There’s a word that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: longing. I think it’s an incredibly important word, one that we don’t use or talk about enough.
Longing is, according to one official definition, a prolonged unfulfilled desire.
Do you know any humans that live without prolonged unfulfilled desires? I do not.
Longing for more success, longing for a different financial reality, longing for recognition for our work, longing for community, longing for a more harmonious family life, longing for adventure or change, longing for peace and rest. We live, we long.
We all have different sensations associated with longing. For me, it’s an ache in the chest—an uncomfortable feeling, sometimes a subtly uncomfortable one, sometimes more intensely so. It can have a restlessness to it. It can be a fire that motivates action. It can devolve quickly into inner critic narratives if I let it, as in “uggh, this desire is still unfulfilled because I’m not doing it right, because something is wrong with me.”
I believe that longing, prolonged unfulfilled desire, is with us because it’s as inevitable a part of the human experience as breathing, or fatigue after a long day, or tears of sadness.
Longing is a core part of the human experience for the most beautiful of reasons: within each of us is an essence that longs for more love, more goodness, more gentleness, more beauty, more justice, more connection, more luminosity. What feels like home to our souls, to our deepest selves, is experiencing those qualities in full expression, everywhere and in their totality. Yet that is not what our souls find here, in the limited and imperfect realm of human experience on earth. Here, we find those qualities present in ways that are partial, more sporadic, and dimmed.
If we aren’t conscious about longing as an enduring and intrinsic part of being human, we end up being run by our longings, spending all of our time trying to end them, to fully quench the thirst they carry.
I wonder, what might happen if we seek to name the deeper spiritual layer of the longing, what it’s really for, and then let that longing be there ongoingly, a sign of something good, not a problem to solve?
Our longings for order, for beauty, for justice, for connection, for love, for ease, for liberation are important because they reveal to us the secret story of who we are. We are beings that find a sense of home in these qualities. Here on earth, where these qualities show up only in glimmers and glimpses, we are always in some sense, homesick.
Longing is our turning toward home in our homesickness and saying to Source, I miss you. I yearn for you. Longing, if we welcome it, can be a way of staying in touch.
Top photo credit: Chris Lawton