Helping friends find Mr. Right at a Buddhist retreat? Breathe in, breathe out and keep quiet.
Does the bread buttered for you with compassion by a hot guy standing near the toaster at a Buddhist retreat taste better than regular toast? I swear, it does. Call it the Dharma of Flirt Toast.
Welcome to the miracle of mindfulness, and by that I mean it's a miracle if you can stay mindful when you're at a weekend retreat with three of your single girlfriends surrounded by handsome monks (sure, they take a vow of celibacy, but so did Britney Spears and that wasn't exactly ironclad) and lots of surprisingly chiseled, seemingly available, male retreat-goers. When I arrived at the monastery, tucked away in the hills outside San Diego, I couldn't help but notice some of the men were as scenic as the mountains.
While I did receive the buttered toast (meals are conducted in "Noble Silence" - couldn't refuse it without incredibly sophisticated charades), I happen to be the only one of my group of girlfriends who currently has a boyfriend. So, I was only looking for enlightenment - and, as always, a suitable mate for all of my single friends.
What I discovered is that I really need to practice Buddhist non-attachment to the idea of my girlfriends being non-attached.
Instead of "dwelling in the here and now," I was scurrying into the future and ducking into other people's business.
"Blue shirt at the dishwashing station," I stage whispered, nudging my friend while nodding toward a man mindfully scrubbing his bowl.
"Yeah, I noticed him earlier at the Dharma talk," she answered back. "He only looks good in profile."
For three days, we practiced walking meditation, hiking meditation, eating meditation and Dharma talks so slow you could drive a truck through every word.
Meditation helps you notice the contents of your mind. For me, this revealed that I spend far too much time evaluating who and how my girlfriends should date and why they don't. Not helping matters is that they spent nearly every second when Silence wasn't enforced swapping bad Internet dating stories and picking apart potential suitors.
"This online guy has one gorgeous picture and one hideous picture. Should I go out with him?" That's a question for the masters - that and how to end social injustice.
Buddhists talk about "habit energy," which is exactly what I put toward being annoyed by how my girlfriends toss guys aside for petty infractions (only looking good in profile, ponytails, being Republican) while bemoaning being single.
One night, after much tofu and more meditation, I was mindfully and lovingly mocked.
"Teresa thinks I should just date a guy again and again and again until I like him," said my friend, giggling as her compromised karma and waning mindfulness made her trip on a rock. I just think my friends have become emotional seismologists, experts at finding faults. Sometimes a guy you don't immediately dig can grow on you. Hello? Sam and Diane? Harry and Sally? Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama?
A retreat guy we nicknamed Wiccan Ski Patrol, because of his red goatee, camouflage shorts, skullcap and flip-flops, showed up at the Sunday morning incense offering with his girlfriend, who couldn't seem more his opposite. She wore a pink tracksuit and freshly streaked hair. I wanted to crush the Noble Silence by yelling, "See! Stop being so picky and judgmental! Opposites attract." I kept it to myself. Breathing in. Breathing out.
All this clear thinking made me realize I'm kind of a know-it-all. What do I really know? Do I possess the Buddha-like ability to see what men have instead of what they lack? Or do I just have flexible standards and a rock bottom loneliness threshold?
I learned only this: When it comes to my friend's love lives, Noble Silence is the way to go.