Being a friend to oneself is a strange concept for many people. First of all, how is it even possible? A friend is always on the outside, another, there has to be two to have a friendship. There are also many cultural, religious and spiritual taboos involved in having any kind of focus on oneself.

The truth of the matter is that being a friend to yourself is the premise of an attitudinal wholeness that launches right relationship with others and life.

It’s odd that when it comes to self-criticism we don’t have the challenge of “how.” As a single entity we’re still able to excel at it! Yet when it comes to any kind of self-acknowledgment, it’s rejected out of hand. We seek acceptance and approval from everyone else but ourselves.

We go out of our way to be nice to others, but don’t give ourselves the time of day. There’s a great willingness to sacrifice for others, without ever replenishing ourselves. All the positive character qualities we display in relation to others seem to disappear when it comes to our own needs.

Not being friends with oneself is simply unsustainable.

Let’s put aside actually befriending oneself for now. The first step is to consider the possibility. It’s one logical thought away.

Who do you spend the most time with over a lifetime? Yourself. What is one requirement of being friends with another? Spending time together. Consider that even when you’re with company, you’re still also spending time with yourself.

Since this is so, why not make this inevitable time real in value and quality?

Let it be said that companionship, true friendship and social ties are very important. These connections are vital, but not without the core connection with oneself at the same time. Befriending oneself is also not only about being positive, self-esteem, confidence and motivation, although it will help in these areas too.

Befriending yourself is an act of courage, one that must be repeated throughout life. It’s for the practitioner. A practitioner is anyone who’s living an inner life first, being nakedly present with all experiences. Being a practitioner is an orientation to moment-to-moment self-exploration.

All your polarities are equally valid, whether weakness or strength. Nothing is regarded as irrelevant. Whatever happens in your life, both your neurosis and your enlightened state of being are functioning simultaneously, all the time.

— Chögyam Trungpa

One can’t avoid oneself. It’s not like you can let a call go to voicemail or not reply to an e-mail. You can bury yourself in work, busyness, entertainment, various distractions and still whatever you haven’t made friends with inside is going to get your attention. It has to for health and sanity.

Whether it’s personal growth or spiritual development, self-awareness and self-knowledge are key factors. When you’re close friends with someone, it means you know them very well. Often befriending oneself is mentioned in the context of not being harsh and judgmental of oneself, and it certainly has dividends there. There’s more to it though.

It’s about knowing yourself. It’s not only about embracing the less savory, but also engaging a strength that perhaps has gone unnoticed. It’s coming into your fullness.

There’s a crucial element of integrity here. One aspect of integrity is found in being sound, as in whole. There’s knowing yourself as a personality. There’s knowing your inner beingness. If you don’t know yourself well or don’t have awareness of the layers of your identity, these gaps lessen your systemic integrity. To be sound we must have understanding and that can only happen with care and attention.

In the West people treat awareness as a thought process rather than a heart-mind process. But our awareness actually comes from the heart-mind. Shifting our identification from the ego to the heart-mind is the beginning of individual spiritual work.

— Ram Dass

Being a practitioner of awareness and awakeness is a pathless path. The path is revealed as we commit to it and journey on it. One of the most common practices available to support us is meditation. And it’s much misunderstood:

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

— Pema Chödrön

And what of befriending Life? The bottomline is this:

What you do for yourself—any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty, will affect how you experience your world.

— Pema Chödrön

Everything begins within. Happiness, health, relationships, output, contribution, work, all begin within. It can’t be any other way because the person we are is really an inner environment. The motive force of life is internal. We source our life from an inner locus.

The shell is not me, I came as the royal pearl within.

— Rumi

As practitioners we cultivate awareness or presence. This is what allows us to notice what isn’t noticeable in the ‘noise’ of living. We notice we’re part of a web of life. We notice that each strand in the web is integral. We notice that the web of life is nonhierarchical. The health of the web depends on the health of each strand, and vice versa.

And we’re constantly creating the web, together with all the other strands. What we source within our being has a ripple effect across the web of life. If we don’t treat ourselves in a friendly manner, we don’t treat life in a friendly manner. If we don’t know ourselves well, it’s difficult to know life well.

And loop is reversed too. Starting from a place of disconnection within leads to more resentment and confusion when difficult situations arise in life. When life is approached with misunderstandings and it has no choice but to reflect that back to us, we close off even more and resist more stubbornly.

One is a free-flowing loop of reciprocity and co-creation. The other is a tightening noose. Which would you prefer?

It is a radical shift to embrace any reactivity we experience and not make an enemy of it… Our liberation, our freedom is in attending to our greatest fears with an allowing presence. The action of turning toward that which we perceive as the block in our lives is the act of self-compassion.

— Robert Gonzales


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Befriending Yourself; Befriending Life