17 days ago I started the practice of Being my own Best Friend, and I’ve wanted to spill the beans of what has happened in life and my reflections on it since.
The picture on the left comes from Ecstatic Thursday, the day when being my own best friend was turning my soul into such sweetness that I had to run out of a work-related meeting, lie down amidst the flowers, and catch it on photo to share some of my felt delight with my friends.
But let me try to be a bit more chronological. One of the first obstacles I had to overcome in myÂ contemplationÂ on what it really means to be my own best friend was, “Do I really have a best friend?”
I mean, yes, sure, I do have a best friend, but is he going to cry when I die?
My own crying isn’t a good comparison in this matter: I already shed a tear or two when I see people hugging on TV. It took me a couple of days to figure out if my best friend, U., really is my best friend. When I visited him a week or so ago I found that,Â definitely, he is – and I told him so, which was an added pleasure. So yes, that obstacle has been overcome, but it illustrates what I feel to be a necessary part of these experiments. Seriously look at everything that comes up â€•Â ruthlessly facing the reality of what my body-soul-mind-spirit-system offers, exploring the whole range of what friendship means to me.
I was amazed at what I found out after a few days when investigating the origins of the word “friend:” The Germanic root of friend is “vriunt, friunt”, which means “the loving one; the one that loves [der Liebende]”. Moreover, “friunt” is closely connected to “vri, fri”, meaning, yes you guessed right, “free”. Vri, fri means, “to belong to the loved ones, the tribe, the clan, and thereby to be protected”, and/or “beloved, wanted, wished for”. Contemplating this heritage of friendship was and is a delight, “To be free is to belong to loved ones, and to be a friend is to be a loving one.”
Being my own best friend is all about love â€•Â which in Ancient Greece came in four different flavors: agape, eros, storge and philia, of which the last one is often used translated as friendship (philosophy, “friend of wisdom” from philia and sophia). Aristotle, which I read in the Wikipedia article about Philia says interesting things about friendship, somehow sums up why one actually should be one’s own best friend, “the good person must be a self-lover, since he will both help himself and benefit others by performing fine actions. But the vicious person must not love himself, since he will harm both himself and his neighbours by following his base feelings.”
The first 10 days of this self-bestfriending practice where very encouraging, easy, most of the time imbued with a deep sense of well-being enhanced with the contemplation that this is the foundation of being my own best friend, this sense of bringingÂ well-being to myself.
And then it got challenging, all the ‘good feelings’ left me. My ordinary sense of self returned, a sense of slightÂ skepticismÂ ’bout everything; this may sound harsh – at times it actually is – but it’s founded on what I learnt through my parents, cultural history, growing up in opposition to the given order of matters and things, “You can’t take anything for granted;” “You have to question everything and everyone;” “You’ve got to continually prove you’re worthy of all that is good;” etc.
I didn’t wake up in the morning anymore, like in the first ten days, automatically remembering that “I’m my own best friend,” which meant a whole-bodilyÂ remembranceÂ until that point. Rather, some mornings I entirely forgot and only remembered later on the day – to my dismay! “What’s happening,” I thought. “Why isn’t this happening all by itself now?” Maybe I’m mistaken about Neuroplasticity?
It took a couple of days before I realized that being my own best friend wasn’t about feelings. It’s about facts. The sweetÂ ecstasiesÂ of self-friendship, and the feelings of friendship with people I interacted with, the deep feeling of connection I share with a very few people, and so on, these emotions can be mistaken for friendship, for love even.
Let me give an example; I have a son. If anyone would ask me at any moment, “Do you love your son?” I’d answer unequivocally, “Yes!” I wouldn’t go check my feelings first and then answer according to what I find. Rather, my feelings would follow my response – right after giving my answer my feelings would acknowledge what I just said. Please don’t misunderstand; often my feeling will be faster than my answers or even thoughts, but in the case of relationships it seems these feelings are there toÂ anchor, acknowledge, affirm what I am already certain of. [An aside: You may not know that I know, in one glance, if a person is a real friend or not – it’s a soul2soul thing that I’ve learnt to recognize. That doesn’t mean that I know how it will develop, I just know the foundation.]
So, maybe losing the first rush of self-friending is a good thing; I’m deciding that it is so. Neuroplasticity is, once your brain has responded by building the proper neuro-infrastructure, all about automating the behavior and way of being that you install. So that it can run in the background with all the other functions and behaviors that we do not have the consciousness-bandwidth to run in clear awareness. (Here for a book I read ages ago on the bandwidth of consciousness.)
[An aside, as the above terminology can sound harsh. A metaphor I use to make this view clear â€•Â consciousness is akin to water. Boundless consciousness is like the ocean; there isn’t a clear sense of self or anything else for that matter. Our character is like a huge delta of a river, all the little streams and rivulets are the way the water takes.Â Our personalÂ characterÂ and our brain are pretty much the same; you damage your brain, your character changes dramatically.Â So our character is the form, the riverbed of the originally totally free flow of water/consciousness. Also: We can only focus on a very small area of the delta at any given time. What I callÂ bandwidthÂ of consciousness above I’d better call bandwidth forÂ focusedÂ consciousness. Maybe more about this at some other time.]
So now, after 17 days of practicing Being my own Best Friend I’ve come to understand and trust that apparently my whole body-soul-mind-spirit-system has already automated self-friending. I’ll still, in the spirit of completion, go for the full 21 days of conscious practice, but not out of need, or to be sure. I know that there’ll be moments to come when my awareness notices, “Hey, this happens because I’m my own best friend,” but there is no need toÂ verify it any other way. Real friendship doesn’t need verification. You just know, you’re certain.
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
â€•Â Rumi, translated by Colin Barks