I remember having intense crushes through my teenage years. I never spoke to these crushes. Oh, no! That would have spoiled the fantasy. I didn’t know this at the time though. I always thought the reason was just that I was so painfully shy I couldn’t actually talk to the ones I longed for. Later in my college years I would plot ways to meet a crush… after a year of longing and finding a way to attend a party where he would be, I somehow got him to ask me out on a date. I was excited and scared. We dated for 3 whole weeks and it was quickly realized it wouldn’t last. I had been in a year-long relationship with my longing. He could never measure up to that.
I started to notice longing in my life in other situations too. There was something about the pain of the longing as a kind of sweet suffering that was almost enjoyable. I had different names for it like “future nostalgia”, or “melancholic optimism”, or simply “something’s missing”, and it felt romantic and dramatic and rich. I had a love affair with my longing and if anyone tried to take it away by showing up and being who they actually were, I would be sure to sabotage the relationship so I could go back to my longing. Of course I didn’t know this consciously. I got really clear about this about a year ago when it dawned on me that I am no longer longing, but more present and grateful for relationships exactly as they showed up in my life.
Once in a while I am asked by clients at the center about what personal benefits I’ve gained in my own life in working with The Living Inquiries. Although it’s impossible to measure really, one thing that’s become clear is that it’s not that my ups and downs don’t exist. It’s that it’s just not as important as it used to be. A wide range of emotions are still available to me. I’m human. But the relationship to my emotions has changed. It’s no longer crucial that I feel happy all the time. I’m not measuring my well being as much on my emotional state. If there is any measuring going on, it’s more about whether I’m able to notice and rest with my states that do show up. And the noticing and rest happen for longer periods and more naturally since I’ve found the Living Inquiries.
I must admit there is one state that has changed and has not showed up for a long while: the longing is gone. It’s just not there, and although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when this shift happened, I can trace it back to a few facilitations a few years ago that I started to become aware of this love affair with my longing and I stayed with it, observed it and noticed it any time it showed up. I didn’t try to change it, I just kept noticing it, resting and inquiring into it. And as I looked at the different layers of thoughts about it, memories and images associated to it as well as the intense sensation that felt so stuck in my body, at some point through the continual looking, the whole thing was less and less compelling or interesting. Today I’m in a relationship where I can honestly say I don’t wish him to be any different than how he is. It’s a very refreshing change to want what is already in front of you.
– Marina Bajszár from What is your “Love Affair” with?
Real longing is usually for some deep emotional place, happiness, peace, forgiveness, love. Even our mundane desires are connected to longing. If I get this thing, I will feel this way. You don’t want the thing, you want how it will make you feel. [….] Longing comes from an absolute fullness. The longing comes from its completion, it comes from absolute abundance…. that you are unconscious of, however. Longing is sent into consciousness, it’s a way of pulling you back into your own fullness. It comes from fullness and pulls you back to fullness, if you follow it back from where it came. It brings you back from where it came. And you find, it came from fullness. The longing for happiness came from happiness. The longing for enlightenment came from enlightenment. The longing for peace came from peace.
– Adyashanti, The Red Thread of Desire, disc 2, sections 7 and 8. (Slightly edited for clarity.)
Why am I exploring these things? What is my deepest motivation, desire, longing?
Is it for the sake of truth or love? Healing, maturing, awakening? Intimacy with existence? Freeing myself up to follow my inner guidance/knowing?
There is some truth to each of those, but they don’t quite do it.
For me, it’s about coming home, and there is a relief in seeing and admitting it.
My longing is of two types: For things in the world (people, situations, experiences) and for God (intimacy with God, awakening).
And when I investigate, I find that all longing is really a longing for God. At the bottom of all longing is a longing for God. For awakening.
But there is nothing wrong with the longing for things in the world either. I can clarify it and use it as a guide because it is innocent and beautifully human. It is a longing for intimacy, juiciness, richness, joy, satisfaction, meaning etc.
