March 22, 2014

Are We Losing Friends as We Walk The Spiritual Path? ~ Samantha Nolan Smith


When I first immersed myself in the world of yoga and meditation, I had no idea that my friendships would be affected.

I was fascinated with the world that yoga was revealing to me, but it was so different to the world I’d come from, that the two were difficult to reconcile.

Initially I operated as a kind of hybrid being, embracing the new as I held tight to the old. I was yogini in the day and party girl at night! But this Jekyll and Hyde approach to life simply wasn’t sustainable (have you ever tried yoga with a hangover? It’s unbearable).

Eventually I made a deeper commitment to my spiritual life and decided to train as a yoga teacher. It was then that I realized my days of partying were coming to an end. I’d completely lost my tolerance for the pub environment and for the small talk that it engenders. I wanted to spend my weekends learning about the chakras and chanting my way to bliss, not drinking too much and bemoaning the state of the world.

In many ways, the spiritual path is rough. It strips us before it reveals what lies beneath. Not everyone wants to be stripped or is ready to be stripped though. Certainly none of my friends were interested in yoga when I started omming my way through the day.

So what to do when we find that ourselves and our friends are headed in directions which are diametrically opposed?

1. Don’t become a missionary.

Converting loved ones is one of the most common tactics people employ. People naturally seek to share the things they love, particularly if it has made them happier, which is inevitably the case with spiritual and personal development work.

Nevertheless, my advice is not to push it. Don’t try to change your friends. We’re all ready when we’re ready and not a moment before. So don’t try to drag them along. They won’t appreciate it and we’ll probably cause more harm than good.

2. Try to find some middle ground.

See if you can find new ways to get together. Shift catch ups from dinner and drinks to brunch. See if they’re willing to meet you for a walk or to have a picnic. It doesn’t always have to be a question of whether to attend kirtan night at your local yoga studio or go drinking at the pub.

Alternatively, if our friendships have been based on our mutual single status, and we just can’t bare another conversation about how all the good men are either gay or taken, then simply change the topic. Stop being drawn into the poor me pity pool. People are varied and complex beings and if we dig deep enough, we might be surprised to find a mutual love of something totally unexpected—cross stitching, whittling, or bird watching.

3. Don’t assume they’re not interested. 

Sharing some of our experiences can be inspiring. When I used to teach yoga, I was always surprised at how many people who had ostensibly come to class to fix a physical problem were actually really interested in the spiritual side of yoga.

The spiritual thirst in the world today is enormous. People just don’t want it shoved down their throats. So share what has happened to you, the benefits to you. Share it the same way you might share something great that happened at work.

We don’t share good work news with the intention of trying to get our friends to quit their jobs and come and work with us. We share it as a celebration. Take the same approach with your personal development wins, and then, when people are ready (and most importantly, when they see the changes in you), they’ll make further inquiries.

4. Don’t hold yourself back. 

Don’t let their choices define your experience. In embarking on the path of spiritual and personal development, we have made a choice—a choice that freedom matters to us.

Not everyone has that same intention in their lives.

Don’t worry about what others are doing. Stay true to what works best for you and know that when we stop worrying about what we’ve left behind and start noticing what is right in front of us, we might just find a whole new family of friends who are willing to meet us exactly where we are right now.

5. Hold friendships in an open palm.

Personally, I’ve always wanted one thing: To be surrounded by a community of women who are awake, conscious, inspiring, and changing the world in their own unique and extraordinary ways. Guess what the karma of that prayer is? There’s not a lot of time left for people who aren’t walking that path.

They are dear, beloved people who are simply making different choices.

Choices that I have a huge amount of respect for. Choices that work for them. Choices that lead them down all sorts of wonderful paths and into amazing adventures. Just not the same paths and adventures as mine. Friendships are valuable. They’re meaningful. And they must be held with an open palm. Clinging to them only damages and ultimately kills them.

Loving with an open palm is the way we bless a friendship. The way we honour what we’ve shared.

Then you never know. I’ve had the most amazing people come back into my life after many years away. People I thought I’d never see again, who’ve suddenly shown up because we’re suddenly speaking the same language. Through strange twists and turns, we find ourselves reconnecting but at a deeper, more authentic, and more meaningful way than we did in the past.

And that’s the possibility inherent in every friendship that falls away. That it will be rekindled. That we’ll walk our own paths and find a new meeting point somewhere further down the track.

Just don’t hold too tight. You both deserve to be free.


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Editorial Assistant: Judith A. / Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: Courtesy of Mizrak on Flickr.

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