available to all when we cease our attachments. The fourth noble truth is that there is an eightfold path that leads to being free of attachments. They often are called the signposts to being on the path. They include Right Understanding, Right Aspiration, Right Action, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Concentration, and Right Mindfulness. I would add the signpost of right relationships.

I first came into contact with the concept that I create my own suffering through my attachments in 1980 at the Cornucopia Center founded by Ken Keyes, author of Handbook to Higher Consciousness. It was perhaps the greatest single awakening of my life. I learned that when someone yelled at me or appeared not to like me, it meant they were attached to my being different, not that I was bad. Similarly, I discovered that when I felt impatient or angry, this reflected my attachment to someone behaving differently.

I learned that my conditioning and expectations created my turmoil, not the words or actions of the other person.

The belief that we do harm out of ignorance doesn't take away our responsibility for our actions, but it suggests that we might better explore the pain or needs beneath our behavior rather than judging ourselves harshly or sinking into shame. This awareness was key to changing my relationships because it removed all levels of blame and shame, and helped me to realize that everyone is just doing what they are conditioned to do.

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