So I can take any surface longing – for a person, situation or experience or something else.
As I clarify it some, I find that the longing is really for intimacy, meaning, richness, joy, satisfaction.
And as I clarify it even more, I find that it is sincere and genuine longing for God.
There is a beauty in this process. I find that all longing is innocent. I find that it is the most honest and natural human longing for intimacy, meaning and joy. And I find that it is really a longing for God.
No matter how the surface longing looks, I find that it is about something else and more essential. When it is clarified at the human level, it frees me up to find it in different and more ways in the world. And when it is clarified even further, I find that innocent and sincere longing for God. A love for God and reality which can be expressed in many different ways – through devotion, inquiry, allowing experience as it is, service in the world.
Saying that God is longing to know itself is, as anything else, only a pointer, an invitation to exploration. It is not true or not true, apart from in the most limited sense, and the reversals are equally true.
So how is this a pointer? In what way is it a helpful teaching? What is it a remedy for?
The most obvious may be as an invitation to explore our own longings. I can take any longing in my own life, however mundane and unspiritual it may seem, and trace it back. What is it really a longing for? What is more genuinely true for me about it than its surface appearance?
I have a desire for food. What is it about? I find that it is about survival, avoiding suffering, and finding some happiness. It is innocent, and a way to take care of this human self.
I have a desire for success. Here too, I find that it is about survival, avoiding suffering, and finding some happiness. Again, it is innocent, and it is love filtered through stories.
I have a longing for connection. Again, I find the same things.
By exploring this, I find that my longings – the ones I have looked into so far – are all innocent, and they are love filtered through certain stories. The longing is always genuine and innocent. And the strategies to fulfill those longings may or may not make sense after I investigate them. If they don’t, there is always room to try something else.
There is a relaxation here, a relase of struggle with myself.
I also find that each longing is a longing for allowing what is, as it is, and for a full and rich human life. In other words, it is a longing for waking up – for appreciating what is, as it is, including the confusion, drama and mistaken identities, and also for releasing identification out of stories and identities, and the drama and resistance that comes from getting caught up in them. And it is a longing for growing up, for healing and maturing as a human being in the world.
So the pointer God is longing to know itself is a way for me to clarify my own longings, my own intentions and desires. Not to change them, but to see what they really and genuinely are about for me. And I may find that they are innocent, and genuine desires to grow and wake up. There is a new sense of alignment when this is recognized, and it may happen over and over as I explore new longings and desires, or explore again the ones I have looked at before. It is always new. Fresh. Different.
There are also other ways the hadith God is longing to know itself is a pointer.
It is an invitation to see what is happening here now. To notice that form happens within and as awakeness, and not even that, just as the mystery no pointers can touch. This world of form, as it is, is God longing to know itself. It is no thing longing to know itself as (the appearance of) something, in always new, fresh and different ways.
It is of course an anthropomorphism. There is no longing there. And yet, maybe we can say there is. The movement into form in itself can be seen as a longing for God to know itself as and through form.
Including as this universe, planet, plants, animals, humans, mistaken identities, awakenings, and whatever else is happening.
I was a hidden treasure and wished to be known, so I created that I might be known.
– oral Islamic teaching.
Everything can be seen as God longing to know itself.
Everything is God manifesting, exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways.
And that includes our human life and the longings in our human life.
The quiet love for God and truth is God longing to know itself through waking up to itself.
The impulse to seek and wish for anything is God longing to wake up to itself, and to experience itself in its richness.
All of these are God longing to know itself, filtered through our human life.
The quiet love for God and truth is there as soon as there is a sense of a separate I. There is – somewhere – a knowing of what we are, a sense of discrepancy between what we are and what we take ourselves to be, and a longing for what we are to wake up to itself.
When there is a sene of a separate I, there is longing in the form of seeking, wishing, wanting and so on, and these are filtered through our identifications with stories and identities.
