A Yogic Perspective on Friendship ~ Dedicated to my friend Dan.
Last summer one of my dearest friends reached out asking me to write about friendship. I always appreciate a suggestion for a topic, and generally get right on it. With that spirit of alignment, when time and space opened for me to write, I went to work. But what happened is I didn’t know how to put the complexities that were in my heart to paper. I have spent the last 10 months since the request, beginning again and again to write. I clearly had a lot to ponder, regarding my own life, of what friendship is to me, and how I can express my ideas as a reflection to the essence inside of my Self.
Today showed me this is the day. The thoughts and visions in my mind are flowing and I remember that which we make complex in the mind; the truth is equally simple at its essence.
What is a friend? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a friend is, “One attached to another by affection or esteem.” Great. But what does this mean? This simplistic definition leaves so much space for the spinning of the mind into a web of delusion and shrouded confusion, as does anything worth considering.
Before going any deeper into what a friend is, I want to use my own life reflections to discover what I have learned a true friend is not. Someone who judges you is not your friend. An individual who uses you or your material possessions to gain another “friend” or material possession is not a friend. A person who holds another hostage when an individual is unable to bow down to the expectations and delusions of what the “friend” thinks they need or want, is not a friend. A true friend does not leave the other lonely and lone, when the other is struggling in despair. A person who constantly takes the light from another in any way is not a friend. These people generally, but not always, are best sent out of your life period. They cause damage and struggle due to a wrong-minded nature.
Humans are creatures of community, and we do need friends. But we cause distress when we cling to a wrong-minded heartless approach of friendship. Each of these situations breach what are the Yama’s of yoga, or ethical guidelines to live a life with discipline and accountability.
There are five Yamas:
- Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence
- Satya ~ Truthfulness
- Asteya ~ Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya ~ Moderation
- Aparigraha ~ Non-possessiveness
I won’t go into my own stories here, but I imagine you, the contemplator, can go through and answer the times you were not in a true friend relationship. And with the very basic definitions of the Yamas provided as guidance, you might begin to see how if you follow even the most archaic definitions of these precepts, you can also call in true friendship to your life.
Being of the human condition, through time you may have been the one who judged, used, expected, or left another when they most needed you. And most likely this has been done to you as well, many times over. We may realize that on both sides of this equation, wounds have been bled from the deepest of caverns through mis-understanding, or light removing action. In fact, if we peer into these inquiries intelligently, and answer them truthfully, we may find that we have less friends than we realize. And is this really a problem?
In our common languages of this time, we throw words like love, friendship, peace, freedom, greed, and anger around, like the seeds of a dandelion floating through the air to land, ignite and grow more weeds of delusion. Can we please stop for a moment, and instead start to use our words with consciousness?
In regards to friendship, think of all of the people in your family, neighborhood, work, Facebook, races or other events, and more. If you really look and feel it out, how many of these people are your friends? Do you even know how to discern who is your friend? If you contemplate with thorough honesty, you can easily weed out many of the light takers who judge, use, expect and desert yourself and others, including even themselves, as their unconscious reaction to anything perceived as challenging.
But what then is a true friend when you look at the rest of these dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people? Who are the true light givers? And from these emissaries of light, who indeed can you consider a friend?
I do believe that friendship, like love, is to be felt with the heart and soul. If we allow the ego to take over, we might instead confuse lust or a trauma bond as friendship. For me, a true friend is one who sees through my mistakes and troubles, straight to the light of my heart. They know I care about them. Even if we do not see one-another for years, we think about one another often and feel loving kindness, while sending well wishes to one-another. This cannot generally be explained this without quantum physics, spiritualism, or the like; and yet even then we might not still be able to fully explain it. Perhaps we are meant not to.
When I hear from or think of my true friends, I am home. I feel peaceful. I feel a sense of tribe– meaning community and safe foundation. Some things indeed need no explaining. Indeed, we must let go of the mind, and feel with the heart and soul what is truth.
