As I have been pondering my heart this new year in The Way of the River, two qualities keep coming up again and again. Either I find myself mentioning them to others, or others are saying them to me. They are authenticity and yearning.
Longing, thirsting, questing, yes, all these, but especially the word, “yearning.” According to Merriam-Webster, that most excellent of online dictionaries (not just because of their definitions, but also because of their wonderful games and hilarious Twitter feed), says that yearning is, “tender or urgent longing.”
Tender, urgent longing.
My heart leans in toward that definition. Yearning, not only longing, not only wishing, not only seeking after, but having a tender quality, as well as urgency.
Yearning with You
Why am I so fixated on this word, friends?
Well, because it is the word that comes up when I think of you. It is the word that I imagine most describes the character of all our deep, wise hearts. In our deepest places, we know there is More, there is Love beyond all the embraces we have ever been able to describe, there is Something for which we thirst, reach, lean…Something for which we yearn.
The dictionary talks about yearning for something sweet. Hmph. No. Sorry, Merriam-Webster, much though I just extolled your virtues, I disagree with you here.
I don’t yearn for something sweet, though I may have a yen for a piece of chocolate. I may want, desire, even crave that piece of chocolate. But my heart does not tenderly and urgently lean in with the thirst for the Divine Heart when I am seeking something sweet.
My heart does tenderly and urgently lean in with a thirst for the Divine. There is no getting around it. There just isn’t.
Sometimes I move around in the world and I feel at one with every being, person, plant, animal, system, every tragedy and iota of suffering and joy. And at the very same time, I can feel myself, my heart, my soul, trying to burst from my skin.
“When you feel your heart go beyond your skin, / when you know that’s the way it’s always been…” Thank you, Dar Williams. Yes, exactly that.
How Yearning Manifests
Do you wish there were more to your life? Do you understand, somehow, that that more you want is within you? Do you know it, and do you keep throwing yourself against it, into work, into drinking, into conviviality, into food, into trying again and again to make yourself “better”?
Do you wish you knew your own deepest self better? Do you know in your bones the world around your is veiled by banality, without the color, the sparkle and jubilation that exists behind the curtain?
I think you know these things.
I think in the profound places, capitalism, patriarchy, and the systems of white supremacy don’t have a chance, cannot finally assail the force of Love.
The thing is, though, we’re afraid to go there. And as long as we’re afraid, Love can still lose. We can keep living in nightmares, and condemn others to nightmare lives, as well.
We can refuse it all.
We can refuse love.
We can refuse to acknowledge our tender, urgent longing.
We live on the edges, afraid of our own selves and our own brilliant, shimmering darkness. We’re afraid to become Love, to cry with the Sufi poet-singers that we have become Love, that will give all for Love.
And we have every right to be afraid. It’s scary as all hell to give ourselves over to Love. Even as I type these words, I have a lump in my throat.
The Next Question
Because the next question is, of course, “What does Love demand of me?”
The answer, I hope and pray and sometimes trust is this: Love demands more than we can imagine, and Love never demands anything it does not repay in wisdom, understanding, and more love.
Love multiplies itself, no?
Love multiplies itself.
We know this truth, all of us. We know it. We’ve heard it a thousand times—Love isn’t love until you give it away. We know every time we genuinely give ourselves away in love, that we receive joy and tenderness.
Furthermore, it is yearning—something that can sound like a desire for self-aggrandizement—that can paradoxically lead us to give ourselves away in love.
In my experience, yearning for the Divine, for Amma, for the lap of the Great Mother, and the Kiss of the Ineffable Who is Beyond Gender or Number or Name, leads me toward the good.
It leads me not just to sit in meditation, but to want to, and to have the gentleness to do it even when I don’t want to.
It leads me to sing at my altar, to sing for joy, to sing in tears, to sing the names of the gods I know and the syllables of words beyond words, what the Bible calls, “the groanings of the Spirit praying within us.”
It leads me to write, to think, to reflect, to be with you. It leads me to make ceremony, to create worship services, to hope-in-action for change, to act for change outside as well as inside.
It leads me to care tenderly for my sexuality, for my body, for my relationships. It leads me to make love in as many ways as I can get my hands around.
The Sisters of St. Joseph taught me through their charism of unity and reconciliation that action demands contemplation and contemplation demands action.
You Can Admit It: I Am not Alone
If one yearns towards God, and oh, I am feeling the butterflies in the pit of my stomach as I type faster and harder and faster and harder… If one yearns towards God, well, you tell me, but I think that thirst-longing-desire, that yearning for the Great Flame cannot help bringing us to our deepest work, our truest knowledge of ourselves and others, and a keen sense of the needs of the world as the needs of our own hearts, bodies, and souls.
You yearn, my beloved, I know it.
You yearn for something that is just beyond the tip of your tongue.
I am here to help you both sharpen a lifelong thirst and yet drink from the Limitless Well.
I am here to move with you through the brambles and the rocks. I am here to companion you when “amid life’s way, (you find) (your)self in a dark wood,” as Dante wrote.
I am here because I long to be of use, to love others, as well as to know myself beloved upon Earth.
I am here because I want to put my shoulder to the arc of the moral universe and help bend it toward justice, in whatever ways are truly mine to do.
I am here for you. I am writing for you. I am listening for you.
Are you yearning for More? The Limitless Well awaits your arrival…