The Ache in the Heart; A Gift of Spiritual Living
I want to say some things about longing. In our culture, we run from our longing. We attempt to pacify it's call with possessions, drugs, activities, ideas, sex; anything that will help keep us from feeling it. The more intense our fear of or disdain for it, the faster and further we run. And as we run toward all kinds of things that are impermanent, we set ourselves up for eventual disappointment and perhaps, despair. We've collectively come up with so many ways to smother it or deny it; none of which are lasting.
What if we cultivated a relationship with it? What if we approached with curiosity when we feel emptiness and longing? Without longing, we would not seek. And without seeking, we have no relationship with that which gives meaning to this crazy life we're all living. We miss the steadfast, omnipresent life force which is around us and within us at all times.
Longing is the gift of spiritual practice. It is the tether that keeps us in pursuit, keeps us seeking, keeps us asking. If we do our best to ignore it or run from it; if our attempt is to diffuse it's strength with anything other than a heartfelt search for finding that which will truly feed it, we destroy one of our paths toward integrating spiritual life with our human life.
I remember reading a piece from 13th century poet and mystic, Rumi, where he said, "Your helplessness and need are the way." The simplicity of this is soothing, isn't it? My helplessness and need lay the path to my wholeness and show me where to place my next step. When we dismiss the call of our longing, we interfere with a main conduit to the sacred center of who we are. Our relationship with the life force is seriously impaired by our own hand. Without need, there is no cry, no invitation, no opening to the sacred; no opening to our own expanded and deeply creative receptors. Our longing is a reminder that there is more than this human life and it's stories.
How do we connect with and respond tenderly to these impulses of longing? First, pause and feel it. Notice the body and how you use yourself relative to this ache. Where is the tension? Where is the holding? Any place in you feel open and soft? What is happening in your breath? What are the nuances of your unique expression of longing in any given moment? Let your curiosity be with you and make a home for the thirst that is your longing, your wanting. The invitation and opening to the Mystery is yours to create. You make the opening by feeling the need rise from deep within you. If you say 'yes' and offer your willingness without judgment and with a soft opening to just 'being with' your experience, something will arise. Put aside the stories you attach to the longing and just be with yourself. Sit still. Hang out. Cry. Whatever. Watch the mind's attempt to make meaning of it by using the people and situations in your life to fill in the longing or to point to why the longing is there. Put the stories aside and just get to know what it feels like, for you, to be in longing. Drop into yourself, beyond the tales you tell and see what is there for you to experience.
From Franz Kafka, "You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait. Just learn to become quiet and still and solitary. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."