“Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”
Khalil Gibran, THE PROPHET, “On Children”.
This Gibran expression of “Life longing for itself” is one of my favorite quotes of all time. In a spirited age of divisiveness, life is the unity we share: Life birthed us, carries us, contains us, propels us, and, ultimately, surrenders us. Life/Living– as a collective wholeness; as a state of being, manifesting, planting, nurturing, growing, harvesting; becoming, experiencing, birthing and dying—presents as a universally shared context for the moments between our first and last breaths; our heart’s beating, pumping and circulating blood to flow and nourish our temporal bodies; our thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires providing illumination for longing. Rather than examine a generic, subject to interpretation essay about Life; I’m choosing to look at the word LONGING, and why it appeals to me so completely in this day and age of craving, wanting, yearning, aching, hungering, thirsting, and hankering—descriptive words describing an “unmet yet” vision of life.
Longing is defined as a strong feeling of need and desire. Jim Brickman wrote a song called “Longing”. To me, his piano piece reflects an ardent, yet unfulfilled piece of heart within music without words. Googling names of music and books, articles and poems, I find numerous works containing “Longing” in their titles. A longing, as a noun, can be an ambitious desire for success. The word, longing, is a word that tugs at my heartstrings. In my most heart-centered imaginings, I long for what I long for with deep passion and ardent aspiration. My deepest passionate longings are for peace and love intended by and for all creation.
I mentioned words similar to longing earlier in this essay. A few of those words stand out as radically opposed to my love for the word longing. Craving, Wanting, Yearning are the three similar; yet different, words I will address today.
The subtle difference between desire and neediness is illustrated in the words longing(desiring) and craving(needing). A craving may be insatiable, perhaps never fully satisfied, as in a craving for a forbidden food or drink while dieting or in recovery. Craving denotes a strong need for something whereas longing waxes poetically in reference to a strong wish for desire’s fulfillment.
When I “want” something, I acknowledge that it is outside of me; that what I want, is what I don’t have. When I “long” for something, I can utilize positive affirmation and prayer to plant the desires of my intention and vision. Positive affirmation and prayer bring me, “And so it is/Amen!” Wanting leads me to covet, to expect, to extend outside of myself to fill the place inside of me void of what I want.
The slight nuance between longing and yearning is compelling for me. I experience a longing as deep, earnest, poignant desire. I can have a desperate yearning for chocolate chip ice cream when I’m on a dairy free diet. When I yearn, it’s a kind of wistful wish. To me, (which means it’s my subjective belief) a yearning can be appeased only through a met desire—almost close to the need expressed with craving.
When” Life longing for itself” gives birth to life itself, my personal longing is that my life is committed to contributing to a world where all sentient beings are safe, happy, and free. In my longing, I become a particle of the energy that carries Life to the healing grace of good, love, and possibility.
My yoga shala in Pensacola is called “Breathe”. In my favorite yoga class, our teacher Nancy sings with us a mantra called, “Lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu.” After we sing it, she repeats the mantra’s meaning in English:
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of our own lives contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom.”
What are you longing for today? What will you commit to breathe into being?