Divine Relationships

There's something magical about the beginning of a romantic relationship. It's almost as if you view your new partner with rose-colored glasses. You adore his personality. Laugh at all her jokes. Smile every time you see him. Together, you live a charmed existence.

But time passes, and the roses turn brown.

Years later, his personality grates on you. Her jokes are silly. It's hard to smile. Life together has become a strained existence.

So what changed? Has your partner really transformed?

According to Buddhist teachings, the answer is no. It's not them that changed. It's us. It's our choice to see our partner as either a monster or beautiful being.

Learning how to transform our view is one of the practices that will be discussed in a three-part lecture entitled "Spiritual Partners: Ancient Buddhist Teachings on Finding and Keeping a Relationship." The series will run from 7 to 9 p.m. each day Friday, March 25 to Sunday, March 27, at Anjali Yoga Studio, 330 E. Seventh St. The talks are free, but a $10 donation per evening is suggested to cover expenses. While registration is not required for the lecture, it is preferred that you call to announce your attendance at 792-6585, or register at diamondmtn.org.

Geshe Michael Roach and his partner, Christie McNally, are the presenters of the series and will discuss methods that we can use to find and stay with our perfect partner.

Roach was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1983 and received the Geshe degree in 1995--the first American to do so. He worked for 20 years in the wholesale diamond business in New York City, growing a start-up company to a $150 million enterprise. Roach is the author of several books, including The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life. He is the founder of Diamond Mountain in Bowie, Ariz., a community and educational center focused on Tibetan Buddhism.

Christie McNally is a co-founder of Diamond Mountain and has trained with Lamas in India and Nepal. She is the author of The Essential Yoga Sutra. Both McNally and Roach are translators of ancient Tibetan and Sanskrit texts.

According to Mercedes Bahleda, the event coordinator and also student of Roach's, the couple has been together nine years. They each wear Irish wedding bands as a symbol of their commitment.

Roach commented on his relationship with McNally in an interview earlier this year for Voice of America.

"Many people ask us about our relationship, because I'm a monk. ... We have a tradition that, after you've been trained for enough years, a monk should have a relationship with a special lady. ... You work together, not like a normal couple, not like most couples. You work for spiritual things. ... You dedicate your relationship. ... And then when you look at the other person, you should see a special person--not a human being, but an angel."

That divine view is one that Bahleda speaks of often.

"There is the potential for something divine to occur between a man and woman ... and I think we all want that," she says.

According to Bahleda, the ancient teachings of Buddhism can show us how to get it.

"The ancient scriptures were written by Yogis who were the businessmen, kings and politicians of the time. They had families ... and studied. ... The practices are designed for people who are in the world and are practical ways to transform your life."

Bahleda stresses the practicality of the teachings and says Roach is very much in the world.

"Geshe and Christie are very skilled. Geshe stops in the middle of a lecture and asks, "So what does this have to do with my life?' He always gives a practical approach on how to implement the teachings into your current relationship," she says.

Some of the practical approaches involve meditation, but that is not the complete answer.

"It's not just about sitting down and meditating," says Bahleda. "It's a way of looking at your world in a different way than most of us have been taught. ... Maybe the person I am having an argument with is trying to teach me something. If I begin to understand where they are coming from, I might not strike back when in an argument."

Bahleda says the normal, mundane (or argumentative) situations between couples can be changed. It is possible to have the first-love experience for the rest of your life with someone. But the key is not to look at your partner first.

"Start with yourself," she says. "It's where everything comes from. You created that behavior; they are a reflection of your own heart. The seeds in your own heart allow you to see the person as a monster or divine being. If you practice and transform your heart, you will recognize who that person is ... a divine being."

While the teachings originated from Buddhists, Bahleda says they can apply to everyone.

"It doesn't matter if you are a Buddhist, Christian or Muslim. The laws of how the world works are universal. There's a limitless potential in everyone to see the world in a divine way. We can make those shifts and changes happen from our own hearts. To see that is possible is an incredible thing."