Midweek Faith Lift
June 16, 2021
Desire-The Source of Longing
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Men are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving.
And from Rumi~
From the urgent way lovers want each other to the seeker’s search for truth, all moving is from the mover. Every pull draws us to the ocean.
What is this intense energy of desire, this longing of the heart that we experience in our human condition? Well, in our human condition, we probably experience it as “doing just what we like” and feeling the pleasure that comes from that enjoyment. However, the hard part of that is that it is usually only temporary leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction or wanting! And our more natural, human experience is to feel this “wanting” that can take over our sense of who we really are. How can relate to the energy of desire without getting possessed by it and without resisting it? Craving and aversion are two sides of the same coin and equally dead-ended. Is there another path that allows us to experience this strong energy of desire as a natural force and yet also remain free in the midst of it?
What is going on when we are caught up in “I have to have this….or more of this”…… and/or “Get me out of here, how can I escape this???” Is there a middle way? We are not alone in this inner conflict, in fact, the apostle Paul describes it in terms of “sin” in his letter to the Romans. It goes like this:
The Inner Conflict
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. (NRSV)
It is so interesting that even in 1st century Palestine, Paul is struggling publicly with his behaviors, his actions, his wants. He is calling it “sin” but he is really talking about his lack of understanding the energy of his “wanting self” which is our perennial human dilemma! We are all motivated for good or ill by our wanting self, which is distinct from the energy of desire that is the source of our longing.
How did we come by this wanting self and get so caught up in it? Tara Brach, on page 134 of Radical Acceptance notes that the word desire comes from a Latin root “desidus” which means “away from a star.” The stars are the energetic source of all life; we are literally “star stuff.” We are longing to know our true nature as part of the Source of all Life, but we constantly fixate on what by nature is impermanent and so we feel “away from our star.” It is interesting to note that Myrtle Fillmore would describe this as a sense of separation from God, or our true Christ nature, which she also calls sin.
What has us so trapped in this sense of separation, this experience of chronic wanting? Well, it is a part of our human experience that we as young children get a sense of being somehow deficient or defective or less than and then we cling to that as our identity. We compare ourselves to siblings, classmates and see who gets the most praise. Then we judge ourselves as “not good enough, not smart enough, not worthy of love and attention, of really belonging. Parents, teachers, peers, adults unwittingly contribute to this from their own experiences of these same feelings and sense of identity.
We then find a means to overcome our deficiency when we are praised for our achievements, our natural talents, our smarts, which is the perfect setup for the “wanting self” to emerge. We want, as living beings, to survive, so we are biologically primed to grasp after pleasure and avoid pain. It is this dilemma of our human condition that sets us up as a “wanting self” that is caught endlessly between grasping for what we want and resisting what we don’t want. It keeps us trapped in our diminished or contracted self, because each time our energy is focused on craving something or resisting something, we are not able to fully express our true self, our pure self, our “full awareness of our Christ self.” And we are truly stuck, like, Paul, with no understanding of our inner conflict.
Well, much like being fully present to our bodies, as we explored last week, it will take us being fully present to and accepting our “wanting selves” to find a path through this dilemma. It is not easy or painless, but it is the only true path out of this endless reactive cycle of being driven by our “wanting self.” That is true freedom when we become active choosers rather than constant reactive doers who don’t know “where that came from!” The endless cycle of wanting keeps us trapped in fear- that we won’t get what we want and shame when we give in to our cravings and seem to have no “willpower” to resist them. The problem is that what you resist persists, so trying to just ignore all this or make it go away only strengthens the energy. And it also hardens our hearts and the tenderness of desire that is the true longing of the heart. OY! WHAT TO DO WITH THAT!!!???
The bottom line is that when our resistance is gone, the demons are gone too. But it is so hard to trust that as a human reality. What is true is that it is a spiritual reality and as Paul noted, it is a spiritual law, but how do we access this higher spiritual law? How do we embrace desire and move from the place of wanting or resisting to that sweet spot of desire and longing?
Tara Brach offers what she describes as the path of “Radical Acceptance” which is a path of being with the “wantings”, the cravings in a way that allows them to be there without shame or fear. Brach describes working with a woman during a retreat who has significant food addiction whom she supports during a process of being with all the cravings and resistance energy by using the words: “And this, too.” Using the practice of saying, “And this too” in response to every experience allowed this woman to realize that she was NOT making her cravings happen, she was not causing them. That was a profound sense of release and relief for this woman, and as I read it, I too could share that sense of relief and release.
We are fully human and as embodied souls, we experience all the effects of that experience, even what we do not cause or did not cause to happen to us. When we get that, we then become free to be with the human experience and can allow it to break us open to a greater reality of who we really are. When we truly “get that” part of our “human beingness” we can stop arguing with it and allow it to be our pathway into understanding our true star stuff nature, our Divinity! When we no longer blame ourselves for the presence of our wanting selves we are free to experience the true desires of our hearts. We are truly free to love.
Now, I went through Myrtle Fillmore’s How to Let God Help You, and I was delighted to find a chapter entitled, “The Longing of Our Souls” which addresses these same issues. She talks about people who are addicted to alcohol without any condemnation whatsoever which is not at all the common response to alcoholism in the early 1920s. She says this on pages 96:
We condemn men for drinking liquor, but we should not do so. The drinker has a great longing to do something. He does not want to follow the common walks of life; he wants to follow the higher ways…..we are never satisfied through sense; it enslaves us more and more.
And further, on page 97, she says:
First of all, drop out of your mind the idea that a bad habit is a terrible thing. When you think of it as a terrible and powerful thing, you keep giving it as much or more power than you allow the Christ. The drink-craving habit is not a moral shortcoming; it is a crying out of some of the tissue masses of the body, and an effort of the body to meet the needs of the soul for satisfying mental and physical food.
Forgiving and accepting our wanting self is a giant step in transforming the pain and shame connected with our cravings. The better question for us is how do we make friends with all aspects of our human self, our wanting self so that it can become a natural part of our experience that serves our awakening? Our true heart’s desire is to deeply feel the longing of our soul for the experience and realization of deeply felt love and belonging. When we become aware of this deeper desire, we free ourselves from identifying with it. We let go of all that does not satisfy this desire and allow ourselves to really feel that sense of longing, a longing to be a part of love itself, loving all that is. Then the longing for love becomes a gateway into love itself. That is the true desire of the heart.
When we release grasping and resisting, we are free to love and be loved in whatever way that shows up. Keep forgiving, keep remembering that you didn’t cause the cravings or the resistance, they just are. Make friends with them as part of our human condition, as powerful teachers who can wake us up to our true Divine nature, the Source of all Desire. And as Rumi said, “Every pull draws us to the ocean,” to the Allness of God.
Blessings on the Path,