Like people and animals, friends, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are strong and always there, some are fuzzy fence sitters who are great when you need to bounce ideas off another person; but often the best thing about friends is that they find you. This happened to me nearly 15 years ago. Standing in the coat room line, I could see a gentleman struggling to get his arm through a rather elusive sleeve. More than 35 years my senior, I thought to myself that my grandmother would be proud for respecting my elders if I helped him find it.
“It seems your left sleeve is playing hide-and-seek with you,” I said to him, grabbing the shoulder of his coat so he could guide his arm through. When he introduced himself, it turned out that according to the seating plan we were meant to have been sitting next to each other for dinner, but someone had shuffled him to the head table. As a result, I had dinner next to a dull so-and-so, but this chance meeting in the coat room line seemed ever more intriguing. Many years of our friendship elapsed and I was helping my friend collect legal paperwork for his estate. Grasping hundreds of papers, one page slipped from the pile in my hands to my feet – it was his father’s death certificate; it turned out we shared the same birthday.
“Perhaps you and I have been playing hide-and-seek even longer than we thought,” my friend chuckled when I highlighted the coincidence. Well if our spirits had shared a previous life, I, for one, did not remember! This friend often talks of the divine and all the grandeurs of spiritual understanding. But I most admire his ability to treat strangers and friends with the same level of trusting compassion and I enjoy his wider knowledge base, which generally only the process of aging reveals. One day, after dedicating 10 years to one project, he said he would no longer pursue it. There were many reasons behind his choice, which I accepted, but I could not accept his loss. He felt he lost because now that he decided to stop the project before completion, “everybody will laugh [at me]”, he said. It made me want to cry when his voice trailed on the other end of the phone line. At that moment, I realized his loss was not the loss of the project, but really the feelings of embarrassment from a perceived loss of dignity – measured only against other people’s opinions.
So I said to him boldly: “The greatest loss here is not the project, or the loss of dignity. The greatest loss here is that in the roughly 70 years of your life, you still haven’t found your best friend: yourself.” You are never alone once you have found this true companion. With the hectic life of modern age it is critical to have a relationship with this ‘friend’ because of the high demands expected of individuals. The yoga mat is a great place to find this friend because the stillness of the room allows you to hear what they need, what they want, what will make them happy. The differences in acts of selfishness and selflessness may be very apparent, but the mental differences between the two are less so. Sometimes by being a little selfish (like meditating instead of washing the dishes) allows us to act more selfless (like setting aside time to really listen to your partner’s/friend’s day). Was I being a good or bad friend when I told my dear, old friend to look for himself? Neither. I was being a true friend, because truth holds no judgement.
When you are able to slow down through yoga, meditating, or a quite walk, ask yourself do you have a best friend in you? If not, why not? What might need to change, what might help you like you as a person more? When you hear a voice criticizing you – which more often than not sounds just like your own – try replacing that voice with one of support, kindness, and appreciation. Look for ways to improve this internal relationship in order to improve relations with others. Having self-awareness will enable you to have better boundaries in your life that support the growth of the true you. Loving yourself unabashedly will ensure the journey of a lifetime.