How do we know, really, how do we know which are our authentic longings, the voice of the soul versus illusions of emptiness needing to be filled? My friend, Jacob Nordby has said, “You see, when we begin by taking the journey into learning Who We Really Are, then we can ask that Self what it truly desires. From this point, we are ready to go for those authentic longings with a whole heart.”
Ask the Self . . . more than once.
This could be why I’m still stuck in a mental state that keeps me from expanding into my soul’s mission of providing space for others to do the same. I spent half of my years on the planet identifying myself and my mission with my roles in service to society as I was raised to understand it: wife, worker, and parent. Then I “woke up.” This internal awakening was disruptive to all those roles I had previously thought defined who I was. I had trouble disentangling myself from being needed by others. On the other hand, attempting to abandon everyone and everything I was “responsible for” just created more suffering all around. After getting divorced, I figured out that I’d attached my longings to my emotional brain and its ego fears. Our ego helps us stay alive and pushes us to pursue action in the world, but having that part of our mind as the source of our ultimate longings seems to increase suffering. It’s the craving you have to watch out for.
Craving the Fill
That’s it! The craving is the clue that my ego is longing for something because it’s afraid of the consequences of not having that, whatever it is. You can feel it, the emptiness of not having that iPad, or that love relationship, or that adulation from the crowd. That empty stomach feeling and the low-blood sugar headache, the hours since you last had a nicotine or caffeine or chocolate hit. See the negative aspect here? Craving is all about wanting something that’s missing, to temporarily relieve the suffering.
If I keep chasing stuff and experiences that fill the emptiness, or run away from stuff and experiences that seem to create that feeling of lack, it’s going to create a vicious little circle, or even a spiral downward into more lack, more suffering as each thing I grasp for doesn’t fill me. Talk about a black hole metaphor! That’s rough. Stop. Breathe. Look around and inside at what is not empty. Air is nice and cool; sun is beautifully setting over the hills. I have food in the fridge and pantry. I can move; I can breathe. I have a loving partner, wonderful children, amazing friends. All is swell, right this second. There’s my soul, my Self! Just hanging out in the present (’cause it likes presents). Doesn’t the soul have longings? Wouldn’t that mean that it’s dissatisfied with this life that it created? No, it feels satisfied to me.
Expansion from Joy
So, why change anything? I could sit and contemplate my navel in silence or join a monastery. Where’s the authentic longing? How do we go from “all is swell” to “let’s go!” And to where? Expansion. Not into joy from misery, but from joy. Like a supernova (it contracts, too, later, and the soul is also OK with this rhythm). What direction? All directions. Uh-oh. Human mind is not good at multitasking. All directions is stressful, stretch-ful. Wait. I can expand while keeping the core of me in one place. And the expansion will have a shape, a focus, a color (or more than one color), but I get to choose the shape, the color(s). Like this planetary nebula.
Does my soul have favorite shapes and colors? Sit. Breathe. Be full. Spheres, curves. and purple/green/blue/red. OK. Soul has preferences. All is swell, and (not “but”) soul longs to be curved, purple/green/blue/red. We have somewhere to go! Ego is feeling a bit more comfy with this. It likes goals. These are kind of nebulous (ha-ha!), though. Need to concretize, plant, grow an activity or a thing that expresses this longing for curved expansion into color. Why? Because soul has preferences and therefore is here to create experiences to express those preferences. How do I know that what I am experiencing is what the soul longs for? Ah, expansion. Does the experience feel like expanding (body or mind, doesn’t matter). Expanding lungs to run marathon. Expanding paints on a canvas. Expanding soil to grow veggies.
Here are my expressions of expansion: Hugging people (I know, not so simple in current circumstances). Talking or writing about fascinating people and other mind-expanding subjects. Reading the messages in archetypal symbols (Tarot reading, but not just that). Creating conversations to find other people’s centers and soul preferences. Writing feelings into poems to connect with those souls.
Sit. Breathe. Be full. Hear the birdsong. Feel what makes your soul expand. Go do that. Then come back and tell me who you are. I’ll be here.