It is common to perceive good health in terms of diet and exercise and the individual efforts put into bettering ourselves, but there are inklings of our journey that fill the summation of our whole living experience. In Ayurveda, even the subtlest of energies that influence our being are considered important to our health. There are continuous layers in which we can uncover and polish within ourselves and within the world we live. The concept of community and friendship is not often talked about in the context of health. But why? Our very survival once depended on the concept of a tribe working together to survive. That survival in simple context could be understood as a need for food and shelter, but it extended far beyond that. The relationships build amongst the tribe are what sustained the spirit and gave us the deeper nourishment that simple survival lacked. The capacity and ability to share oneself and be truly known by another is, perhaps, an ingredient to health we do not value enough within our modern society. So, the question becomes, "how do we create friendships that nourishes our spirit and sustain the subtle energies within each of us?
Shasta Nelson, a woman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, dedicates her life’s work to helping others achieve meaningful friendships. She believes in the power of friendship and speaks openly about the health benefits it offers. She writes, “There is hardly anything else in life that impacts us more than our circle of friends. Healthy friendships are said to not only be the number one factor that determines whether women will survive breast cancer, but it also reduces stress, increases happiness, extends longevity, determines whether we'll accomplish our goals, and builds up our immune system. If friendship was every thought to be fluffy and optional, research is coming down on it being one of the most significant things we can do for our health.”
As with anything in life, cultivating a new practice takes time and effort: eating well, exercising, meditating, learning a new skill, etc. Friendship is not something we can rush into with perfection. It is something that requires our time, our attention and our love. Investing our energy in another person does require a commitment to making ourselves available and being present for them, but it also requires that they do the same for us. By being part of a community and having quality friendships, we are gifted the opportunity to share our life and be an important part of someone else’s. I believe that friendship has the power to increase our sense of purpose, add to our sense of happiness, reduce stress, and fortify us during times of challenge. The current of life pulls us through times of great prosperity in every sense of the word, and it drops us at the basis of an ebb without notice. That continuous ebb and flow of life is inevitable and though we manage through it with our own sustenance, the ability to call upon support in good times and bad can help us keep our feet on the ground.
This week’s focus is about friendship. Who is someone who inspires you to be your best and is there for you no matter what? Dedicate some time this week to making it known, that this person is meaningful to you. Invite them over for a meal, write them a letter, make time for them in your busy schedule. These sacred friendships you have in your life are there for you to nurture. Give yourself to them. By investing your time and energy in those who care for you and bring out the best in you, you will more fully enjoy the best of times and survive the worst of times. The more you put into cultivating healthy friendships, the more you add to the quality of your overall health and happiness. Set aside time for those you treasure. They need to know how important they are and it’s likely you’ll end up knowing how important you are too.
Best Regards to your Health and Happiness,
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator