Can you recall how, in younger days, your parents told you that they did not want you spending time with a certain person or group of people? The idea behind their concern was simple, even though we couldn't see it at the time: if we continued with that relationship—which they saw as being "bad" for us, nothing good would come of it!
Most of our parents either did not, or could not, explain to us why they wanted to restrict some of our relationships. The truth is, apart from their general understanding that "a bad apple ruins the whole barrel," our folks didn't have much insight into the timeless truths by which they tried to live. They just "knew" that trouble follows those who keep bad company. And Mom and Dad were usually right!
In fact, many years later, their wisdom then seems painfully obvious. If only we had listened! Dolphins do not swim with sharks; coyotes don't keep rabbits as pets. Life instructs us: lambs lay down with lambs. It's clear that all creatures have their circle of "friends," and that outside of the wise tolerances these relationships will bear, we all tend to keep company with those we are most naturally comfortable with. But there's more to this fact than our first glimpse reveals: just as we need to keep an eye on the kinds of friends we keep around us, so must we also remain aware of the circle of "friends" we keep within us—our own thoughts and feelings.
Not only does the largely unseen content of our mind and heart cause us to feel attracted to certain kinds of people and events, it also serves as an attracting agent for those who want to be around us. Personal experience proves the truth behind one of our most ancient axioms:
The inner determines the outer.
It's likely that most of us haven't taken enough time to think through how the nature of our thoughts and feelings determines the kind of company we keep. But I assure you the truth behind this idea touches our lives in ways yet unimagined. Speaking of which, here's another timeless truth that underscores the importance of keeping good inner company:
We resemble those with whom we assemble.
Simply put, this means that both our appearance and character change according to the kind of company we keep. In other words, never a moment passes in which we are not being acted upon by those relationships that we share with people and things in that same moment. It's no accident of fate that people often look something like the dogs they love!
In much the same way, only with far greater implications, a mind full of worry and doubt can act to transform the human face into a fearful one—we see eyes full of apprehension, lips pulled back tight, the mouth turned downward. As we're about to discover, the implications of this finding are vast; seeing the truth of them will awaken the need in us for a continuing vigilance, both outwardly and within the world of our own thoughts and feelings.
Our experience of life is a creation of the ceaseless interaction of invisible forces that are always active around and within us. This means that continual transformation of self is much more than just an idea. It is an eternal axis around which our life revolves, and through which our present level of self is ever becoming—for better or for worse—more limited or increasingly limitless. The point should be clear:
What we are now, and the kind of life we will come to know,
is very much determined by the "interior" company we keep.
Although this idea of "inner" company may be new to you, its reality becomes common sense once we see the truth of it. In this instance, we live in a perpetual relationship with our own thoughts and feelings. If it helps you to visualize this last idea, think of these thought forms and emotional forces as your invisible "circle of friends," for that is exactly what they are. Yet, they are more.
We know that every creation under the sun belongs to a certain order of being, and that these orders themselves are further classified according to the many levels of creatures existing within them. We also know that these various levels interact with one another according to their nature. This same principle of hierarchy pertains to our own thoughts and feelings. Most of us already know, intuitively, that love, patience, kindness, and compassion arise from a higher order of being than do negative states like hatred, frustration, resentment, and fear.
The wise ones of all ages—long called the "Friends of Truth"—understand, as we are now invited to, that the more time we spend in the company of these truly higher ideas, the more the life of these timeless truths becomes our own. Welcoming "friends" such as these into our lives grants us the power to "move mountains" because, with their guidance, we no longer make the mistake of building some "molehill" into an impassible barrier. These friends go before us to make the "crooked places straight"—by lifting us above the level of mind that creates one dark corner after another with its unconscious demands.
How does one become a friend of truth? As we're about to see, the answer is surprisingly simple. We must be willing to see the truth of ourselves, starting with this somewhat shocking revelation:
The things we put first in our life, our moment-to-moment choices in life,
are a direct reflection of what we value most in that moment.
What this means is that our experience of life—for its pain or pleasure, darkness or brightness—is a perfect reflection of what we want most from life. People who want to go on feeling like victims despise truths like these; after all, it's so much easier to resist and resent our circumstances than it is to change the consciousness responsible for the way we perceive them. Prove this truth to yourself, and you will put out of your life all that presently limits it.
Let's take an example. We all have to drive places—work, market, school, whatever. We can just drive "there"—meaning get through the task—so that we can get on to the next thing we must do. Or, as we drive where we're going, we can be aware of the "rushing" thoughts and feelings that are driving us on. In other words, regardless of what we must attend to physically, a higher spiritual choice exists right there and then—if we choose to be present to it.
In this instance, even as we're busy going somewhere, we can work each moment to be mindful of the company we're keeping in ourselves, and whether or not we want to be friends with those pressurized thoughts and feelings that are telling us to hurry up and get there! By consciously choosing higher awareness as our friend, we can't be compromised into giving up our right to move at a speed of our choosing. No haste, no waste! Our new level of self-command is a direct reflection of the company we have chosen to keep in that same moment, and it's quite clear that it makes no sense to be friends with anxious thoughts and feelings. After all, who rushes around in order to get somewhere to rest?
This special kind of mindfulness—a willingness to observe your "self" and to be honest about the circle of "friends" within which it runs—does two things for you at once. First, by putting the wish to see the truth of yourself before the act of trying to win what you want, you soon see that most of your desires and their demands are not the friends they pretend to be.
Rather, they are a host of small powers into whose hands you've mistakenly entrusted the keys to your consciousness. And further, that in exchange for this friendship you've given them, they have become—for all intents and purposes—tyrants dedicated to taking away your right to be self-ruling.
Continuing with this last idea, and perhaps most liberating of all is this second realization: Choosing to keep the company of truth is the same as choosing to lose all the false "friends" that presently limit you. Just as you can't cage a lion in a child's crib, no negative state can keep you its captive once you've seen it for what it really is—nothing without your consent.
Excerpted from The Courage to Be Free by Guy Finley.