What does it take to be a friend?
Over the years I’ve had several different definitions of friends. I remember back in freshman year of high school, I was a bit nerdy but wanted to be cool too. I was mocked mercilessly by the cool kids. I even got into a few fights during football.
Back then I thought that if you weren’t part of a big group of people, you didn’t have friends. But really, I just wanted to be friends with people that didn’t want to be friends with me. I did play games through the computer on dial-up with a few guys down the street—Command and Conquer Red Alert. We’d play horse sometimes too, but I wasn’t all that good nor did I ever really aspire to be. These guys were my friends, but I wasn’t the greatest friend to them.
I got a bit “cooler” when I started playing lacrosse. Got a little more coordinated. I remember one of the guys that was a senior when I was a freshman on the football team, Will Davis, came back to visit and he saw me. He was like, “damn, dude something’s different—you must have gotten laid or something.“ I hadn’t, but I took it as a compliment.
I was finding things I liked and finding people who enjoyed the same. We’d go out for pizza after games, smoke bowls in the woods. But still, I felt like an outsider.
So I was trying to be their friend, but kinda feeling I was different because I was a nerd and didn’t really know how to have friends. This was a group that I felt I only partially belonged to. They existed before I met them, friends for years, but they were welcoming, good people. They invited me to their parties. I remember my buddy Rick was the coolest dude. He had all the best parties, and was back then already “the dude.” You know the dude.
I moved on to college and stayed friends with these guys, as well as with another crew that had developed during my later high school years. It was a friendship that developed mostly over the Beastie Boys, Tupac, DMX, Biggie and a subwoofer. Maybe add Goldschläger and a kinship in suffering to the list. I figured out how to be friends with people when I partied with them.
But this kind of friend, the kind of friend that you get stoned with, that you drink beers with, that you go to concerts with isn’t always there for you when you get seriously depressed, start hating the world and thinking that your brain and body were broken for good.
I don’t blame them one bit. I didn’t know how to handle me either. During those times, you realize who your true friends really are, or at least you realize who knows a little more about how to be a friend.
And so going from broken, to a community of people that loved each other dearly in a matter of moments (I moved to the Himalayan Institute)—I was taken to this magical world of family. I learned that to be a friend meant to give everything you had to someone.
It was something that came naturally to me.
While living there, I looked back and saw myself chasing the football people, the lacrosse people or my friends who were still partying—even when they didn’t want to hang out with me because I was depressed.
All I wanted to do was go out and give a positive energy outwards, even when I was feeling bad. I felt bad for feeling bad because I wanted to make the people around me feel good. All I wanted to do was give. But at the Himalayan Institute I learned how to be whole in relation to a community where everyone gives selflessly of themselves to the whole, that unbreakable group I always wanted.
Then, I moved away and into a long term relationship, where I was able to give and give everything I could into one person. This was my new definition of friendship, after all: giving everything you had to a whole. Man, is that depleting and stupid.
I pushed aside real friends again for something that was going to last, for sure. My one chance to be able to just give everything, right? I had to give to someone and feel that ability to be whole. And isn’t giving my true nature, after all? Certainly this was the way to go.
So then that didn’t work out. I chased a business for a few more years. Had a few friends, here and there. Good friends. I’m in the process of learning about being friends. It’s feeling better. Things are pretty good. I can tell it’s not perfect yet, the flow isn’t ideal. Something isn’t right.
I didn’t feel like I felt at the institute. If I was in need and a friend gave to me, I felt bad for accepting because I feel like I should be able to do things on my own.
I felt a physical guilt for receiving, and I’m not on everyone’s guest lists. I’m still hanging out alone a lot, working. I think I said it was because I worked so much that I wasn’t currently great with friends. Hard to keep up with them. I also made excuses that I didn’t know the right kind of people to hang out with where I lived.
But then a few weeks ago, something remarkable happened. It had been developing over time, and was something that I already knew to be true in concept. Finally, I admitted it once and for all, that I needed to totally and completely befriend my own heart and tell it that I loved it no matter what happened.
This discovery led to the ability to overcome the fears I had towards pursuing my dreams, but also it gave me the freedom to start to learn how to be a good friend to others. The process of becoming a good friend to myself and others is actually very similar. When I befriended myself, I realized that the way to let go of anything on the outside affecting how I feel was to just love myself.
But I realized that this wasn’t it. There were certain times that I was attached to things, that I could not let go of. Self love and non-attachment were not enough. It was then I remembered from my training at the Himalayan Institute that “dharma” or “duty” is the one thing that it’s okay to be attached to.
At that point I started to realize that if I couldn’t let go of something—say it was the way that a certain conversation ended. And for myself I needed to find resolution—it was my duty to find the secret key behind why I was in pain at that time, and it was my duty to keep that relationship intact.
Thinking back, it made sense. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait had always said that the best definition of dharma was “your family, your job, the food you eat…those things that are necessary to fulfill your purpose.”
Suddenly, I had the confidence to be honest with myself and others. I was able to tell people that I was unable to continue in a certain direction. I was able to figure out for myself which things to do based on what I felt was the biggest, best thing I could accomplish in the world with the skills that I have.
It didn’t all move like clockwork. I came off too strong with my honesty with people. Spoke when it wasn’t appropriate. But then I realized that I needed to learn how to speak my truth and the art of how to express my emotions is still something that I am still working on.
First, you must agree to make it a practice to love yourself no matter what happens.
Then you must commit to going after your heart’s deepest desires at any moment. This makes it possible to stay friends with yourself.
After that, you have to begin to give everything you have to others without any expectation of anything in return, and you have to refine your skills of giving.
You must learn how to give one drop at a time. Only what is necessary and compelled at that moment. You see your friends as their greatest selves. So for a painter, I see his amazing painting abilities and I ask him questions in the direction of his largest dreams, while encouraging him to continue to dream bigger and touch more hearts and make more money with his craft by telling him that I see how awesome he is, and telling him he has my support. If he is happy with where he is, I love him there.
I love my brother for showing me the video games he plays. When he tells me about his new light-glove hobby, I invite him to do a show with my friends when I put on a show, eventually. I open up his dreams to his bigger, more amazed and calmer heart and I invite him into that space.
To be a good friend you also have to allow people to give their gifts to you. You have to accept them in a non-judgmental, non attached way. That isn’t to say that you don’t give them your feedback. *&^#, please people give me your feedback, because all I want to do is give, and if you can help me give in a cleaner, purer, more acceptable way, please.
To be a friend, you must love and encourage both yourself and others, and be non-attached to the outcome of how things work out. At the same time, hard work, non-attachment, love and focus have been said to be the recipe for success.
Jordan Epstein is an “isness” coach, entrepreneur, aspiring MC, sometimes actor, yogi learner scientist dude in Venice, CA – a place he finds quite suitable to launch his adventures. He’s ranged between a dedicated and reluctant hatha yogi ever since a motor-vehicle accident in 2004, but is a jnani for life (J-side). Jordan loves things that keep him inspired. Little things, big things. Beautiful things. Awful things. And the breath, what would we do without it? You can find more of his writings at www.atjordanepstein.com. He’s here to help, so reach out!
Editor: Mel Squarey