Sometimes, it looks spiritual. It can take the form of devotion, prayer, meditation, selfless action.
Sometimes, it looks mundane. A search for knowledge, status, safety, approval, love, belonging.
Sometimes, it looks less than pretty. Domination. Cruelty. Suffering. Despair. (Love filtered through particularly strong beliefs.)
But it is all God longing to know itself. A longing to wake up, for what we are and everything is to clearly recognize itself. A longing for wholeness, for recognizing the wholeness that is always here as what we are, and for the sense of wholeness we can find in our human life. And a longing for living and experiencing fully and richly this human life.
It is all included. It is all God longing to know itself, in always new ways.
A small biographical tidbit which illustrates a more universal dynamic.
As a child, I would often wake up in the morning with a deep longing. And I would get up and eat a strawberry jam sandwich (my favorite), be with my parents, read Donald Duck comics, and do other things to try to still or satisfy the longing, but nothing worked.
Then, as there was the initial (Ground+soul level) awakening in my mid-teens, I realized that this was what I had longed for. I knew – somewhere in the background – that this is what I am, and longed intensely for it. I was finally home, and finally, I knew what home was.
Another rambling post, this one of some of the things that come up for me when I explore longing in my own life…
Resolved at three levels
Seeking, longing and wanting can be resolved at (at least) three levels.
First, they can be met, and partially and temporarily resolved, at our human level.
Then, they can be met, and more deeply resolved, at our soul level.
Finally, they can be ultimately resolved at our Spirit level.
And these three are in no way mutually exclusive.
What we seek
Some of the things I find myself seeking include sense of belonging, sense of home, intimacy, love, acceptance, allowing, wealth, abundance, fullness, peace, rest, excitement, being fully alive, experience and live life fully, freedom from suffering, joy, happiness, fulfillment, understanding.
Examples of resolution at three levels
So how is any particular longing resolved at the three levels?
A longing for intimacy…
Is partially and temporarily met and resolved at my human level in three ways: through intimacy with others, with the larger whole (nature, earth, universe), and with myself. It can take the form of friendship, intimate relationships, physical intimacy, transparency, sharing of more of all of me, connection with nature, exploring and embracing more of what I am.
At my soul level, it is more deeply met and resolved in two ways. First, when the alive presence surfaces as 2nd or 1st person (you or I/me) there is inherent a deep and profound sense of intimacy there (I am not sure how to describe it more clearly, but it is certainly there.) Then, as there is an awakening of the soul level, there is also a deep and profound sense of intimacy with the wider world as well, with others, nature, the universe as a whole. It is all shimmering with and as alive luminous presence. And this alive presence, right here, in this individual, this personal presence, is of one piece with the alive presence out there, the personal alive presence of others, and the impersonal alive presence everywhere throughout nature and the universe.
And as with any other longing, it is ultimately resolved at the Spirit level. It arises from a sense of I and Other, of separation, which gives a sense of lack, of something missing (which is true.) So when the field of what is, of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, when this field awakens to itself as a field, without any center, without any separate self anywhere, then any longing is resolved. There is only identification with longing when there is a sense of separation. In the absence of separation, there is also an absence of identification with longing (it may still arise, but without identification.)
A seeking of a sense of belonging…
Is partially met through all our human ways we find belonging, such as belonging to a place, a community, a landscape, a family, a culture, a nation, a planet, an universe.
Is more deeply met and resolved through awakening of soul as alive presence and all the other ways it arises. In second person, there is a deep sense of belonging, and as first person, it deepens even further. There is a recognition that this is who I really am, at an individual level. In my immediate experience, am far more truly this soul, this alive presence, than I am this human self and personality.
And again, at the Spirit level, there is a more ultimate resolution. Here, I find myself as awake emptiness and form, and as the Ground of all form. It is complete. There is no Other anywhere that can add to it. There is no Other that can provide any further sense of belonging.
