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How Meditation Can Help You Find the Perfect Friend

Meditation

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I meet with a lot of people who say things like, “Oh, I’ve tried meditation before but I’m just not good at it.” When asked to explain, the most common answer is, “I just can’t make my mind get quiet.”

I’ve heard responses like this so often that I’ve come to realize that this is the single greatest misunderstanding about meditation. In truth, meditation is not about calming our mind or achieving a state free from mental noise and cognitive clutter. Far from it, actually.

I have many decades worth of experience practicing meditation. Still, when I sit cross-legged, my mind floats and roams through shifting states like a cloud-adorned sky filled with hundreds of colorful kites.

Thoughts of my wife and children mix with those of household chores, distant goals, past memories, judgments about a fly that lands on my ear, or the sound of a neighbor’s lawnmower I wish was not there.

And, sure, there are times when my consciousness—my sense of an individual self—dissolves into a state of vacuous bliss and timelessness, but this just happens sometimes, and that’s okay. Whenever it does happen, that’s successful meditation. Whenever it doesn’t, that’s successful meditation too. 

During meditation, no matter how busied and chaotic the inner activity of your mind may be, you’re successfully meditating, because meditation isn’t about calming your mind. It’s about spending quality time with the most important person in your life: you!

This is the true method (and goal) of meditation. We sit, pausing to pay attention to what’s really going on inside ourselves.

We enter our home and witness what’s happening there, whatever this may be. In so doing, we discover ourselves, who and how we really are, something we only fully notice when we allow ourselves to take a brief hiatus from the daily hustle of life on planet Earth.

It’s like taking a moment to sit down with someone over a cup of coffee or tea, except that, in this case, this someone is you.

And once you’re face-to-face with this person, you can really start to build an extraordinary relationship with him or her.

You can genuinely connect with yourself in a way that is rarely possible while the “two of you” are preoccupied with picking up the dry cleaning, taking the kids to school, answering emails, or a thousands other activities that so quickly seem to crowd each day.

Really, this is such an important relationship! But how often do we set aside time to connect with ourselves in such a simple yet beautiful way, to truly meet and spend time with ourselves?

That’s all that meditation is. It’s an opportunity for us to build a peaceful, harmonious friendship with this essential person in our life, just like we would with anyone else.

Our favorite people in the world are those who we know judge us the least. These are the people who we know like us for who and how we are exactly. They don’t criticize or scold us or demand us to be different. Around such people, we know we can be most fully ourselves, without walking on eggshells or fearing reprimand. This is the very definition of true friendship.

Mediation provides us with a chance to build such a relationship with ourselves. I call this internal friendship and it’s cultivated just like any other friendship, by sparing this person from judgment about right or wrong, good or bad.

When you like this person that is yourself for who he or she is exactly, demanding nothing, then a true internal friendship develops from this (not that it’s always easy).

When I was living at one monastery, we’d meditate each morning and night for an hour and half each sitting.

I didn’t have a ton of experience at the time, so this was supremely tortuous for me. I remember often angrily glaring at the master—a docile, elderly Sri Lankan monk—psychically trying to get him to ring the bell that would conclude our session. I adamantly blamed my discomfort and anguish on him.

When my resentful stares failed, I’d have no choice but to turn inward again, facing all my thoughts about how “I can’t do this,” “This sucks,” “Why am I so much more pathetic than everyone else meditating around me?” “I’m not cut out for this.”

Then one day, it dawned on me. All I was doing was fighting with myself and, instead, I chose to let go, to embrace myself for being just as I was.

If I was in physical pain, I let myself just feel it. If I felt angry or frustrated, I gently reminded myself that this was okay. If my mind bounced around all over the place instead of resting in stillness, I allowed it. I stopped criticizing myself.

“This is me right now and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is me and that’s okay.” And, from this, I began to befriend myself, to genuinely like me for me.

Unexpectedly, as I did this, meditation suddenly became enjoyable for me. I’d sit, focus on my breathing, and just experience myself as is.

The internal chatter faded away and I’d become fully present, not only to myself, but to all around me, to each bird singing in the trees outside, each creak in the shifting walls of the temple, each whisper of breath from those around me.

By befriending myself in this way, a friendship to all existence developed. I finally experienced the calm I had chased for so long.

