I remember as a young girl, longing and aching so deeply for romantic love. I didn’t know how, but I had such unwavering faith that one day I would find a soul mate and romantic fulfillment. I remember when it dawned on me as clearly as if it were yesterday: my longing is proof of the existence of that which I’m longing for. I realized it didn’t stop with my heart’s desire for a boyfriend and eventual husband. It carried over as an explanation for the Divine. I knew inherently somehow that we, as a species, couldn’t be longing for connection, with God and each other, if that connection weren’t possible. This remains one of a handful of my vivid memories of a clear personal theological evolution. Think about it: when you hear a beautiful song or see a stunning sunset, do you feel a longing you can’t put into words? What would the purpose be for all this nostalgia and directionless passion if love weren’t real? My explanation for this was and remains the same: whatever the ache is for is proof that that thing is calling out to me from the depths of my own future, past, timeless soul.
That ache, longing, loneliness is proof for the potential of its own fulfillment. And all longing is really longing for the Divine. God is the answer to all the questions, and the home note for the universe’s ever-pulsating song. To be human is to ache, sometimes for things we don’t understand or can’t define.
My first noticing on the spiritual journey is all beings long for connection. This is the first thing to understand, because, when we awaken to this knowledge, we find the connection we’ve longed for – the connection in this longing. That is the great irony of it. If to be human is to ache, then at least we all ache together. If we can open our eyes to experience genuine empathy, we will find this connection begins with the ache. This noticing helps us understand all beings we are here with, and it helps us understand ourselves.
You might be thinking – well that’s a bummer. But, fret not! The feeling of separation is a lie. Buddhism is criticized for focusing too much on human suffering – but it’s the greatest starting point, because we are not separate in it. And yet the feeling of separateness is what leads to the greatest suffering, perhaps all forms of suffering. The pain of losing loved ones, heartbreak, or life transition can really be boiled down to the pain of feeling separate. If we saw the longing for connection as proof of its possibility, perhaps we would settle into the truth of our connected souls. I have another vivid memory along this spiritual path – I’m sitting in an Irish university library, looking out the window at my fellow students passing by. It dawned on me: we are all fingers of the same hand. We get to play around in these identity roles at this moment in time as though we are individuals. But connecting us below the surface of what is see-able is the palm, the Truth of our connection. And it’s when we tap into that palm-nature, through community-building and possibly prayer and meditation, that we find the antidote for our aching.
Out deep desire for connection is often exacerbated by vulnerability – when we feel incapable or unworthy of connection, we can have a deep fear that any connection will lead to greater suffering than the pain of loneliness. But the truth is: we are already connected – our well-being and hope is tied up in this connection. The relationship between connection and fear is the segue into the second basic premise: Fear is the opposite of love, and the cause of our suffering.
We long for each other because we belong to each other. Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The 6th basic premise will bring the resolution to this first one: We long for connection because we are all one. I am you, you are me. Yet we’ve been taught to believe the lie of our separation, and this is why all beings still long for connection.