When you feel inside your heart, what do you discern does being a friend arise from within? Can you call them any time; can they call you? Does time go by, and when you see one-another again, you pick up like you just said good-bye yesterday? Can you be yourself and speak honesty to your friend, while also receiving honest feedback?
Sometimes a friend goes through a challenge and despite us trying to be a friend, they push us away. A true friend can feel when to give some space. We recognize the hard times a person is going through and their need to go internal for a while. Be we do not desert them with our heart. We might show up, or check in as often as makes sense, but we also leave space for our friend to come back with open arms when ready. Even if my friends are currently expressing a clinging, judging, or non-truthful shadow self. I see through the armor and feel the light streaming from them through the cracks in their temporary armor. This is what I meant by not all who lash out are to be tossed from your life. They are hurting, and if you know them, and listen to internal guidance, they often will come full circle back to a healed and open heart.
Friendship is an art. And the art is a dance of soul and song of heart energies journeying through the lessons of life. Art is best created when we let go of what we think is, allowing space to breathe in creation to manifest in beautiful ways, beyond the thinking mind or ego. Can we leave room in our hearts for the few we learn are meant to be let in to our dance of rooted life in different ways?
Can we also allow space for people who are not currently our friends, but are perhaps co-workers, associates, teammates, colleagues, etcetera to be that which they are? The people we might spend time with occasionally, create amazing work projects, inspire cultural or spiritual community, or the excitement of a team spirit out on a court, track or field? They come and go, often replaced by new associates. And this is beautiful. It is life giving us sand mixed with the true jewels of our humanity.
I have experienced times of deep loneliness, as many do. When we feel that despite there being billions of people in this world, no one cares. What then? I have learned I need to make friends with myself. I pray, practice yoga, breathe, spend time in nature, read inspiring books, and listen to beautiful music. I make a decision I will not give up on life, but I tell Life I must have people in my life that help me realize my wholeness. The wholeness that each human is, but we forget sometimes. When we treat ourselves with Metta (loving kindness), create space inside for breath, light and trust, we might find that our friends show up, sometimes from the most unexpected of places.
And then we learn the opposite of alone. We see that the net of Indra filled with infinite jewels with infinite facets reflecting from one another, is that connection of all sentient beings who rely on one-another to feel free, accepted, and connected. And the spectacular way of this great net, cast over the Universe, suspending all of the light and darkness is balance. And if we turn one way and see only dark, we can change our perspective and direction, and instead journey with the light of those of our friends. But we must open our hearts to this.
So simple. Yet complex. Each individual must find their own balance of friendship and other community, while knowing it is also perfect to find solitude at times. Recognizing the balance of humanity and discerning our true friends from the ocean of humanity, can set us at ease when our own life gets hard. We recognize the few soul friends who were the truth of our tribe from the beginning. The rocks left when the waters come and wash away the sand. And isn’t it beautiful that Life has gifted each human with these jewels! We must open our hearts to feel and see them. Then we understand that yes, “One attached to another by affection or esteem.” Is a simple way of discerning a true friend.
Founder of Yoga Soul, Licensed Massage Therapist, Founder of NewAgeAthlete.com, Owner of CenteredCityYoga.com
Rachel continuously inspires others to learn what it truly means to live a fulfilling life of joy. Her greatest gift is her son Canyon, he inspires her own deepest love and strength. Her lyrical and purposeful classes carry the intention for others to find their own inner beauty and strength, and to connect with their infinite potential. Her students develop the courage and love, on and off the mat, to manifest their dreams and live a beautiful life. This is all while becoming healthy and strong in body, mind and soul.
Rachel is registered with the Yoga Alliance as a 500-hour E-RYT. She holds a B.S. in exercise sport science from the University of Utah. She integrates yogic philosophy into her other life passions as an elite runner, cyclist and endurance coach. She is a certified Pilates instructor and licensed massage therapist.