Is it possible that this month is really about heartbreak? We may be able to indulge some desires without much cost, but we are fooling ourselves if we think we can pursue spiritual desires without suffering a broken heart. The desire for a better world. The hunger for deep connection. The longing to actualize our full potential. Leaning into these desires is to let yourself care deeply for what can’t ever be fully attained. When it comes to the most beautiful and noble of our desires, it’s all about loving and pursuing that which will always be out of reach.
And of course we reach anyway. We can’t help ourselves. It’s what it means to be human. Plato puts it this way: “We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine.” Notice the implicit plea to be grateful. It comes “from the gods” he says. This madness, this dis-ease, these unstoppable desires for great love, great change and great connection are a gift! The prize is not the moment we are finally quenched; it’s that first moment when we were wonderfully cursed with thirst! Heartbreak and heartache are not dangers to be avoided; they are signs that we are living fully and leaning into the holy dis-ease that makes us most human.
It’s why Rumi says “fall in love with the agony of love.” He knows many of us avoid pursuing our deepest hungers because of fear. No one’s deepest longings ever come true. Better to play it safe and keep those deep hungers at a distance. But in this case, playing it safe also means going numb. And we were not created to go numb.
So friends get out there this month and get your heartbroken. It won’t feel good, but you will know you are on the right path. And remember Rumi’s promise: somewhere in that agony you will feel yourself loved by and deeply connected to life.
Not a bad deal.
Our Spiritual Exercises:
Option A: What Gets You Up in the Morning?
It’s a fundamental question about desire: What gets you up in the morning? One can go through their whole life not knowing the answer to that. Routine too easily takes over our lives. Something is wrong when “the alarm clock” is the primary thing that pushes us into the day. This exercise asks us to get into relationship with a different source of momentum.
Your assignment: For one week, take 10 minutes at the beginning of your day or at bedtime the night before to identify one thing you want out of the coming day. One thing that you want. In the midst of all the obligations ahead of you, what one desire do you want to make room for? Keep it simple. Maybe it is nothing more than to feel the sun on your face for five minutes. Maybe it is to connect and cook tonight's meal with your daughter. Maybe it is to read or run or just have five minutes of silence. Just make it yours.
Option B: Go Big
In many ways, this month’s theme of desire is more intimidating than last month’s theme of resistance. Sometimes holding back is easier than wild embrace. Sometimes taking on a clear “opponent” is less overwhelming than following a passion that is guaranteed to lead you into the unknown. Sometimes, as Marianne Williamson has famously said, “It is our light not the darkness that most frightens us.” Bottom line: We often mute the voice of desire because we’re scared of what it is asking of us. We don’t want to feel desire because we know it is asking us to change, in ways that seem unimaginably hard.
But there comes a time when the voice can’t be muted. The hunger trumps the fear. The voice in your head keeps saying, “This life is too small” and “I am selling myself short.” If this is true for you, make this the month of wild embrace. Let your desire loose. Don’t just lean in, jump in.
Here’s some inspiration:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -- Marianne Williamson
Question to ask Yourself
As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety. Instead, simply pick the one question that “hooks” you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal of these questions is not to help you analyze what desire means, but to figure out what being a person of desire means for you today. So, which question is calling to you?
1. Is life calling you to nurture someone else’s desire? How can you help another lean in to the hungers and hopes budding inside them?
2. When was the last time you let yourself fall freely and fully into desire? Are you ready to go all in?
3. Are you muting the voice of desire because you’re afraid of what it is asking of you?
4. Is it possible that God speaks to us in and through our desires? Is it possible that prayer doesn’t mean talking to God at all, but instead simply listening to our dreams?
5. How is your relationship with the desire to consume? Is it consuming you more than you’d like? More than you are willing to admit? Why not ask someone to help you stop? Very few of us can control unhealthy desires on our own.
6. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you long(desire) to leave behind?
7. When was the last time you showed your love that you enjoyed them, not just loved them? Sometimes the way we want to be desired most is to simply be the one you most enjoy to be with. (A good thing to remember on Valentine’s Day.)
8. Do you remember your childhood desire? Didn’t you promise yourself you’d never forget it?
9. What about the desire to be true to yourself? We so often get lost trying to meet other people’s desires that we forget our own.
10. What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don't include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it.
Quotes from Library Committee members using UUCW Library resources
“Community arises when we discover the interesting, if radical, alternative: finding guidance for our own lives by giving attention to the desires and intentions of others. This is not an obligation, it’s a way of being that invites soul in place of ego.”
—From Soul Mates by Thomas Moore, p. 110. Call No. 158.2 Moo.
“Is there anything that either is or ought to be desired for its own sake and never for the sake of anything else? If so, that is the ultimate good, not just an end, but the end, the final end beyond which one cannot go.”
—From Six Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler, p. 92. Call No. 111.8 ADL.
“The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the basic habits of effectiveness. Knowledge, skill, and desire are all within our control. We can work on any one to improve the balance of the three.”
—From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, p. 92. Call No. 158 COV.
“But if your spirit hungers, this may be the time to fall head over heels into passionate
commitment to something greater than another person. Fall for the sacred. Surrender to a
passion for whatever is most holy to you. If you seek love, you must open up to love. If you fall
head over the heels for the Ultimate, you’ll find yourself feeding more than your own spirit.”
—From The Seasoned Soul by Eliza Blanchard, p. 95-96. Call No. 204.4 Bla.
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