How to Create & Maintain Mindful Friendships

How to Create & Maintain Mindful Friendships

In my life coaching practice, I’ve noticed a common theme.  

“It’s hard to make new friends,” my clients say.  “Everyone’s already got their circle of friends, and they don’t want any new ones.”

“Is that true?” I ask.  “You want to add new friends.  Is it possible that there are any others who feel the same way, and might welcome your friendship?”

“Yeah, but…” they begin.

I stop them right there.  

Some of the most painful and untrue stories we tell ourselves begin with “yeah, but,” so I strongly discourage such storytelling.

“Let’s take a mindful approach and focus on the possibilities that just arose in this moment,” I reply.  “Let’s dig down and find what’s true.”

Here’s what we usually discover:

-If they find themselves wanting to make new friends, it’s possible that the ones they have are not satisfying a longing to be seen and heard and understood.  

-It’s possible that they’ve maintained a number of legacy friendships that have been around for a long time, but haven’t grown.  

-Some of their friendships exist out of loyalty rather than a feeling of true connection or intimacy.  

-Some friendships feel like work, not play.  

-Some of their friends are happy to hear from them when they call, but don’t reach out or include them in their social plans.

Here’s the good news: there are many kindred spirits out here, right now, who are creating or re-creating friendships that are delightful, open-hearted, inclusive and inspiring.  

Mindfulness practices can help you attract friends who support and celebrate the choices you make, who accept you without judgment, and who are straight with you about their emotional responses to the actions or behaviors that affect them.  

Paying mindful attention to what’s important will lead you to connect with people who are clear about what lights them up, and who encourage you to shine, too.

Taking a mindful approach to friendship means focusing your attention on becoming the kind of friend you’re looking for.

We all want friends who can meet us where we are, hold space for us to be who we are (not who they want us to be), and can accompany us as equals on the journeys of our lives.  So we have to ask ourselves, “Can I be that kind of friend?”

Mindfulness asks us to take full responsibility for the process, without shame, blame or creation of a narrative about how hard or scary it is.

Rejection is a common story.  Mindfulness reduces the risk of feeling rejected once we understand that not everyone is meant to be by our side.  When we can detach from thoughts of wanting a particular person to like us, and focus instead on becoming a person we, ourselves, actually like, the issue resolves itself.

As the spiritual teacher Ram Dass wrote, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  Mindful friendships hold enough space for us to walk together. They have no agenda, are free of judgment, and allow us to simply be with whatever is present, making it safe for us to be our authentic selves.  

Mindful friends know how exactly to hold space for us. They support us, inspire us, and challenge us to grow.

Here’s how to become the kind of friend you want to attract:

  1. Write out, in detail, what you most long for in a friend.  What characteristics does your dearest future-friend have? What are they like?  What do they do for you? What would they never do?

    (I highly recommend the Backpack Buddha blank journals for this: Buddhist Lokta Paper Journal, Prayer Flag Journal and Buddha’s Vision Journal—all are made of Lokta bark paper, which lends a deep spiritual dignity to your musings.  The unique texture will inspire you to articulate your inner journey with your whole heart, and each page contains a sacred energy that only this paper, handmade by craftspeople in from Nepal, can impart. )

  2. Healthy friendships have healthy boundaries.  Remember to include those boundaries as you journal, and observe your own tendencies to set agendas, judge, or create narratives.  Gently encourage yourself to explore what it would be like to let those go.

  3. Practice demonstrating your desired friendship characteristics daily, by showing them inwardly, to yourself, as well as outwardly to others.  When you understand what it takes to be the kind of friend you want to have, and can live that way first, your friendships will naturally fall into place.

  4. When you meet someone who fits your description, you’ll recognize them at once.  Be the first to open your heart and invite them in. Create a sense of ease around friendship.

  5. If you practice mindfulness meditation, consider wearing your mala off the cushion as well as on.  I’ve been stopped on the street by other mindfulness practitioners when they recognize my 108-bead bracelets, and the conversations we have are, without exception, delightful and heart-centered.

Who knows?  Maybe you’ll find a new friend.  And it will be just that easy.