It is interesting that the wisdom teachers strongly suggest that we choose our friendships carefully.
For instance, the Buddha precedes the Eightfold path (which is the path out of suffering) with an admonition regarding friendships.
The Buddha said not to form friendships with foolish people.
I don’t believe that the Buddha was castigating people who act in foolish ways, for he was compassionate towards all beings—all forms of life.
But he was teaching the principle now known in quantum physics: whatever fires together wires together.
Thoughts and feelings are contagious. We catch them from one another. Thus it is imperative if we are to live our values to be around people who have similar values.
Choose the people we hang out with carefully!
We cannot choose our family members, or those we work with perhaps. But we can choose how much of our leisure time we spend with them.
Choose wisely whom we associate with. This makes all the difference in following our intentions.
What are our intentions? It is good to write them down so that we see them clearly. Then we need to seek out people who are headed in a similar direction.
Community is vital for our very survival. Not one of us can survive alone. Relationship is what connects us to others and to the very essence of life itself. We are not isolated beings and are not meant to live disconnected from each other.
It is necessary to take time to reflect upon our deep friendships. Who really has our back? Who can we call on in times of difficulty? Who has our best interests at heart?
What kind of advice do we get from our friends? Do they indulge us? Are they trying to manipulate us? Do they want us to follow their path?
One way to discern the quality of our friendships is to evaluate how we feel after we have been with them. Are we energized in ways that cause us joy and satisfaction? Or do we feel depleted?
Have we been caught into another’s web of drama?
If the latter is our experience, we need to make new choices. It is good to wish everyone well, but we don’t have to dance with every partner.
Choose our own dance and find partners who have similar steps.
And most importantly, are we a friend to ourselves? Or do we fall into criticism each time we make a mistake or feel embarrassed? Are we paying attention to what our inner voices are saying? If not, we are foolish.
Neurology shows us that mind structures our brain. Are we building new structures in our brain by going down a new path? Or are we falling into the same old ruts? Does our conditioning run our lives? Does life feel stale?
We choose our thoughts carefully or we fall into our old conditioning.
What is our intention?
Skillful intention (which is part of the Eightfold path) is stronger than conditioning. And we are always choosing which path to follow. We are not victims.
We are either for ourselves or against ourselves. Which will it be?
Friendships need to be cultivated. They take time. They don’t arise full blown. It is often the case that those we are instantly attracted to don’t wear well. And vice versa. Often those we find difficulty with at first turn out to be our best friends.
Friendships are the ways we connect with each other. We join together to fulfill purposes. But we must be our own friend first. We must have our best interests at heart. Let this be our intention.
Choose well, my friend. We may find it is our friends who save us from loneliness and despair. This has certainly been my experience.
How many people can you count on in your life?
And are you a truly good friend to yourself? Are you compassionate (not indulgent) when you are in pain?
I invite you to share the following intentions to cultivate true friendship within yourself:
“I care for my pain and my suffering.”
“I wish myself well, as I wish all other beings well.”
And then bless each other being as he or she comes to your mind throughout your days and nights.
Be a friend towards everyone, but choose your dance partners well.