Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies
Compassion is compassion, I'm not sure if there is an 'idiot compassion', but once we understand some of the core ideologies in Buddhism we begin to see a picture that is far more altruistic, and combined with practice leads to a true sense of connection and compassion for others, and ourselves.
I think zerwe got at what I'm trying to explain. Compassion without wisdom can lead to harm for everyone involved. In my case, trying to be compassionate often looks like me lying down and doing whatever others want. Being a martyr looks a lot like ego hiding in the wings going, "look how selfless I am". It's kind of funny to imagine. It's really hard to renounce in such a way that you're left feeling more open and less burdened, instead of what essentially amounts to a form of desire asceticism. I feel like desire just keeps on plugging away in the form of poignant lack
of desire instead of no longer being relevant at all. I hope more practice will help with this.
Attachment is not something you bundle up and throw out with the trash. It's more like a sculpture you chip away at. There are several methods, one of which is meditation on impermanence. Today's most treasured friend may be gone tomorrow, to a new job, a new town or even the next life. So, if you set up a great attachment to something or someone impermanent, you will suffer greatly when inevitable change occurs.
Thank you. You're so right about attachment. I think it's easy to fool myself into thinking that intellectually understanding some of the dhamma means I have any form of attainment. Spiritual materialism at its finest
Impermanence sounds like just the thing to focus on. My reaction happens when change rears its head. I sure don't have to be happy about impermanence overnight but it's probably better to work with unhappiness over the root cause than an outlying symptom.
In order to achieve friendship without attachment,
one must mindfully attend to identifying and meeting one's own needs and cultivating one's own growth and development,
in concert and balance with compassionately attending to the needs of others on this earth.
Over-attending to the latter without adequate attention to the former will create clinging rather than growth for all parties involved.
Some very insightful people on this board
I do have a big problem putting myself before others in any way, even when it results in just what you said. Since last October, I've managed to go to ONE Buddhist center because of this. When my partner is home, I flat-out don't meditate so he doesn't feel like I'm ignoring him. Maybe it's time to start carving out some more time for spiritual development.
If you are investing all this time and affection in your friend because you expect to recieve love or validation in return you are making yourself vulnerable. I'm not saying such a motive is wrong -- your friend may be a very loving person and give you what you are asking for -- but it does make you vulnerable to suffering disappointment and heartbreak.
I didn't even realize this is what I was doing until I read a passage by Ayya Khema on friendship. She said we so often treat friends as just another way to make ourselves bigger than we are, that it's become like a financial transaction where you give this to get this. And the bigger we make ourselves in this way, the bigger a small dissatisfaction feels. It felt like a cartoon slap to the face where you shake your head and go, "Thanks, I needed that."
It's shocking when you think that this is probably the normal way people treat friendships. I give you these emotions or this support, you give me that. You don't give me that, then I don't have the time or energy to be your friend. It's made me wonder just what IS being a friend to someone in the Buddhist sense?
The supreme difficulty is in doing what you said... finding a source of unconditional kindness yet not confusing that with wisdom and just pandering to whatever ruts or negative kamma you get wrapped up in. The whole attachment piece makes it very difficult to tell when you are just pandering.
Ultimately, it all seems a bit uncertain and confusing. If I can barely keep myself on the path of spiritual growth, how can I know what someone else needs? I do feel these posts and Ayya Khema's passage have pointed me in the right direction at least. I'm very grateful for that.