One thing I have difficulty understanding in Buddhism is its emphasis on solitude. Meditation, while often done in groups, does not require interaction with others. Many of the great "heroes" of Buddhism experienced long periods of solitude. I do think it's important to become comfortable with oneself, and I do think that solitude is one means to that end.

However, I think it's relationships that teach you who you are and offer possibilities for improvement. Relationships hold up a mirror to our souls and ask "is THIS who you wanted to be?" Alone, we can forget the 5 trunkloads of emotional baggage we cart around with us. When it affects another person, it slaps us in the face.

I have been slapped in the face with my own selfishness. Sometimes I want what I want, when I want it, regardless of what the other feels. I didn't honestly realize I was doing this. I figured since I think so much about the other person, I can't be selfish. But as I watch my thoughts, they're mostly about what he can do for me, what he hasn't been doing for me, etc. Not how he feels, not what he wants, not what I can do for him.

This is a devastating shock to me. I did not think I was this type of person. What further disturbs me is that it seems so deep-rooted that while I can mouth compassionate words, I do not feel them. I know what I'm supposed to say. I know what I'm supposed to feel. I think the reason I don't feel it is fear. I'm terrified of not getting what I want, and to give to the other person without anything in return feels like giving something up. As if love is a zero-sum game, which it's not.

Somewhere in an essay about Buddhism and marriage (which I can't find, or I'd link it), the author says that if we cannot treat our loved ones with respect and compassion, how can we save all sentient beings? Which is, of course, the Bodhisattva vow. Why do we sometimes feel more compassion for strangers we see on the news than our own families?

I digress... anyway... this has been a disheartening few days for me as I come face to face with my own mental defilements. Now to set on the task of removing them.