One morning recently while I sat during my prayer and meditation time, I began to sense messages of hunger from my body. This was quite unusual for me despite the fact that I do not eat before I sit in stillness. For nearly twenty years I have been sitting in daily morning quiet, attuning to my inner life and a sense of divine energy. The experience of feeling hunger while sitting seemed so strange. It caught my attention. Since that morning, I have been mulling over the hunger experience. I have thought about feeling pangs of hunger for food, how the body sends its messages to our consciousness looking for attention. If we do not respond, the messages get louder and more uncomfortable, insisting on the needed food so that we can continue along in our functioning. Optimal functioning usually means optimal food for fueling the process. Lack of nourishment eventually leads to loss of performance.
Simply put, this is a metaphor for other aspects of life where we experience hunger. Hunger for life in other ways comes as a desire. Hunger and desire for different kinds of things like physical nourishment, emotional nourishment, mental nourishment, and spiritual nourishment come in different ways. Our emotional energy holds great wisdom in discerning our desires. Deep yearning and longing, the kind that literally exists with what feels like physical ache and pain, is a message from deep within us, the kind that will not be silenced, the kind that we will not be distracted from permanently, the hunger that seems to a part of our core essence, holding critical information for us and our ultimate well-being. I think of the deepest yearnings as spiritual desire. The emotional and mental desires of life may be sorted through one at a time, as we determine their true importance to us. But all hunger must be responded to if indeed we are to feel that we have lived a fulfilling life.
As I think about my life today, I am aware of how I have been responding to my deep desires, learning to give voice and action to what feels like it is calling to me from within. I feel pretty terrific internally as a result. One of the dilemmas at the beginning of committing to responding to calls from within, is our ability to silence the nay-sayer. The internal voice that says, "You don't need that, that can never happen, you are being greedy, you are asking for too much" - you get the idea here. Who says we ask for too much? What is too much? Who's rules are we living by?
In answer to some of these questions, often we find that we are living by rules with which we were raised, scarcity type of rules. And there is value in saving for the rainy day, in telling the ego - not necessary when it goes against our deep values and what we know in our heart to be out of line with what feels right. I also think the ego wants can be tempered at times, especially when they do not fit with our budget and can cause us unnecessary debt. But the desire, the want, is not a bad thing. Not acting immediately on our mental desires and emotional desires, putting a little effort into finding their deeper source so that we might discern how to respond appropriately can be a prudent pause. To hold a desire present within us, to examine it in some detail and to hear the message of the desire from a less superficial perspective can be a truly worthwhile exercise. For instance, if I find myself musing about buying a dress, wanting to be more formally dressed than my routine generally supports, listening to that desire might tell me something about a deeper need that hovers below this, like you want to go out in the world more, you need to present yourself to the world Laurel. I might sense this if I am paying good attention to myself, digging a bit deeper than the immediate reaction.
The truth for me, as I have allowed myself to listen to my inner desires and to trust them and respond to them, is that they have led me into a life that feels satisfying each day. The way I spend my time, the meaning in my work, all my relationships, my leisure time all seem to support who I am today, making me feel at home in the world. I have come to trust the voice of desire that calls to me because it has led me into very gratifying work and activities. I know the way satisfying deep longings gives a sense of inner completion and peace.
I believe many of us are hungering for life, desiring deeper fulfillment than what the culture at large is attempting to tell us will provide happiness. Our cultural habits often lead us to silence our deep desires by numbing them away, through food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sports extremism, or constantly doing, doing, doing. It is as if we are freezing an essential part of our being, causing us to lose a fuller experience of well-being. Our desires hold value in their existence. How we respond becomes a choice, but responding in some way seems essential to keeping important aspects of our being engaged and awake within us.
When I actually pay attention to a commercial or advertisement, I disagree with the messages. I do not think our eternal happiness rests on having a certain soda or on having a diamond watch. The implication causes us to become superficially engaged. These items might offer a moment or two of sensual pleasure. And pleasure is a beautiful thing to enjoy, enhancing our sense of well-being, causing us to feel more alive. Ultimately though they are passing pleasures. What I do know from having traveled in to my inner world through stillness, is that there resides a place within that nothing or no one can take away from me, that I can go to at any moment and feel a sense of peace and completeness, true inner happiness; the place where my desire merges with a greater energy and all is well - no matter what I am wearing or what I had for lunch that day.
Honoring the calls of desire from within can lead us to our inner home, if we respond in a balanced, thoughtful way. Finding our inner home is how we manifest the life of our deep yearning. One moment at a time. Listening to our inner desires holds value, from a little desire to see a fresh flower on the desk, to wanting a peak spiritual experience. They are our inner guidance for discovering a truly fulfilling life.