Allowing our longing
What happens when you fully accept your own desire?
Pause here. Take a look around and sink into the moment you are currently in. Feel your legs below you, the parts of your body encountering your surrounding environment. Take a breath into your belly. And then ask yourself these questions, answering honestly if you can:
What is it that you deeply long for?
What is it that, were you to be fully honest with yourself, you truly want?
What is the abiding desire that lives in your heart that just won't budge, despite what your thinking mind, your family, or society says about it?
Pause again. Just answering these questions may bring up some emotions or activation in the body. Take a look around again, connecting with your environment. And then take all the time you need with what arose within you. You may want to write out the answers that came or the responses you experienced within yourself - images, words, sensations, emotions, impulses, etc - when you answered these questions.
And then, as you're ready, ask yourself these follow-up questions:
What if you were to turn towards that desire and be curious about the nature of it?
If it were to speak, what might that desire say?
How does your body respond?
Again, take all the time you need orient to your environment, and then to rest with the answers here. You may want to write them down.
We tend to grow up in families and communities that teach us that our desires cannot be trusted. For me, this led to me growing in confused circles, twirling in on myself trying to deny myself. It resulted in a kind of inner denial of my real self.
Acknowledging and honoring our desires is distinct from a spiritual practice - something that we learn as adults ideally after developing a healthy sense of self - that teaches us that blindly chasing our desires one after another never leads to lasting fulfillment. Or that some compulsive desires can simply be avoidance, addiction, and can result in greater harm, though these addictions arise because more base desires were not met.
In my mind, I see an image of the growth of a tree being thwarted, perhaps it was injured by another falling tree, maybe it finds itself under a rocky overhang. I see the way the tree now grows in on itself, becoming perverted in size and shape, growing in strange directions and appearing disturbed.
The tree isn't allowed to just yearn for and grow towards the sun. It isn't permitted to freely reach down towards subterranean nutrients and waters. It appears conflicted as its natural desires continue to drive its growth despite the blocks it runs up against.
I find that when we spend our whole lives doubting that we truly want what we want, not accepting and allowing our own deep, authentic yearnings, life is so much more painful and confusing.
We are all aware of the spiritual practices that are meant to support our development beyond basic clinging and aversion. They do this not by attempting to deny our desires, but by including and accepting the reality that our human nature includes desire and then guide us towards a new way of relating to that. Because we cannot be honest about how these natural ebb and flows happen within us, these practices often become a form of self-harm. We beat back our inner child, we tie down our true nature. And ultimately, if we don't realize what we're doing, we restrain the evolution of who we are, denying ourselves the full expression of our potential.
I think about what allowed Buddha to awaken: it was a desire so deep, so all-consuming, that he refused to move from beneath the Bodhi tree until he awakened. He was tempted and harassed by demons, the story goes, but he stayed loyal to his heart's longing and ultimately succeeded in his quest. Desire is not an obstacle to insight or inner peace; it's not a thing we need to just "get over." When we notice the way it expressed in our minds and bodies, accepted fully for the critical role it plays in our lives, it is the path.
I'm realizing now that when we grow up in an abusive or neglectful home, we believe that it is our desires that betray us. We believe that our longing for love and connection and pleasure is the problem, not the context and relationships that deny us. We carry around a resistance to our own humanity, trying to constantly restrain something that will do anything to grow towards the sun.