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.