A friend, also named Janet, who I’ve known since we were teens in the Bronx, recently sent me this photo. I don’t know where she had it stashed but she came upon it and was touched to see us together—not just together with each other—but together with our parents as well as with each other. By the time of this photo, my dad and her mom were widowed. They were happy people, active, social, and living dynamic lives.
Janet and I shared a kind of almost-familial bond that manifested itself in like tendencies—for example, we liked the same man (uh-oh) and the same entertainment and similar clothing. We had the same innate proclivity toward spiritual discovery, which first manifested in some clandestine activities and then matured into a real pursuit. By the time we were in our early twenties, we had both learned the Transcendental Meditation technique and had both been trained as TM teachers. We had both convinced our parents to learn TM and they were grateful, enjoying a slowing of the aging process, extra energy, renewed focus and vitality.
Though I stayed in New York City and Janet lived in places from California to Iowa, we remained close. Though she married and raised a son while I stayed un-married, our emotional development matured in the same direction—TM develops your inner settled state of mind and heart so tangibly that your ability to appreciate, uplift, nourish and empathize grows whether you have your own children or not. Also, our New York roots, where our personalities formed, continue to make us similar enough in outlook and temperament that people sometimes mistakenly take us for sisters. Once, during a visit, we played a board game with a group of other friends and we were so in tune as a team that the others thought we were cheating! This friendship is like a home away from home, a source of comfort and a safe foundation for being secure as individuals. We always had a natural affinity but it deepened so much over the years of TM practice, that we acknowledge TM for giving us a more profound and immovable common base in the transcendent field of our innermost selves.
Apart from that, we have found ourselves living in the same town again—each with our aged parent dependent on us for care. My father turns 100 in July, but between what he calls his “good genes” and so many years of the TM practice, he is mistaken for 85. Janet’s mom has made her way to her early 90s with the humor, patience, and… wait for it… complexion of a teenager. But caring for the elderly can be taxing. Though both our parents still meditate regularly and enjoy the deep rest it provides, we two Janets shoulder huge responsibilities fulfilling their seemingly stemless tide of financial, home and health needs. We both are grateful for the ever-renewed emotional endurance and compassion that we gain during TM when we expand our capacity for unqualified tender feelings that carry us gracefully through life’s challenges. And we have each other to turn to for feedback, for support, for creative ideas, and for that old New York humor to sustain us.
Here’s a salute to friendships, both old and new, to the gift of transcendence, and to the honor of serving ones parents well when the time comes.
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of the TM program for women professionals in the USA.