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The Source of the Longing

June 7, 2010

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This has been written before. It has been previously experienced and teachers have made efforts to teach and pass on this discovery. However, more than anything, this steady, quiet, and powerfully intense truth is ignored, resisted, fruitlessly combated, and mistaken as a source of great suffering. What is that? The source of the longing. The source of the longing is the Source.

It occurred to me about two weeks into lesson one. Each day the momentum of the practice grew stronger, it pulled on me with greater force, and I found that I was fairly easily able to delve deeper day-by-day. After practicing with intention and focus a simple series of postures, I found myself directing the light of my attention with greater precision to the root of my spine. Once there, I was able to tune into the movement of prana and follow it as it slowly spiraled upward. As it did, and as I watched, the spiraling continued upward and concentrated itself in my chest, throat, and the middle of my brain and slowly, steadily, rotated as if it was gradually digging an access route to the very core. What was the result?

My mind is a filthy mess. Horrific. If the mind is like the ocean, choppy and disrupted at its surface but still and steady in its depths, then my mind is like the ocean at peak hurricane season: emotional, turbid, distracted, and violent. In Yoga texts it would be described as a monkey mind, in Zen texts it would be described as a wild bull. In short, it’s no place yet to set a flimsy raft for a peaceful float in the sunlight.

A few weeks into lesson one I woke up with a tangible and nearly intolerable sense of longing. Immediately, I tried to attach a meaning, a cause, a reason. God, I thought to myself, I really miss my husband. What? That can’t be it. He’s only been gone for a few hours and he’ll be back in another few. Again, I focused on the longing (this took three days) and as I did something clicked and the barrier between that choppy surface and the depth beneath it became like mesh. Loads of emotional debris, memories, instances, very specific, very old, and presumed to be lost and forgotten, a veritable parade of samskara (impressions) can marching by as I watched. Some made me flinch, some made me sad, but I made an effort to not strongly identify with any but to merely watch and the longing simply intensified. I held my focus on that longing and observed.

What is the source of the longing? What I’ve realized—empirically—is that the source of the longing is the Source. It is not my intention to pass on some hyper-abstract quasi-maxim that turns on itself like a Zen koan to twist you out of habit…well, of course, any twisting out habit can be quite useful. Nonetheless, in this case, I mean precisely what I’ve written: The source of the longing is the Source. Here is goes.

Embodied, we are filled with distractions: pleasure, pain, mental impressions, ignorance, a constant onslaught of information brought to us via our senses. Understandably, we lose sight of the Divine spark that puts life in us because the body and its senses pull our attention continuously to that choppy violent surface. With our focus there, distracted from the depths, we experience that longing as restlessness, dissatisfaction, or some unidentifiable existential dilemma. In effort to salve that restlessness we grasp at various methods: food, eat more food; chemicals, imbibe more chemicals; entertainment, don’t leave me to my own mind; blame, surely there is someone else responsible for my dissatisfaction; fate, of course it has dealt ME a shitty hand; and and and [fill in the blank with your own brand of effort to alleviate the restlessness]. Choppy choppy surface won’t you ever just calm down? Perhaps; but only after we begin to delve deeper.

That sense of distraction is indeed a deep longing to reconnect with the Source. It reminds me so much of Sufi songs of longing and drunkenness—drunk with the intensity of the union with God.

Here, I am trying my best to convey something to you. Something, indeed, that I am still very much working out. This is what I can tell you for now: It is EASY to get thrown off that longing and back into the choppy surface. The systematic and sincere practice of channeling and exploring that longing (and for me asana, proper breathing, listening to Swami-ji, reflecting, failing, getting up after failing despite the humiliation and the pain and persevering) is the most reliable method for not getting thrown off so much or as violently. This is what I have taken from lesson one.

Hari Om Tat Sat

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your ideas in the comment box and talk back to the blog. 😉

  1. Very insightful and illuminating post, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I too have felt what you have talked about. Through some sustained meditation and mantra chants I too feel the prana move up the spine. For me its a feeling on intense heat starting at the lower back, then settling at the center of the chest for a while. I now feel it resting at the back of my neck and sometimes traveling up.

    Also, your thoughts on longing for the source and it being the source itself is also very poignant as everything and everyone is from the same light. Its our own conditioning that has built this duality, this ignorance of the source and the longing being separate. However, inspite of knowing this intellectually, the bonds of duality are very tough to break. So for me the longing is for this duality to end and to experience the beauty of oneness.

    • Hi, Brijdeep,

      Thank you for your comments. I especially enjoyed your point about the duality constructed by our conditioning and the difference between understanding this intellectually and then actually breaking the bonds of duality. Sometimes an intellectual understanding can serve as a starting point, but it seems that it can also serve as an obstacle….but I find myself asking myself this very moment how the bonds of duality are shaping my own thoughts :-).

      Thanks again,

  2. This is such a powerful post. It is so beautiful that you are aware of your longing, and searching for its source. Keep searching, keep questioning… 🙂

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