I could go through a large number of longings, and the ways they are resolved at our human level is pretty obvious from our own experience, and the way they are resolved at Spirit level is always the same (absence of I and Other)…
But the ways they are resolved at our soul level is more interesting to me right now, maybe especially since my formal background is mostly from Zen, and this seems to be largely left out of Zen.
At our soul level, either finding soul as second or first person, all the longings I have explored so far, for myself, are naturally resolved. The many qualities of the soul is exactly what I long for…
The alive presence seems to be filtered through the three centers in different ways, as light split through a prism. It is filtered through the belly center as fertile darkness and a luminous blackness, deeply nurturing, holding, allowing anything in this human self to be composted. It is filtered through the heart center as an alive presence in the heart, infinitely loving, intelligent, receptive, responsive and personal. It is filtered through the head center as clarity, awake emptiness, form as no other than awake emptiness.
Through the belly center, there is a deep sense of stillness, nurturing, healing and maturing. Through the heart center, a deep sense of God as personal (whether second or first person) and infinite love. Through the head center, nondual wisdom and a release from suffering.
Together, there is a deep sense of aliveness, belonging, nurturing, acceptance, allowing, peace, rest, stillness, fullness, wealth, richness, excitement, intimacy, understanding.
Embracing all three levels
The alive presence – in all its many aspects, as this individual and the wider world – really fills all my needs, it is everything I ever was looking for. And yet, it does not preclude also finding it at my human level, and it does not preclude finding the ultimate resolution at the Spirit level.
There is a deeper longing which is the embrace of all three levels, of finding what we seek at our human, soul and Spirit levels. Why leave anything out?
And some other aspects of this…
There has to be a sense of surrender at each of these levels.
One form of surrender has to do with impermanence…
At our human level, it is obvious. Everything is in flux. Things happen. I may seek something particular, and it doesn’t come along. I have what I want, and it goes away. Something comes along I don’t want. That is just human life.
And so it is also at our soul level. The alive presence may be very much present in some phases in our life, and then retreat and seemingly be completely gone. That is the relationship with our soul, at least in the early phase.
The same is the case for the Spirit level. We may have glimpses of various clarity and duration, and then they are gone. Again, this is our relationship with Spirit, until it awakens fully to itself.
Another form of surrender is of what we take ourselves to be…
At my human level, I may find myself as more than or different from what I thought I was, and particular identities are surrendered. I may have ambitions that do not come to fruition. I may find in myself things I didn’t want to see. I may have gifts I didn’t know was there. Ways of being I was not aware was there come up in different situations and emerge over time.
Finding myself as soul, my exclusive identity as a human being (and with the personality) has to go.
And finding myself as Spirit, any identifications has to go.
Each of these is a death, and a rebirth. We die as what we thought we were, and are reborn as something else.
Adyashanti’s inquiries: tracing back, and not already here?
It is helpful to clarify what we seek and long for, and one way to do it (recommended by Adyashanti) is to make a list of everything we want, from the most grand to the most petty, from the most spiritual to the most mundane. Then, go through each item and ask what do I hope to get from this? And continue until you find the seed want (for me, it usually ends up as happiness, and freedom from suffering.)
Then, ask yourself is it true that this is not already here? Usually, I can find it present, at least as a grain, at each of the three levels. Any longing presumes that it is not already here, so this is a way to notice that it may already be here.
Spirit, soul and human self
If we awaken to ourselves as what we are, as Spirit, then everything is rest, peace, even in the midst of great activity and turmoil. There is the I without the Other, so automatically rest, a sense of completeness, of nothing missing. No matter what happens at our individual soul and human levels, the peace and sense of completeness is there.
If we awake to ourselves as soul, to any degree, then there is a continuous sense of alive presence, of profound and vibrant aliveness, nourishment, richness, fullness, sweetness, intimacy, being home. And this infuses our human life, no matter how this human life shows up (if it goes bad, this gives comfort and relieves some of the suffering, and if it goes well, this gives an added sense of vibrancy and aliveness.)