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Recently, I experienced the ending of a friendship.
While this feels like something that would happen to the junior high school version of myself, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this did happen and, more importantly, that it needed to happen.
Without going into too much story and adding to the drama of it all, suffice to say, I came to realize that I needed to hold fast to a boundary that helped me feel safe. I had not been maintaining it steadily, and by not doing this I had started to feel worn down, unsafe, unappreciated, and ultimately resentful.
Once I began to hold my boundary, I found that the friendship broke down quickly, and after a huge implosion, it came to an end. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s a forever ending or not, but for the sake of this exploration, I’m going to treat it that way.
Several weeks later, I find myself still in a state of surprise and deep sadness about it all. Some of my friends love to say things like every ending is a beginning, all things end at some point, and all in divine timing. While I absolutely recognize those truths, I know I’m not at that stage yet.
I’m still in the shock of losing one of my best friends. I’m not ready to jump to the lesson, and I’m not willing to bypass this part of the journey, which feels like it has potent energy if I can give in to it.
I’ve noticed there is an urge to fill in the space that is now open. Where I used to spend the hours of my day texting, talking, and connecting with this person, I now have time and energy to spend it in other ways. Oh, the discomfort of it…the ways in which my ego and mind can find ways to fill in that space with anything from romance novels to bad TV shows, food, and online dating apps.
Anything to not feel the sadness of the ending, or to be faced with the abyss of space in front of me.
I have no idea how to be with all of this, and yet I want to surrender to the feeling of sadness, spaciousness, and the release of an ending. I know this is the best way I can process this fully and then move on in a healthy way. As those friends of mine like to say, “The only way through is through.”
It feels like a breakup, and in fact, this is what it is.
So, I find ways to begin to accept this ending. As a long-time yoga student and teacher, I have the tools and knowledge. I consider my physical existence and I exhale fully, holding my breath out for a moment—noticing the emptiness. The practice of breath retention in yoga is called kumbhaka. More specifically, to hold the breath out is called bahya.
I realize I can be empty for a bit and still exist, at least for a few minutes. And afterward, I realize I’m likely the better for it; this practice can be calming and centering. My higher self is delighted with this experiment and urges me on.
Another week goes by and we come upon Shivaratri, the night of Shiva, who is known as the Hindu god connected to the energy of endings. How interesting that this happened just now. All in divine timing indeed.
That night, I chant, “Om Namah Shivayah” to gently release the energy around this friendship with grace and ease. I begin to feel a sense of softness around the friendship, and I find myself sending my former friend forgiveness from a place of heartfelt compassion.
I think about how to incorporate this into my spiritual practice and consider starting where I already am. It’s easy to like endings in some situations; who doesn’t love the end of the workday or work week or the end of the school year? Time to play! It is so easy to enjoy that type of ending.
Next, can we start to play with welcoming the end of more neutral events, like finishing brushing our teeth, or getting to the end of a great book or our favorite TV series? How do we allow for our feelings to arise in those moments?
Then we start to practice with harder things, and in this life, there is no shortage. We lose a job or a home, or our beloved pet passes away, and other, perhaps, even more significant and painful endings happen—one after another.
While it is difficult, with practice we can be in the place of acceptance where we stay present during these events. Having our fullest presence for these experiences doesn’t mean we are inviting them in, or that we’re in a hurry to lose someone or something.
It simply means that we are meeting life as it comes.
As I continue to process, notice, and breathe, something surprising arises: a sense of relief. There is a release of the grief and anger toward my former friend. There is a sense of appreciation for the years we had together. I also feel secure in knowing that I no longer must hold those boundaries around myself to feel safe.
I can inhale fully, hold it gently, and exhale fully. The breathing comes easier now.
And then, in a lucid dream, Saraswati, the goddess of literature, music, and dance comes to me and instructs me to write this all down. She tells me to embrace endings and goes on to whisper this article into my ear.
The deep emotions and sense of space have given rise to creative expression. How can I be anything but grateful for the process?
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