The Power of the Company We Keep

The Power of the Company We Keep


In 1975 I met a man who, in the space of just a few days, revolutionized my life. It wasn’t anything he said or did that was so striking. But he possessed a quality that was more than unmistakable; radiating an energy or force, some quality of feeling, that was at once both palpable yet unlike anything I’d previously encountered. There had been several notable people who had wielded significant influence upon me, through their tenderness, wisdom, outrageous joyful mirth and creativity, but this meeting was of a different order.

It seemed as if an indescribable yet totally familiar feeling arose in his company that just brought me “home” to a place so delicious and so present inside myself. Oozing such “shakti” or sublime spiritual force he seemed to effortlessly share this state with all who came into his orbit. According to yogic understanding our original nature is good, beneficent and full. And hanging out with this man just elicited these core qualities previously unbeknownst to me.

Our experience is the result of the impressions and associations that have impacted upon us knowingly and largely unconsciously. The influences of our daily lives leave subtle yet influential residues or stains, permeating our minds and also bodies. Yogic teachings emphasize right association to transform our insecurities and ensure psychological well-being. Associating with those who elevate us and who bring peace and balance to mind and heart is essential. While those who undermine our healing and development can’t necessarily be avoided or shunned, we can choose our company wisely, attentive to the influence it brings.

An ancient wisdom book instructs that “your self is your own worst enemy or your best friend” and counsels that the mind should be guided to always contemplate uplifting and noble thoughts. The Katha Upanishad goes on to say, “our thoughts produce patterns, our patterns engender habits, our habits determine our actions and as are our actions so is our destiny.”

Yoga recommends that one of the best ways to shut down this entropic cycle (“history repeats itself, that’s the problem with history”) is to change our company to those who are sincerely seeking truth, or just plain good happy souls. In wise and vibrant company, our problematic tendencies naturally get sorted out. A true spiritual teacher and friend helps us to know who we really are, in our inner consciousness. Such a one inspires us to rest in the bright, clear and compassionate true nature we all carry that is our own best company.