It is relatively easy for us to experience harmony, peacefulness, and calm within our relationships to our best and closest friends. As our internal friendship grows through meditation (just sitting with ourselves as we are without complaint), the calm that exists within our mental and emotional interior grows right along with it. See how this works?

Meditation builds friendship; friendship builds calm. This is so important that it bears repeating. Meditation builds friendship; friendship builds calm.

As we aim for greater calm in our lives, we cannot skip this important middle step of building friendship and still expect to reap great rewards.

The stillness that slowly emerges from a continued practice of meditation comes not from forcing ourselves to think less; it comes from allowing ourselves to be exactly as we are.

It comes from liking ourselves enough to spend some quality, unfettered time with ourselves, to just sit alone together for a bit, experiencing all that it means to be us in the moment amidst the limitless vastness of time and space.

As we sit with ourselves without judgment, friendship grows. We experience the joys of being liked and the joys of liking, both simultaneously. And when this all-important relationship blossoms as a result, a bounty of benefits emerge.

We begin to experience greater mental clarity, insight, awareness, and stillness. Meanwhile, we enjoy the emotional rewards of this internal harmony—more compassion, patience, calm, and feelings of loving-kindness.

As we cultivate friendship within ourselves, our overall ability to live in a spirit of friendship unfolds. Everything around us appears worthy of friendship. All of life, including its greatest difficulties and challenges, its ugliest scars and hardest woes, invites a graceful smile upon our hearts. We become capable of embracing everything with friendship.

This is what meditation is truly about, not creating an emptier mind, but building a true spirit of friendship, starting with the internal friendship we have with ourselves.

So, the next time this important person in your life asks you to sit down with him or her for a while, accept the invitation and see what happens.

Enjoy a little time together. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than this and, best of all, there’s nothing you can do to mess it up. Every moment of meditation is successful meditation.

Meditating image via Shutterstock

About Jason Fischer

Formerly a Buddhist monk, Jason B. Fischer, MA, LPC is the author of The Two Truths About Love: The Art & Wisdom of Extraordinary Relationships (New Harbinger, 2013) as well as the Founder and Clinical Director of Plumeria Counseling Center in Austin, Texas. He is a therapist, writer, public speaker, husband, and father of two beautiful sons.

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  • Such an interesting article Jason!

    Never saw meditation in that way.. Makes me want to give it another try 🙂

    Thank you!

  • Scott

    This was great. I always find myself going away from meditation when being alone with myself and my mind becomes a struggle. I start to judge myself for not being in a blissful state all of the time! But this was a great read for me. Thanks for such a beautiful article!

  • LesAnonymes

    I will often do a chakra meditation to quiet my mind before bed. I’ve been trying to followw the Deepak Chopra/Oprah 21 day mediation thing, but I feel to stressed…haha!

  • Jason Fischer

    Please do! I like to think of meditation kind of like an oven. If you place cake batter into an oven, it’s going to rise (no matter what the cake thinks about itself). The cake can actually just kick back and relax, because the oven is doing all the work. Meditation is the same way. We’re not meditating, the meditation is! And, whenever we sit in the oven for a little bit (no matter what we do or do not do while sitting there), we rise.

  • Jason Fischer

    You’re welcome! Enjoy just sitting with the beauty of the un-calm. You’ll see that the so-called struggle is simply another part of the cosmic dance. You can dance along with it without struggling at all. Thank you for commenting.

  • Thank you very much for this very useful and thought-provoking article on meditation.

    1. You start with an unnecessary lie, “In truth, meditation is not about
    calming our mind or achieving a state free from mental noise and cognitive clutter:
    Far from it actually.”

    And then, you reinforce it by saying, “…because meditation
    isn’t about calming your mind. It’s about spending quality time with the most
    important person in your life: you!”

    2. After achieving the real purpose of meditation, you blurt out the truth, “By
    befriending myself in this way, a friendship to all existence developed. I
    finally experienced the calm I had chased for so long.”

    3. We may achieve the same result, ‘calmness’ without repudiating the real
    objective of the meditation, i.e. establishing mental calm; perhaps more easily
    and faster, with a conscious commitment to become calm. The simple rule is that
    with the more clarity of intention, success becomes easier.

