The Long View on Longings
If you’ve been reading my posts and articles over the years, you know that I return time and again to the idea of our soul’s longings. I was first introduced to the idea of soul’s longings when I was a student at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing (BBSH), many years ago. My understanding of the BBSH teachings was that our soul’s longings form the heart of our intentions, and that intentions arise from a dimension of our human experience that is distinct from thoughts, beliefs, desires and emotions.
In the BBSH teachings – or again, in my understanding of them – the dimension of intention is understood to be the bridge between the unmanifest and manifest worlds. Intention – particularly the longing at the heart of intention – is the very impulse for manifestation. It is another name for the sacred desire of the One to experience itself through the radiant diversity of the many.
In this superbly designed orchestration of Life, what we, as unique individuals, long to create and share is what the world most needs from each of us. So our longings are fundamental to our life purpose. Another way to understand it is that what we deeply long to create and experience in our lives is the foundation of our personalized inner guidance system, calling us in the direction of our greatest fulfillment.
I find this exquisitely beautiful.
And yet as simple, clear and intuitively right as it feels to me, I’ve recently begun to question my understanding of longings. I’ve started to wonder if, perhaps, I’ve gotten it all…well, wrong, to be blunt. (Perhaps “mixed up” would be a bit kinder. You know I’m all about being kind, especially to ourselves.)
Questioning this is a very big deal to me.
My understanding of longings and intention is central not only to my personal life, but to my livelihood, since it is the backbone of what I teach and how I mentor. Have I been walking down a blind alley all along?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. All I know is that questioning what we’ve always known, and opening ourselves to ever-deepening levels of insight and wisdom, is itself fundamental to a fulfilled life. And so I move into this new territory of exploration with both trepidation and genuine curiosity.
My questioning of longings and intention has been prompted by two things. The first is that I’ve fallen in love with two books by a writer to whom I’ve recently been introduced, Tosha Silver (author of Outrageous Openness and Change Me Prayers).
Tosha has mastered the art of turning her entire life, and everything in it, over to the Divine. She speaks clearly and compellingly about giving strong desires over to the Divine so they can be purified into gentle preferences. It’s all about bringing our small selves into alignment with what our Large, Divine Selves want for us. (“Let Thy will be my will.”)
Tosha uses her own passionate desire to travel as an example. This desire was evident at a very young age, yet as her life has unfolded, she hasn’t traveled very much. Over time she’s gained awareness that, in this lifetime, she is meant to learn how to travel within and to discover the aliveness in each moment, just as it is.
She has found great peace in letting go of her longing to travel and allowing herself to be led by the Divine. (But she still loves to travel and does it whenever she feels guided.)
I, on the other hand, have always believed that our soul’s longings ARE the longings of our Divine, Large Self.
Which brings me to the second reason I’ve felt prompted to question my understanding of longings: for decades I have longed to write a book. It has felt to me like a Divine longing of the soul. (I did write a very short book about seven years ago, which I self-published, but that was primarily an exploration of self-publishing, as well as a good opportunity to practice writing.)
Yet almost thirty years after that longing arose within me, I have yet to write the book I feel called to write. Which isn’t to say I haven’t tried. I’ve started and stopped writing the book at least three times, perhaps four. I even got so close as to submit a proposal to a major publishing house a while back. It was turned down, but I was invited to submit a new proposal.
I have not yet done so.
I can’t even call what I’m experiencing writer’s block. I truly do not know what book I want to write, or what book wants to be written through me. Ideas keep swirling, and I jot them down in an ever-expanding file so as not to lose them, but nothing has coalesced into a clear direction for a book.
I have – even before meeting Tosha through her delightful books – turned this longing over to the Divine many times. I’ve let it go and focused my attention elsewhere, trusting that if I’m meant to write a book, I will.
Yet as many times as I’ve let it go, it has returned. It’s like an annoyingly persistent cough. It seems to want my attention.
So is my longing to write a book a genuine soul’s longing, calling me in the direction of my deepest fulfillment? Or is it a desire of my small self that needs to be simmered to a mere preference in the fire of Divine will?
Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. Perhaps I’m not asking the right question.
Here is what I know: my longing to write a book keeps me writing. I don’t know whether I’ll ever write “the” book I think I’m supposed to write, but the longing itself calls me in the direction of writing.
And the process of writing has taught me, perhaps more than anything else I’ve done, the absolute necessity of self-love to the creative process. It has taught me that judging and doubting my writing will stop me in my tracks faster than a bad case of the flu. It’s taught me that sometimes I need to keep showing up and practicing, and other times I need to walk away and give it space – and it’s taught me to trust my inner guidance about which one is needed in any moment.
In other words, writing has been a tremendous teacher. It has helped me grow in ways I have needed and wanted to grow. As a longing, it has called me in a particular direction, one that most certainly has led to expanded self-awareness and the satisfaction of developing a skill that matters to me.
I’m reminded now of a flash of insight I had on one of those long-ago days at BBSH. In the midst of a very moving exercise we were doing, which was giving voice to our longings by toning wordless sounds, this singular thought arose in my awareness:
The longing itself is its own fulfillment.
I was startled by its singular clarity. It felt profoundly true to me, even though in that moment I didn’t fully understand what it meant. But in this moment, I can see one layer of meaning it conveys is that honoring our longings calls us to expand, to grow, to learn, to evolve. It’s not about the end point. It’s about the experience of coming more fully alive – here, now, in this moment.
Tosha came more fully alive when she expanded her definition of travel to include travel within. I came more fully alive when I allowed my longing to write a book to express itself, simply, as the pure act of writing.
And so perhaps both Tosha and I have perspectives on longings that are valid. Perhaps, as I have experienced, our heartfelt longings are guidance from the Divine, calling us in the direction of our growth and fulfillment. And perhaps, as Tosha so wisely knows, we serve ourselves well by continuously surrendering them to the Divine for further clarity, refinement and understanding.
I may never write “the book.” Yet my continued exploration of it has led to articles and blog posts and essays and online courses. Writing has helped me in significant ways, and thanks to generous feedback from readers I’ve received over the years, I believe it has helped others, too.
Our longings are meant to be acknowledged. They are meant to be honored. They are meant to be trusted. They are meant to be followed – not as a prescription, but as a beacon. They are calling us to explore uncharted territory within us.
And we are meant to stay in conversation with the Divine each step of the way.