The Accommodation of Longing
Seeking Nam is a little like falling in love with someone of whom your family disapproves. The ‘family’, in this case, are your worldly involvements, habits and desires, which don’t want anything to alter their comfortable status quo, while Nam, of course, is the loved one. There comes a point when you must ask yourself: how much am I prepared to give up for my beloved?
A close friend called me one day to announce that she and her husband were expecting a baby. She was happy and excited; but she was excited about a lot of other things in her life too. She lived actively and diversely, to an exceptional degree: deeply immersed in culture, sport, friendships, work. One of her many passions was cycling. It was a cold April that year, and one weekend soon after learning about the baby she and her husband went cycling in the mountains, undeterred by predicted bad weather. A few days after returning, she miscarried.
She was hard hit emotionally; it wasn’t the first pregnancy that had failed to work out for her. But the doctor said: don’t worry, when you are really ready for this, when this is genuinely what you want more than anything, then it will happen for you. There are many reasons why a pregnancy may fail; most often they are physical. But in this case the doctor seemed to sense in her a certain lack of focus, a confusion of priorities.
My friend went home, worked through the sorrow of course, but also re-ordered her life. She had to decide which of her many interests and desires were really important to her, and which not. She made some sacrifices, and streamlined her life; she accommodated her longing. A short time later she conceived again, and nine months after that her first child came into the world.
We can think we dearly want something, but unless we’re prepared to focus on it completely, and in a logical way take the practical steps we know are necessary to achieve it - such as giving up other desires that might stand in its way - then maybe that longing just isn’t great enough yet. The same is true when we approach initiation.
We must ask ourselves: “How much am I prepared to give up in order to gain my heart’s desire?” Unless the answer is “anything, and if necessary everything”, then that longing is not true. It’s highly unlikely that we actually would have to give up everything, but there cannot be a single thing that we aren’t ready to give up.
And if we really are ready to give up anything in order to gain our heart’s desire - if our longing for Nam is that strong, but we cannot yet obtain it for some practical reason, such as not yet meeting the age requirement or some other criterion - then we must simply enjoy that feeling of longing. Unfulfilled longing can bring a pain that feels at times intense, but there is a seed of joy at its core, and that is something to treasure. The experience of that intense longing - the impression made deep within us of its strength, of its pain and its joy – is something that will carry us through later, during times when our enthusiasm might waver. On finally receiving that gift of Nam from the Master, the commitment to meditation will be all the stronger in remembering the pain of that longing.
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.