    4. I agree that inner conflicts are stumbling blocks and that attaining
    peace with yourself is the essential step.

    5. Detachment with the distracting elements and regular practice (abhyAsa and vairAgya) are the prescribed techniques for this. We may think and develop effective methods for
    this to suit individuals and circumstances.

    6. I agree with you that every moment of meditation is successful
    meditation. Infusing our effort with sincerity and dedication is the sine qua
    non of the meditation.

  • J

    I always tried and gave up on meditation, for the exact reason – I can’t calm my mind. This is so encouraging, I think I’ll give it another try. Thanks a lot for the article.

  • I love this, thank you for sharing! I’ll be sharing it with others in my network. You really described what meditation is so well, creating and nurturing a relationship with ourselves! Namaste

  • Sarah C

    jason thank you, i can feel the love from this post. mind was blown, so much to think about in a different way.

  • Laura

    Jason, this is one of the most beautiful perspectives I have ever absorbed on meditation. Bravo.

  • Jason Fischer

    K,

    Thanks for your comments! I’m not clear if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me or, as is most likely, some combination of the two. When you suggest this article begins with a lie, I wonder what you mean. Are you suggesting that I’m lying? Or that the “lie” is that the goal of meditation is to calm our mind? Either way, it seems we are in agreement that, quite obviously, struggling to calm one’s mind is counterproductive, since it merely stirs the mental pot up some more. By relinquishing the pursuit of calm, we more quickly achieve it. And, even if we don’t, that’s okay too. We sit with ourselves, and all of existence, simply as is and, in so doing, alight upon the splendor of things like a feather drifting to the ground.

  • Jason Fischer

    You’re most welcome. 🙂

  • Jason Fischer

    Aw, it’s true. I do love meditation and want others to discover just how beautiful it can be, and helpful. As we build less complicated and more loving friendships with ourselves through meditation, we learn how to relate with everyone in our lives in this way. Love then builds on love.

  • Jason Fischer

    Namaste! Indeed, there is no person more worthy of your friendship than yourself.

  • Jason Fischer

    I’m thrilled and honored that it spoke to you. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Jason Fischer

    Well, your stressed out self deserves your friendship too! “It’s okay that I’m stressed right. I can just sit here, with me, and learn who this important person in my life is, without judgment, without ridicule, without blame, without demanding anything different from this person other than what he/she is capable of giving and being right now. Who I am right now is okay, perfectly okay. Sitting here, like this, is okay. This is me and there is beauty in this, me being the only me I can be in this moment…”

  • Ann

    Awesome article! I have recently started meditation practice each morning for ONLY 5 minutes and it has totally improved my life. I read a book (Love Is the Explanation of Everything -Pope John Paul II) and focus on the positive message. It is wonderful and everyone should try it, even for a few minutes.

  • great analogy 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Patsie Smith

    Beautiful article Jason, thank you. Totally enjoyed it, so much truths, that’s why I enjoy meditations so much, its getting back to the real you. Meditations can become so commercialised and idealised as a form of escape that the true beauty of total presence and mindfulness is often overlooked. Love the article 🙂

  • Simon

    Hi Jason,
    Great post again. It’s only by loving and connecting with our true selves that we can feel at peace and fulfilled enough to love and connect with others without conditions. On the strength of your last post ‘Wanting more time: Have you lived enough?’ I purchased your book. I’m only half way through but so far it has to be one of the clearest, most useful books I have read on communication. What I love about the book is how it gives some really basic techniques for improving communication without the need to get the other person to change. By focusing on myself to deal with my own emotions and express myself in a less aggravating manner I can already see how I can improve the quality of my future relationships. Useful advice for someone recently divorced 🙂 Can’t wait to finish it. Thanks for your insight, it is greatly appreciated.

  • Kalyan

    Higher the stakes we have in this material world, it becomes difficult for us to hold the mind firm. I have experienced that unless we practice some amount of detachment in the way we look at this world, centering the mind is very difficult. Commitments, expectations and material possessions – unless we maintain a careful balance around these, the mind will always float aimlessly. Buddha was wise, he renounced the world before the took the path of enlightenment…..

  • I love this — thank you for sharing! This is a great way to think about meditation and it makes me want to get right back to it every day!

  • I really enjoyed this article. I agree that spending time with yourself is important in feeling whole and renewed. I’m currently working on befriending myself.

    Great article!