One of the many beautiful boons of practicing yoga is that we gain a sense of clarity—we see where we have been living from a mindset of limitation or fear, and we begin to feel empowered. As our minds and bodies release some of their toxicity, we realize we are lovable, and that we are worthy of all the things we have dreamed of. We harness the courage to let go off all the things that have been holding us back.
More often than not, one of those things will be a relationship—be it with the friend who drains us, or the romantic partner we keep arguing with. It is at this point we are offered one of the greatest opportunities to really step into our loving nature—that is, to end our relationships in a compassionate way—to practice ahimsa. All too frequently, however, that is not what happens.
Personally I spent much of my 20s and early 30s in partnership patterns. In romantic relationships I would: Be very happy, become miserable, work on myself, feel empowered to leave, and then write my partner an email telling them it was over because I had finally put myself first… In the case of friendships, I would: Come up against a challenge, become miserable, work on myself, and then conveniently let the friendship fade away.
Essentially we end relationships in a way that isn’t aligned with our commitment to a path of love, just so that we can hurry up and get following that path of love…
What I never did back then was consider the other person’s feelings. And I know I am not the only aspiring yogi to follow this pattern—in the excitement of gaining a sense of self-worth we become impatient to move on and move forward. And in this self-focused rush we either disregard or entirely forget that other people may be hurt or confused as we leave them behind. Essentially we end relationships in a way that isn’t aligned with our commitment to a path of love, just so that we can hurry up and get following that path of love…
So how—as practitioners of yoga—do we marry loving and honoring ourselves and our choices, with loving and honoring another?
4 Ways to Prepare for a Breakup
If you’ve looked into your heart, meditated on your reasoning for letting go of a relationship, and you know that it’s simply not in your best interest to continue, then it’s time to say goodbye. We all know how it feels when a friend turns their back on us, or a partner breaks up with us, so we also know how we don’t want others to feel. Some simple preparations can help us be loving and compassionate in the midst of any relationship breakup.
1. Let it out.
If you are prone to becoming emotional, and know that it will be hard for you to stay calm, open, and kind when facing your friend or partner, it can help to let it all out beforehand. Write them a letter first so you can vent all the tears, frustration, and anger on your own. And then rather than hitting send, or even delete, you could hold a ritual where the email is burned as a symbol of your commitment to release your anger, and to step into a life of love and compassion.
2. Write a forgiveness letter.
Once anger and any other emotions are out of the way, write a second letter focused on forgiveness. Let go of any resentment or blame, and include all the things that you are truly grateful for about that person. Again, this is not for sending, but rather to release any thoughts of blame, and to cultivate a more loving mindset towards your soon-to-be-former friend or partner. Here is a sample of a structure of a forgiveness letter from spiritual teacher Jennifer Hadley.
3. Offer a consecration.
Before having the talk, offer a consecration of your relationship. This is essentially saying an internal prayer or setting an intention that whatever happens will be for the highest good for you both, without any attachment to the outcome. Maybe you will remain friends with a former partner, maybe you won’t. Maybe when you tell your friend why you no longer want to be in contact they will offer to work with you to improve your relationship… Or maybe they won’t. But by making a consecration first, you can know that whatever happens, you have put it in the hands of the Divine. If it’s a long-standing relationship with someone who shares your desire for growth you could even suggest a consecration together during your conversation.
4. Ask for guidance.
One method I now lean on in all my relationships is to meditate and ask for guidance on how best to move through any challenges in a way that is compassionate to everyone involved. In ending a relationship this could entail bringing your friend or partner to mind in meditation, gently telling them of your decision, and asking them what you need to do to make them feel most supported and loved when letting go. You may receive guidance about where and how that conversation needs to take place, and if you believe in the interconnectedness of our minds, then it means on some level that person will also be a little more prepared for your decision.
3 Steps for a Compassionate Breakup
Just like every relationship, every ending is unique, and cannot be distilled to a formula. Perhaps the kindest thing is to walk away without explanation. The best thing we can do is follow our inner guidance. And then we can try to relay our decision kindly and in a way that will bring us peace, while holding a space for the other person as they go through their response. There are some tools that can help.
1. Non-Violent Communication
Hopefully we will be prepared enough to express our decision with kindness. But we should be ready in case we get caught up in the moment. Non-violent communication (NVC) can come to our aid when we’re in the thick of a challenging conversation and want to remain compassionate. NVC teaches us to refrain from using phrases that can be misinterpreted as blaming, such as “you make me unhappy.” Instead we should phrase it as: “I am unhappy in this relationship.” Listening and repeating back what the other person says, rather than becoming reactive and defending your decision, is another lesson we can take from NVC.
2. Allow the Other Person Their Emotions
You have no way of knowing how your friend or partner is going to react to your decision, so just try to hold a space for them as they go through their range of emotions. That means judging whether you need to hold their hand, or if you should respond rather than just listen. If those emotions become too much, then you can always call an end to the conversation, but offer to listen again at a different time.
3. Forgive Yourself
If you are making a decision to leave an unhappy relationship then that is a practice of self-love, and there is no need to feel guilty of your decision. Perhaps you will end up saying a few things you regret, but if you know that you approached the other person with your heart soft and compassionate, then you can rest assured you are staying on the path of love you have chosen.
Helen Avery is a senior writer for Wanderlust Media. She is also a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, minister, and full-time dog walker of Millie, residing in Brooklyn, New York. You can find out more about her on her website, Life as Love.