YOUTH IN FOCUS: I was in a relationship for 18 months. I gave birth to a baby boy nine months ago, and my husband immediately left me. Now what do I do? I feel that I have been betrayed my whole life. My stepmother was cruel to me. My first boyfriend cheated on me and now my husband has run off. At least I have a sister who supports me and I can stay with her and her family. My life seems like a continuous disaster. I’m so depressed.  I wonder whether I will ever feel happy. Lama, please advise me.
Lost Girl, Phuentsholing

Well, I could tell you that one day everything will be perfect and you will live happily ever after, but I would be giving you false hope. Life is not a fairy tale and everyone lives with anxiety and insecurity – though, of course, some people experience more than others.
As an example, think of the people you see driving in and out Bhutan Gate in expensive cars. You might think that these people are living happy and carefree lives, but in reality even people who are well off have anxiety and fear. They worry about their health, their families, their debt and, probably, their social status. Even people with a husband or wife will have to experience impermanence and change as no one can guarantee that their spouse will remain faithful or that he or she will have a long life. Change is part of existence. There is no consistently stable and permanent relationship. Like sandcastles in the desert, a relationship remains for a time, but later it changes and one day totally collapses.
Does that mean that you should not establish relationships? No, definitely not. It just means that you need to understand that relationships will not last forever. Like a sandcastle, it will cease to exist once the parts that bind it fall apart. Of course, we do not just let our marriage fail and we should try our very best to solve problems that threaten its continuation. At the same time, we accept that nothing lasts forever and that a relationship will have ups and downs and finally come to an end – either through a breakup or death.
Perhaps, we can think of relationships like physical health. Sometimes we are well, but we also suffer coughs, colds and even serious diseases. At such times, we take medicine and recover. Still, we know that we are not cured permanently and that in the future we will again fall ill. We are also aware that one day we will die. Even though we know that sickness will return and that at some point our life will end, we take medicine and try to recover. Basically, we work on a daily level, but maintain the wider, long-term view.
To find peace, you should stop thinking that you have a problem that needs to be solved, but fully accept your situation. When you feel sad, feel sad. When you feel lonely, feel lonely. When you don’t struggle against these feelings but accept them as part of your journey of life, they will no longer threaten you. In fact, if you do not try to escape your emotions, they will transform into other qualities, such as compassion and empathy.
Instead of struggling against your situation, embrace it. You have a roof over your head and a baby who needs your love and care. Being a mother is a precious experience. Make sure your baby is clean. Sing to him and take him out so that he can enjoy fresh air and experience new things. Make him feel that he is cherished and loved.
I don’t know your educational background, but if you did not complete class 12 you should consider doing CE classes at night. Having education will give you some independence. Also, when the baby starts PP, I suggest you get a job. P/ling has some nice hotels, and so perhaps you could work in a kitchen and slowly develop your cooking skills. Otherwise, you can work as a housekeeper. Never think that any work is below you. Instead, take pride that you are doing an honest and clean job and providing for yourself and your son. Seeing his mother working hard will really inspire him, and you will be his life-long role model. Remember it is not the kind of job that gives us dignity as a human being, but how we do the work
In short, having a peaceful mind is not going to arrive one day in the future but is within your grasp right now. To find it, however, you need to drop your resentments of the past and your hopes for the future, and instead embrace your situation right now.
When you wake up in the morning, consider how fortunate you are to have a bed to sleep in and food to eat (how many people at this moment are sleeping on the streets or living in refugee camps). Have a sense of gratitude and delight for what you have.
If your sister has a job, clean the apartment while she is out. Wash and iron the family clothes. Don’t do these things as an obligation with a long face, however, but do them beautifully with the aim of bringing joy to the lives of your sister and her family.
Now, if you want to be a little crazy try this: Before you start a chore, make a wish that your efforts bring benefits to all beings in the universe. As you do the work, think how the room you are cleaning or the clothes you are washing will become dirty and then again clean. Like relationships, the state of the room and clothes is always changing. Later, after you complete a chore (cleaning, ironing or whatever), dedicate any benefits to the well-being of other beings: “May all beings be free of suffering and its causes”. In this way, you can transform your day into something cool, joyful and a little crazy.
Don’t just sit in your room moping, but make your life magical and playful. Be inspired by your planet and be an inspiration to others.
On a final note, I seriously recommend that couples stay together for several years before establishing a permanent relationship. Even then, they should not have a child until they are mentally and financially prepared to give a child the love and care it needs to develop into a well-adjusted and healthy adult. Basically, a couple should not consider becoming parents until they are ready and able to fully commit themselves to the well-being of their offspring.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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