In Buddhism there’s a single term that encompasses multiple types of friendship; Kalyāṇa-mittatā. It represents the overarching concept of “spiritual friendships” within their community, whereby friendships are formed by individuals who share similar ethical values, as well as a mutual pursuit of enlightenment.
I like that. The mutual pursuit of enlightenment.
I like to look at friendship as the collective energy of two (or more) people.
Think about the energy you give off after having gotten into a argument with a disagreeable colleague at work, versus the energy you give off after having spent time bonding or laughing in the company of close friends.
The beauty of friendship is that it is elective. There are no contractual obligations or blood relations. We choose our friends, just as we choose our environments, in order to grow.
Spiritually, emotionally, physically.
The friends we choose to surround ourselves with, are ultimately the environments in which we choose to grow.
Just as a plant blossoms in an environment suited to its needs, so do we. A maple tree could never grow unless its seeds were planted into the earth (its environment), with the right amount of water and exposure to the sun’s rays. If the seeds remain in a glass jar, the tree will never grow.
A personal mantra that I’ve often shared with you is “our vibes attract our tribes”.
The energy we emit into the world will attract similarly “charged” people. Positivity attracts positivity.
Life isn’t linear, and having a network of friends is tantamount to having a support system during the oscillating good times and bad. Ultimately though, the key benefit that I see in true friendship, long term or short, is that it makes life better.
The link between friendship + health?
In contrast to friendship, is loneliness, which can be a vortex of self-criticism and emotional instability. We’ve all been there, to some degree or another. The disappointment after a group of friends bail on plans at the last minute. The self-doubt that sinks in from the all-consuming thoughts that surface from spending too much time alone. Severe loneliness has been found to lead to varying degrees of depression, and even an increase in one’s risk of dying early (by up to 26%).
When the safety net or comfort that comes from having a supportive community is removed, we begin to see the world as a threatening environment. When this occurs, the associated physiological effects include higher blood pressure, anxiety and increased heart rate. Over time, these conditions can wreak havoc on our immune and cardiovascular systems.
Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.
Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, says that, “friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.” – more here.
Added benefits of having a well-tended community of friends and support system in place include the ability to better:
- Fight illness and depression,
- Reduce the aging process and increase one’s longevity,
- Promote brain health as we get older.
So why does it sting so badly when a friend decides to leave us?! Or subsequently, how do we know when when the time is right for us to end a friendship?
When a friend consciously chooses to exit our lives, the pain can run deep. The emotional reaction of feeling hurt occurs because we begin to think that perhaps the safety net associated with that friendship may have been an illusion all along. Were they ever really my friend?
It’s also a question of our own judgment and self-views. Was I wrong in judging their character? Is there something about my character that is unloveable? Or is there an external force, influencing them toward another direction?
Setting aside the selfish aspect of friendship (in how it helps us to grow or how it benefits us), we have to ask ourselves: does this friend help me to become a better person?
Am I emotionally independent when I’m with this person?
I truly believe that we cannot achieve our full potential, or greatness, without the support and care that comes from profound friendships and relationships with others. Because of this, it becomes paramount to elect friends who encourage you to be a better person, and who emit a positive energy.
The more negative a person or group of persons, if we continue to expose ourselves to that toxic energy (yes, toxic) it can almost feel insurmountable to break free from their patterns of behaviours. Gossip, speaking ill of others, or simply just complaining and being unhappy together.
With that said, looking at friendship from both angles; a collective energy and a mutual pursuit of enlightenment, it’s important to know when to blow the candle out on a friendship that is no longer serving us.
If after spending time with a friend, you’re left feeling insulted, unhappy, emotionally unfulfilled, resentful, or just drained and tired, it may be that time. Tell them how they make you feel, first. And if it persists, you have to look out for your emotional and psychological well-being.
We can elect to no longer be in each other’s lives, we can inadvertently hurt that other person, we can be hurt by them, and sometimes the friendship flame can fizz out on it’s own.
A big part of self-care is having the courage to blow the candle out on friendships that leave us feeling hurt, worthless, drained or insulted.
We are all on the pursuit of happiness, well-being and enlightenment. Each and every one of us. So the purpose of friendship, is really to find a symbiotic relationship that supports one another’s pursuit.
Friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship – or at least it should be; we lean on each other and we help one another to grow.
When you’ve found a group of friends, or even just a select few (studies show health benefits stem from a network of 3-4 or more), hang on to them tightly. Friendships CAN last a lifetime, when the environments are tended to carefully, and effort and support are reciprocal. The benefits can run deep, too, via mind, body, and spirit.
Photographs by: Tom Reynolds of Tom Reynolds Photography and Moussa Faddoul of Fotoreflection.
Shot on site: The Loft Hotel, Montreal, QC. April 16, 2016.
Classic black bow ties sponsored by Bows-n-Ties.
Nick Joly | Inspired by Nick