A friend of mine died recently, left this world for the next and while I feel strongly that she is nearby, just over the border into the spirit world I miss her. Whatever the larger truth of the spiritual life, I cannot now go and sit with her while she makes things out of clay, or have dinner with her and her family, or share a hug. I learned many things from my friend. She carried such a powerful commitment to love and being loving in the face of every situation. That’s not to say she was perfect – part of what made her so much fun to be with was her humanness, and humour – but I saw some amazing social transformations as she stubbornly radiated love towards awkward or obnoxious people. She was a witch, an artist and a mother, and in all these things (along with many others, I’m sure) she was incredibly skilled. I learned a great deal from her about myth, magic, creativity, and parenthood, but the learning that stands out for me most is to do with yearning.
I’m going to offer this story with an open heart. If you have particular beliefs about the way the world works or doesn’t work, whether it is a magical place or an entirely pragmatic one, I invite you to lay them aside for a little while and see this story as just that – a story. It’s my story and in my own small way and my own life it is part of my personal hero’s journey. So please, if necessary, suspend your disbelief for a while and join me on my adventure with an open mind and open heart for a little while.
I’m a yearner. I think I probably always have been and certainly I have been for many years. I couldn’t have told you what I was yearning for, precisely but it most commonly found expression through my falling in love. As the band ‘My Life Story’ say in one their songs, “I don’t so much fall in love, I dive”. I don’t know if you who are reading this know that feeling of yearning, that ache in the heart, the melancholy of the stargazer, but it’s painful. It is an aching which is hard to be with. Through my studies in theatre, personal development, shamanism, spirituality, meditation and other fields I had tried to find the centre of this yearning, the cause so that I could face it and relieve the pain. The most common guidance I received from teachers was to do with looking underneath the yearning, to find where it came from. I think this was essentially good advice - therapeutically sound – but when I looked underneath the yearning all I found was…. More yearning! I continued searching, questing, healing, growing and developing and still the yearning was there.
Then, after many years of having been out of contact, my friend and I were back in touch. Our families are connected so there was a sense of parallel tracks and shared history that meant we could be close again quickly – like family. She was soul-family. She had deeply studied witch-craft and I had studied shamanism so there was lots of common ground. So one night after a party we were sat on her sofa talking and I talked of my yearning, how I had never found the bottom of it, and she offered a different perspective. She said that in her tradition that yearning simply meant that I had a soul-mate. The yearning was my compass to keep me on track, to keep me seeking for the companion of my heart. This was a revelation to me! For the first time this yearning was not a pathology to be healed or fixed, it was a sacred gift: a guiding light in the darkness. There was a subtle permission in this view to let the yearning be – even to embrace it. There was also the promise of the possibility that there was someone out in the world waiting to meet me too, just as I wished to meet that someone.
From this turning point conversation many good things in my life sprang. I got clear in myself that while I had no evidence that the concept of ‘soul-mates’ was true, I refused to live in a world where it couldn’t be possible. As such I began to engage with the world as a magical place where profound and miraculous things can happen in a much deeper way than I had before. I opened my mind to possibility and I opened my heart to love. In the coming months I received numerous omens (magical signposts from the world) which helped to lead me to the relationship which blossomed into my marriage, to my beloved, and much more recently the birth of our son. That’s another story, as JRR Tolkein liked to say “to be told another time”.
That alone would be learning enough, but there has been more to it than that. The yearning has not gone away… it has become a great gift. That yearning I have learned is a kind of bitter-sweet melancholy which holds within it the possibility for great joy and deep grief. In the holding of these apparent opposites I have found a state where I can deeply embrace mystery and have a real experience of loving the world just as it is – broken and perfect. Embracing this yearning rather than trying to fix it has become the gateway for me to be more present, flowing, compassionate, connected, human, and loving than at any other time. The yearning was my gateway to the divine. Smack-bang in the middle of my yearning is where I am most creative and most effective.
So… my friend taught me many wonderful things, but more than anything she helped me open the doorway to living life in Love.
Thank you dear one. May your spirit fly freely and your body rest in peace.