In these times, where people are pitted against one another—and divided—based on politics, religion, region and so many other things, what remains to hold tight to? What can we look toward with gratitude and pleasure in our daily life? I find myself cherishing the company of friends and honoring their presence. True friends are a rarity. They are those who call us beloved, and as Raymond Carver found as he was dying from cancer, this is what he wanted most, above all.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Raymond Carver

John O’Donohue

If you are blessed in the flesh with what the Celts called the “Anam Cara”—or “soul friend”, you are a lucky human. If you have more than one, you are overflowing with blessings. If your mate is also an Anam Cara, joy rises in your life. As John O’Donohue, who died way too young, put it in his book “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom”, this is a special kind of love between two people:

In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension…you can be as you really are. Where you are understood, you are at home. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul.

Those of you who read me regularly know that this author is on my top five list of those who have influenced my life on a daily basis. I do not take friendship lightly. Having a true soul bond with another human is a precious gift and one that brooks no betrayal. You will always know that whatever you do or say, your soul-friend will hear the true you coming through. They do not demand anything as a price for your friendship or love. You do not have to “be” anyone besides who you are. You don’t have to cram yourself into society’s idea of who you “should” be. What a relief! Some are fortunate enough to have one of these people in their lives and others have the amazing gift of more. Being a soul-friend and having a soul-friend is one of the greatest gifts and responsibilities of the universe. I am in gratitude every day.

I have been reading his book for many years, and never fail to find comfort and solace as he reminds me of the gifts of friendship—true heart friendship. Especially today, when the effort of multiple factors on the planet are determined to divide us, we can find at least a small portion of friendship in most of the people in our lives. This is a different level of friendship, but important to keeping communication alive. Don’t defer to the advertisers to tell you what language to use, what products to buy, how to look and, most important, how to think. When I pick up a book and it speaks to me, I know I will not only read it once but go back to its well of wisdom over and over. As the atmosphere of division has taken over our country, I go back more and more often to those who speak of cooperation, kindness and hope. Without these things we are not a nation of people but a nation of divided tribes.

So does this mean that we will only love those who see us through the eyes of love? Often that is true, but it doesn’t mean we always agree with one another. My Anam Cara, Pat, was a truly beloved friend and stood by me in the worst times of my life—and I did the same for her. We disagreed on just about everything political, including having some spirited conversations about presidential candidate’s way back when. The thing that made us soul-friends is that we loved one another no matter our differences because our inner beings were in tune. I have a soul-friend in Houston named Pam. We met at a writing workshop in Missouri. We “knew” each other instantly. We talked and laughed for hours. There is not a day that we don’t think of each other in one way or another. I haven’t seen her for years, but we both know we can come up out of our very busy lives at any time and tune in and support each other. That is a soul-friend. Even in our absence, we are beloved.

And if my primary beloved is also a soul-friend, that is a gift beyond price. I am fortunate to have that with my partner Lance. We are not the same people. We don’t agree on some surface cultural things, but we always agree on the whispers of the heart and soul. We see the beloved with love, not with judgment. This is true for many family members. Though being family doesn’t guarantee a soul connection, our brothers, sisters or children often fill this role.

So, is it possible that if everyone would stop standing in front of their homestead of ideas with a shotgun at the ready, we could become soul-friends? Probably not, but we could become respectful and even begin a conversation. If we don’t, we are doomed to continue down this slippery slope of hate and intolerance. Seeing what is good at the heart and soul level is what makes an Anam Cara. It is also what can heal a divided nation. There are those who will never give up their anger and hate, especially if they follow a persuasive leader, but when small groups of people get together and promise to listen and then respond, wonderful things happen. Try it, even if for no other reason than the fact that love is good for your health!

We are not destined to be either enemies or soul-friends. In between are things that unite us and those that divide us, and that is where the work is done. Someone with a moral presence needs to step up and hold the mirror in front of us and ask the final question: “And what did you want?” There are very few of us who would respond: “I want to win an argument.” What we want is to be loved and to love. This cannot happen in an atmosphere of challenge and loud voices. It’s a big order to fill, but going to the heart is the answer. Can we do it? I would love to hear from those who read this article. I hope to hear a resounding “yes!”

Heart Practice:

  • Sit quietly and take several deep cleansing breaths.
  • See your breath as a lovely green flow around your heart as you breathe in and out.
  • Put your hand over your heart and ask your heart to show you a way to be more open in the world.
  • Choose a person who you have difficulty hearing. Do NOT make this a person who you know is violent or hate-filled. Just choose someone you disagree with.
  • Wait, breathing deeply, for the quiet voice of your heart to speak or show you a picture of what your world could look like if you chose to truly hear what this person was trying to express. Imagine listening and eventually responding in a kind way.
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes, breathing in and out, seeing the soul of the person.
  • When you’re ready, thank your heart and open your eyes.