Have you heard about the studies that say we are a reflection of the five people that we spend the most time with? That’s right! We become most like the people we most like!
When you look around your life, who or what do you see?
Are there people who inspire you? Are willing to be straight with you? Hold your greatest dreams and visions?
Or are there people who are more apt to choose harmony over truth, even when it comes to situations that are not in our highest?
Years ago, I attended a ceremony in which Jay Leno, the comedian, was being honored. Accepting the award and thanking all of the people who supported him in his career, he of course singled-out his wife. In speaking about her and the success of their long-term marriage, Leno said:
"Marry your conscience. Marry the one who makes you want to be a better person."
In the neighborhood?
Love your neighbor.
This practice might sound extreme or pushy, and I want to tell you what I mean by it.
Everyone has lots of neighbors, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Obviously the people living across the street are neighbors, but in some sense so are the people you live with. Friends, relatives, co-workers, all the people you know are neighbors. So are the people at the market or walking past on the street. Other living things are neighbors as well, such as cats and dogs, birds and bees, ants on the kitchen counter, and plants and trees.
There’s also a neighborhood inside each of us. The human body contains about 100 trillion cells – and at least as many microorganisms that are neighbors, too. Plus consider your mind. My own mind is like a village with many characters at different stages of biological and psychological evolution, chatting or arguing with each other. All the parts of your mind – the pushy internal critic, the playful child, the longing for lasting happiness, the calm voice that talks you off the ledge – are neighbors of a sort.
In the largest sense, the neighbors of your neighbors are your neighbors, which means that every living thing is your neighbor – and mine. Wow. Walt Whitman got it right when he wrote: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
What should we do with our neighbors? Ignore or hate them? Or recognize and love them?
What does it REALLY mean to make choices from healthy parts of your personality? It’s not only when you observe that a fearful part of your personality is active (for example, one that is impatient), and you decide to act from a loving part of your personality instead (for example, one that is patient). This is the core dynamic of creating authentic power.
It also means proactively and consciously choosing to act from a loving part of your personality moment by moment – for example, a part that is grateful, or appreciative, or caring, or content, or in awe of the Universe as well as patient. When you do this, you will notice that you are naturally more giving, creative, and curious. You will feel your heart opening, and the joy of opening to others will fill your awareness.
After ten years of swimming, I stopped when Eleanor died. She was one of several dear ones who had left the Earth. There was too much to tend, and part of my heart had stopped, unsure how to continue. Everyone called it grief, but below the name, I felt that the fire in my center was beginning to smoke. I kept my appointments and did the endless tasks, but some part of me felt hollow.
Slowly, over many months, I began to feel the presence of those I lost in simple things: in the sudden sweep of tall grasses, as if Eleanor were whispering something I couldn’t quite hear; in the light on a pigeon in Washington Square Park while someone played a saxophone, as if my father were smiling on a bench just out of view; and in the closed eyes of our new dog Zuzu while asleep, as if our dead, beloved dog Mira were slipping inside her to tell us she was near.