When you feel longing for something, do you take immediate action? We often move reflexively either to fulfill a longing or to suppress it, rarely taking time to sit with the longing itself.
Are you willing to connect to your feeling of longing? Not the subject, not the thing longed for, but the feeling itself. If that feels too risky, you can choose to connect to just a part of it, 70%, or 5% – whatever feels right to you. You can also set a time limit, or end the visit when it feels complete.
Take a moment to brew your favorite flavor of tea. Consider setting a second place for your guest. Curl your fingers around your mug and breathe in the aromatic steam. Settle more deeply into your chair, allowing your body to receive support.
Invite your longing, or part of it, to join you. Breathe, sip your tea, and notice what you see, hear, and feel as your guest arrives.
Describe your guest
Does your longing have a shape, color, or texture? Is it a faraway whisper, only audible in rare stillness? Is it shouting constantly with obsessive thoughts? Does it buzz like a yellow-jacket, and take bites out of what nourishes you? Perhaps it hums peacefully.
Where in your body do you notice it? Is it a physical pull, or ache, or warmth? Does it transfix you like a fish hook as you try to wriggle and squirm away from it? Does it drive you like a whip into fulfilling it? Does it rock you like a child?
Are you old friends, or strangers?
Is your focus slipping away to the subject of the longing? Remember to come back to the feeling itself. Breathe, sip your tea, and bring your spacious attention to your guest. Simply wait, and receive whatever comes.
Untangling the feelings
Longing can be braided with many other feelings.
- Shame/judgment – “shoulds” around longing and fulfillment
- Fear – of not having enough
- Anger – feeling thwarted or frustrated
- Regret – over paths not taken
- Grief – for what is lost
- Love – perhaps the source of longing
- Pleasure – in daydreams and memories
Perhaps there are whole stories entwined with this longing. Notice what thoughts and feelings arise for you. Acknowledge each one, allow it to move through you, and then bring your attention back to your invited guest.
Do you have anything to say to your longing? Does your longing have anything to say to you? Remember to breathe, and open to the unexpected.
As the visit comes to an end, notice if there have been any changes in you, or in your longing, or in the relationship between you. What do you see, hear, and feel? Next time you meet, will you be able to see each other more clearly? Have you come to appreciate anything about your longing, and yourself?
The gifts of longing
Our longings reveal our desires, our vulnerabilities, and our priorities. Longing can be a powerful, painful force, and, with quiet attention and acceptance, it can also be a gateway to greater connection and freedom.
I first encountered the idea of sitting with longing itself in Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. Highly recommended!