Monday, May 07, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: To Have and Have Not

The Bread I Have

I am a person blessed with special friends, women of character, strength, dignity, humility, wisdom, humor. These friends have listened to me, understood me, prayed for me, loved me, challenged me. I believe, in fact, that I have known more than my fair share of deep friendship. There is a Celtic word, anamchara, which describes the type of relationships I am talking about. Anamcharas, or soul friendships, are characterized by the following:

First, soul friendship is associated with great affection, intimacy and depth.

Second, soul friend relationships are characterised by mutuality: a profound respect for each other's wisdom, despite any age or gender difference, and the awareness that the other person is a source of many blessings.

A third characteristic of soul friends is that they share common values, [and] a common vision of reality.

Fourth, soul friendships include not only affirmation, but the ability of each to challenge the other when necessary.

A fifth aspect of anamchara relationships ... is that they are centred on God, the soul friend in whom all other friendships are united. True soul friends do not depend on each other alone, but root their relationship in God.

A sixth characteristic of soul friendship is that it survives geographical separation [and] the passage of time.

Early Celtic Soul Friendship

I have found this last characteristic to be true. Many of my anamcharas are removed from me by geographical location and by the separation of current life circumstances. It isn't as easy to find those big stretches of time to talk. But, much of the foundation of the friendships having been laid, we fall easily into intimacy, even after a long absence.

BUT... and isn't there always a but?

Here is the Bread I Have Not:

In my New Year's Resolution post, I wrote that I was calling 2007, the Year of Restraint. Feeling a need to focus on so many areas of my life, I realized that all the all the dissatisfaction I felt fell under two categories: moderation and discipline, both synonyms for restraint. Spiritual discipline, which I felt should be my first priority, however, has taken a back seat to my efforts at diet, exercise and financial wisdom.

I spent some time thinking about this and I had a little epiphany: I need a a new soul friend.

Let me explain.

Tara of Uphill Idealist, sent me a link to an online article discussing the Celtic concept of soul friendship, anamchara. The morning I had my epiphany, I realized what had been missing most in my spiritual life for the last year or so is the consistent time with such a friend, with time devoted specifically to discussing spiritual exercises and making a plan during that time for what exercises I would do during the following week. Time sitting across a table, face to face. I had that for several years with one particular friend but life has changed and we do not have that time together now.

And so, while I have an embarrassment of riches in the friends department, I wrote the following in my journal a few weeks ago after meditating for a morning on my spiritual state:

I know what I want now. I figured it out. All of my questions are not answered but I think I know what I need--a soul friend. Lord, as I ask for this, I pray first that it be your will for me. Let it, please, be your will for me. Lord, I ask that you help me find my next soul friend, where my spirit and hers can come together with yours, to nudge each other, inspire each other, question each other, love each other, sharpen each other.
I don't know if God will answer that prayer with a yes. Soul friends are like the rarest of gems and I may not find another to add to my other jewels. God may be calling me to develop my inner introvert, and in so doing, seek my spiritual growth in more solitude than I have in the past.

Either way, I will continue to seek him.

This week's other Sleeping with Bread posts can be found here.


atypical said...


more on the morrow I hope ('tis very late indeed on my coast).


bubandpie said...

That last one is a doozy - I've found that very few friendships survive permanent separation. Friendship takes a lot of effort these days and I am fortunate to have a small number of whole-life friends: the ones who will be with me until the end, I believe.

daisies said...

i hope you find your soul friend ~ i am sending you love and positive thoughts in this regard :)

Shari said...

Mary, I wish we lived a few blocks from each other. I've been praying for the same thing this year. I'll be praying for both of us!

Aliki2006 said...

I'm not sure about #6 either and #5 not so much for me, as I think soul friendships for me transcend a connection to religion. I've had soul friendships with people who have strong beliefs, and soul friendships with those who don't--we tend to always keep our beliefs private.

I have known very few soul friendships survive geography. I can think of literally dozens of people who I once thought were soul friends and yet now I don't even know where they are. I guess they weren't real soul friends in that sense, but, rather, soul friends for that moment, that space in time where I belonged.

Mary-LUE said...

I responded to Aliki in an email because I also wanted to talk about some other things, but here is the part that responds to her comment:

Actually, I agree with you that a deep, soul friendship doesn't require sharing the same spiritual beliefs. I've also had deep soul connections to people who don't share my beliefs. We've been able to respect that and focus on the areas where we do connect deeply. What I probably didn't communicate very well is that in examining the state of my spiritual self, I realized what was lacking for ME was face to face time with someone who I could share points 1-5 with. I have been very fortunate in being able to maintain some long distance or time constrained relationships. For example, I had a dear, dear friend who moved to Australia years ago. Now, we both weren't that great about writing and weren't in the position to spend money on regular phone calls. However, we would try to see each other when she came to visit and it seemed that it was a pretty quick transition to discussing things at a deeper level. She moved back to the states--in fact, just a mile away from me--and we STILL don't get to see each other that often. We still, though, just settle in talking about Life, the Universe and Everything quite quickly. BUT... that isn't the same as getting the regular time with someone to really discuss and explore the spiritual things that are of benefit to me. The Celtic idea of anamchara suits what I think I want/need in a deeper relationship.

Mary-LUE said...

Wow! That was a long paragraph which should probably have been broken up a little. Moving on...

Atypical: I'm waiting with great anticipation your further thoughts.

B&P: It is harder when you get older and have so many life and parental obligations. Doesn't it make you appreciate those whole-life friends even more?

Daisies: Thanks! (with a virtual hug)

Shari: I KNOW! Wouldn't that be great? Plus, I'd get some serious baby holding time in once our wee one comes along.

Tabba said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing this. It really is a beautiful notion. Thanks for sharing your journey in this.