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 perhaps you couldn't see it at the time: If you continued with that relationship -- which they saw as being "bad" for you, nothing good would come of it! They just "knew" that trouble follows those who keep bad company. And Mom and Dad were usually right!
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.
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.
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. The implications of this finding are vast; seeing the truth of it will awaken the need in us for a continuing vigilance, both outwardly and within the world of our own thoughts and feelings.
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.
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.