Q. What's your best tip for someone who's looking for a relationship?
A. Stop looking. Start realizing that the source of this love everyone is looking for is not outside yourself. It's like the Buddha said: Put down your begging bowl. Stop telling yourself a story that, Oh, life would be so much better, and I can start really living when I have a partner. That's putting yourself into this idea of the future. Ask yourself, How can I behave in a loving way right now, in the relationship with whomever's in front of me? And that, ironically, becomes attractive to other people, including potential partners.
Q. How about advice for someone who's just starting to date?
A. Carl Jung wrote that when you first meet someone, you're not seeing them clearly at all; you're seeing your own projection. It takes a long time to get to know somebody really well. So just understand that's the case, and enjoy that time. As long as you can be in the moment, without expectation, you'll be seeing reality more clearly, rather than what you want it to be. The spiritual teacher Yogananda said, "I never expect anything from anyone; therefore I am never disappointed."
Q. You believe ambivalence about a love interest usually ends up meaning, This isn't "the one."
A. An interesting exercise is to imagine you're not physically attracted to the person at all. Then think, Would I be hanging out with them? See if you can take the physical blinders off for a minute and ask, How much do we have in common? How much fun are we having? How do they treat people, and how do they treat me? For a moment, at least, you'll find that ambivalence will start to lift.
Q. How important is sex in a relationship?
A. You're having sex, if you're lucky, 15 minutes a day. What's happening the other 23 hours, 45 minutes? Is your partner your friend? Can you talk to them? Do they have your best interests at heart? Are they positive and supportive? Do they share your values—meaning, do they value what you find valuable?
Q. What's your advice for people already in a relationship?
A. If you've been together for a while, hopefully you've already worked on acceptance and letting the other person be who they are. The other big thing is forgiveness, because nobody's perfect. One of the keys in successful relationships seems to be accepting that people will disappoint you, and finding and being with someone who will disappoint you in acceptable ways, in ways that you can bear and forgive.
Q. Any tips on successfully navigating Valentine's Day?
A. Go sit in a cave! Seriously, Valentine's Day encompasses every last bit of romantic mythology. It's filled with pressure and expectation, and it's a material, transactional connection, not a spiritual one. Yet the question is how to deal with it. If you're not with someone, make yourself your own valentine. Get together with other single friends, go see a movie, have a good time—connect with yourself and just witness the thoughts that come; things like, I'm such a loser, I'll never find anyone. Going inward eliminates the loneliness that's generated by looking, trying to make something happen. If you're in a relationship, I'd say, Go for the ride. That's the sheer practical advice, based on my mistakes over the years. So if you're a man, just do something. And if you're a woman, try not to have expectations.