How To Master Your Inner Circle

In all my years as a spiritual seeker, I’ve come to believe that there is one essential and crucial step to becoming free from all attachments and ego-inflating mental and emotional issues. But first you have to know where all those attachments come from.

How do you build a strong sense of community? It’s not easy. It takes practice and practice takes time. If you are not aware of the inner turmoil that can lurk in your own heart, then it can creep into your relationships, and your relationships can creep into your soul.

So what is the antidote? Well, I think there are two main strategies: The first, and most helpful, is learning how to trust our inner guidance more. 

I have been very fortunate to be in very good company in my life — friends, students, teachers. I’ve spent many a year and a half doing and leading workshops all over the world, and my mentors have always taught me the importance of being able to receive direct instruction from a teacher or master who is a strong, wise, wise person. 

And I find it incredibly helpful to have teachers in my inner circle. For instance, I have many very good long-standing friends who happen to be excellent musicians. But I’ve done a tremendous amount of work with them on my level. And this is not just in music, it includes relationships. If I have a friend in a relationship and we have a fight, it’s not easy for me to see what has triggered the fight. How do I know my friend is not being dishonest? How do I know why she is not respecting me? These are difficult questions for most people, and it’s not easy for most people to ask such questions. To be able to receive direct instructions from a wise person gives you a level of confidence and clarity. 

Another strategy, also very good and valuable, is to learn to let go of that inner struggle and the ego it generates. Most people live in their own heads. They are in a world of their own and feel their experiences are theirs alone, which is a terrible place to be if you aspire to be a loving, compassionate teacher. And this leads to a huge amount of emotional and physical repression and stress. 

I recently had the rare opportunity to speak at a conference on human rights in Africa, and that event was dedicated to the work of Dr. Peter Salway, who has devoted his entire life to helping people understand the importance of unconditional love as a foundation for living. His work as a Buddhist teacher and mentor has allowed him to see the power of the love that is within us all, that unites us all and guides all of our lives. And it’s this love that helps teach the whole world to see that life is too short to be angry. It’s too short to be mean. That anger and fear are actually the greatest impediments to our health. 

The way to let go of the inner battle that I mentioned earlier is to recognize that, while I have my good friends in my inner circle, we also have our enemies. We have our demons. These demons can be very, very challenging, but they can also offer incredible help when we let go of our attachment to our anger, fear, and pride. And one of the best ways of training those demons is by taking a class in how to accept the gifts and the lessons of others without being threatened by what they are teaching, without being afraid of who they are.

A lot of times you have bad friends, and you have good friends — and it is not about who’s better or stronger — it’s about how we understand and respond to the world around us.