In recent conversations, the topic of what we long for has come up a lot. There’s a wise mystery about the way our longings may have to rest in some subterranean place for a while until the circumstances in which our longing can be satisfied arise. This arising is a combination of patient seeking and clear connection to this longing along with a helpful dash of prayer or question-asking—which may be the same thing.

Notice I did not say anything about desperately trying to make something happen in response to our longing. Panic and desperation reek so strongly of fear that what we long for turns up its sensitive nose and heads somewhere far more fragrant. I know. I have tried and keep trying panic and desperation on a fairly regular basis and it’s not pretty.

Longing is a poignant and beautiful thing to hold when we can hold it with patience. If we hold it impatiently it starts to curdle into frustration and bitterness.

Seeds and roots in winter, watercolour
Ligsma Kirpe 1980s, Seeds and shoots in winter

Sometimes as I put it fairly bluntly to someone recently, our longing may have to be put down there among the compost. We are sometimes aware of it strongly in our consciousness as an intention and patiently ask our deep question of the world, or we may even neglect it for quite long periods because we need to get on with other aspects of life. We need to make some money or attend to a crisis.

When a neglected longing does come to our attention, we can acknowledge it and sit with its bitter-sweetness. And then we have to keep waiting for the right context, with a combination of contemplative sitting on our backsides and getting out into the world with curiosity so that we can actually engage with the messages the world is trying to convey to us. The timing and balance of these two kinds of activity is a task of discernment.

Bulbs in transformation, watercolour
Ligsma Kirpe, 1980s, Bulbs in transformation

We may not see the manifestation of our longing for a very long time, like the daffodil bulbs we planted at Easter that are just now beginning to sprout. But I can be aware that the daffodil bulbs are there. I can attend to the possibility of their arising and look after the conditions that surround them. And be warned, human time is very different from daffodil time. Three months in daffodil time can be three days, six months, three years, a decade or two, or even a lifetime away in human time.

So what about in the meantime? In the meantime, we prepare, we gather the capacities and skills our heart longs for. We take a mistaken path or a side route or a route that is needed to sustain us. But we do not forget our longing. And I truly believe and have experienced that we find one day that the path we have chosen seems suddenly familiar–we haven’t recognised it as the one we longed for but we are walking it already. We live into our longing sometimes for a long time before we notice.

How are you living into your longing? How much patience is it requiring of you? Where are there satisfied longings waiting to be acknowledged and appreciated?



1 thought on “longing”

  1. Thank you Clare for those thoughts…
    Living into the longing for me feels like a dance, sometimes beautiful, sometimes painful, a dance between full and empty, between tears and laughter, between hopeless and hopeful, between being forgetful and remembering to trust..
    My longing requires as much patience of me as I need to accept my earthly conditions without those longings being satisfied. “Something” tells me that it takes as much time as I need to transform attachment to my longing into letting go, so then I can meet the world and longing from the right inner place, from the ‘I’, not me.

    And yes the question about satisfied longings waiting to be acknowledged is a great one, requires pausing, looking back with attention and rest 🙂
    Thank you again.

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