During my life, and in this trip in particular, I have been meeting a lot of people, whom I may consider my spiritual friends.
Who are they? Spiritual friends are people who help presence develop in you.
They can be teachers or travel companions.
In the internal disciplines there is no one recipe to learn the art. When you try to draw a map, the ground keeps changing under your feet. So you need somebody who has been there and can keep you on the right track. Somebody who can bring you back in balance.
I do not know how many times my teacher has corrected my tai chi forms. Sometimes with contradictory indications. Because you can stray from the center from either sides. Too soft or too hard, too high or too low, doing too much or doing too little, etc.
For a teacher, the best way to help you, is by telling you what “not to do”. Because in tai chi you cannot teach relaxation, you can only show where tension is. In meditation, you cannot show the essence, but only point where the resistance is.
In the words of Schulman: “the way of love is to recognise what blocks love”.
In the field of consciousness of the spiritual teacher things become easier, though. I have felt this personally. In tai chi, the forms have more fluidity, are more energised, but when you try them by yourself they become more difficult again. Sometimes it almost feels like you are doing something different altogether.
When you go see a spiritual teacher with a question, sometimes the answer appears unexpectedly right in front of you. Or maybe, when in the teacher’s mandala, it disappears, because what brought you to presence, is not relevant anymore.
You have already arrived.
Spiritual friends who are walking the path with you are important, because, although ultimately everybody has to walk their own path, a companion can encourage you to open different doors by helping you see things in different ways.
Spiritual friends can also help you by showing where they are stuck, so that you do not make the same mistakes.
A spiritual friend does not need to be “officially so”, but could also just be a person with whom you come in contact. For some people, pets are their best spiritual friends.
Animals, by dwelling in presence, can remind you of the basic state of thoughtless awareness we share with all beings.
Difficult people can sometime be your best spiritual friends. By challenging you, they can show you exactly where you are stuck, so you can recognise the blockages that hold you back.
The most refined spiritual friends are not the ones who tell you what to do. They are the ones who, while you are walking in the woods, just give you a little pat of encouragement, but really what they did was to free your sweater from a thorny twig that kept you from going, without you even noticing it.