In India, I made new friends with people whose paths never would have crossed mine unless we were on retreat together.
Regina, mother of 5, yoga teacher, from Germany. Mitchell, popular dermatologist and father of two grown sons. Pat, massage therapist, yoga teacher, grandmother. Stevie, yoga teacher, retired grandfather, energetic shopper. Meriam, 40-something physician searching for her self.
It was a small, intimate group, and Katherine kept saying our souls had contracts with one another, to be together on this spiritual exploration circling the globe.
On retreat, our best and our worst come out in full force. Uncomfortable with the differences in culture and cleanliness, we react, emotions pouring forth. And these are not long-time best friends around us – they’re new people to our lives who deal with our outbursts as best they can.
What a lesson. What a way to make a friend.
There are people I’ve known all my life, who are so familiar, I almost feel like I know them better than I know myself. There are new friends whose presence is such a gift, it’s like a sparkling new jewel just out of the velvet box.
And then there are the people who come into your life unexpected and suddenly, you have a new dear friend because you met out of context and have a deeper soul connection than you might have ever had with anyone else.
When in adulthood do we make new friends? It’s not an everyday occurrence, like it is with my children. We go to a park to play on a spring afternoon and suddenly, they have new friends. Sometimes they don’t even ask each other’s names – they just share in each other’s light and wonder, scaling the play structures, swinging to the moon.
We are so wrapped up in our own stories and anxieties, we can’t let go like they do. Pump your legs to the sky and back. Close your eyes and let the wind take you. As adults, we forget how easy it is to let go.
And when you let go, when you truly explore the depths of experience in each moment, that’s when you make the best friends.
A few years ago, the people I considered my closest friends were individuals who didn’t reciprocate. I chose people who were emotionally unavailable, not realizing that I had put myself in a position to feel rejected, chasing them down for plans and conversations. Each of them a wonderful soul at the core, burdened by their own demons that prevent them from truly connecting.
I didn’t see it. And then I’d wonder why it took a week for a return call or a call that never came. What had I done wrong, what left me longing.
Nothing. I was making the wrong choices. It’s hard to see in the light of a regular day. Our daily lives with all of our material trappings obscure truth and meaning. It is so easy to get caught up in wanting, needing, clinging, worrying.
That’s no landscape for building good relationships. It has to come from a place of depth, of meaning, of soul for it to last.
When you go on retreat with people, true colors come out bright and vigorous. You see whom you want in your life, and whom you don’t. It’s a gift, this clarity, and it’s something that is hard to achieve in our regular routines.
The philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
It takes a great leap of faith to let go and love. But it is so worth it. That’s where life really shines.