Longing & Belonging: Opening to An Awakened Life

November 29, 2015

 

Many of us walk through life with a deep longing for something more. Is this all that life has to offer?, we might ask ourselves, as we look around, surveying the landscape that surrounds us. Isn't there more? Something better over that hill? If I can just get that job, a bigger apartment, a loving partner, life will get better. We know on some level that life is ready to offer us more, that there is something else besides the job, and the house, or watching movies on Netflix, viewing snippets of other people's lives on Facebook, and surfing the net. The longing is tied to a sense of belonging: where do I fit in? Where am I supposed to be and what am I supposed to do?  

 

However much we long to belong, we often fight that feeling. Maybe we feel like there is no one here to guide us or think that this feeling is somehow petty and childish. Grow up, we tell ourselves; life is serious, hard work, and we had better get on with it instead of nurturing some childish dream. Instead of pursuing dreams, we run from our calling. We numb and distract ourselves with food, chatter, and entertainment. We accumulate belongings, surrounding ourselves with physical surrogates for the feeling of wholeness we seek. They satisfy the lack for a short time, and then the longing returns, and we numb and distract and purchase something else. The cycle repeats.

 

Don't deny that feeling or push it away. Your parents or grandparents may have had to, due to circumstances seemingly beyond their control. Many people simply accept the cards that life dealt, as if fate controlled their destiny. But you don't have to. You can walk away from the card table altogether. No one said life was a poker game, but we acquiesce and make that true when we look at our lives and say, this is it, these are my cards.

 

I have reinvented myself many times. I was once a professor of Spanish literature at Northwestern University, heading towards tenure. But I knew, deep down, that this was not my path. It felt safe and secure, but almost cloistered, as if I had already spent past lifetimes in a tower, my nose in books. Life kept urging me to participate in a different way.  

 

Law school seemed to be the right direction; our society venerates lawyers as fighters of justice and defenders of the vulnerable, even as it denigrates them as liars and cheats. I packed up my belongings and headed to NYU with a 14-year-old cat, Cosmo, in tow. Many thought I was delirious to abandon my tenure-track job, and at times I agreed. Law school was a demanding choice, one that led to the end of a relationship and the sacrifice of much energy and money. It was not a decision I regret, though, as I enjoyed genuinely the practice of law. 

 

Despite the intellectual stimulation and financial security of the law, the longing persisted. That longing was always coupled with a feeling of not quite belonging, as if I had not yet found my kindred spirits. But it was as if I could feel them out there, each of us searching for the other. I have come to recognize that this longing was always the faint hum of the soul, calling out but never screaming, patiently waiting for me to listen over the noise. This longing to belong was never about finding a place, but finding myself. For when you know who you and how you're meant to serve, then suddenly you know exactly where you belong, wherever you are. 

 

Accepting that call to belong was not easy, for it meant shedding old skins, and such molting can be painful. The husks of the life that we thought were were supposed to live can feel like a waste. Why did I spend so many years teaching Spanish literature? Why did I pursue a J.D.? Why didn't I figure it out sooner? I could bury myself in recrimination, but that would be a mistake. I figured it out when I figured it out, and the meaning of each of those phases remains to be seen. It would be a misreading of my life to try to interpret their full meaning, as if trying to interpret the meaning of a novel from the briefest of chapters. 

 

After much seeking, I have accepted that one of my gifts is this ability to understand the search, to see through the human mind and its veils, to know the human heart and what it seeks, and to have the courage to move through it. I have been fortunate to work with teachers who have helped me to understand the true nature of reality, to experience levels of consciousness that I had never dreamed were possible, to feel what it is like when your endless thoughts give way to pure light, to know deeply and viscerally that we are all loved more than any of us knows by the very fact of being alive. 

 

Many people wake up and see how their minds are conditioned and patterned -- like realizing that life is not a deck of cards, and you do not have to accept the hand you are dealt. They realize that everything about our perception of reality is constructed, and our thoughts shape our reality. They come to get a glimpse of how there is so much more to be seen and experienced. They see the world as the chaotic mess we have created and wondered, how do I continue to inhabit it?

 

When you first wake up, life gets scary. How do I live in this world of illusion? What do I do now that I recognize that my chosen profession was designed to prove to my father or mother that I deserved their love? What do I do when I realize that many of my friends want me to act in a certain way to satisfy their emotional needs and I don't want to do that anymore? How do I deal with all of the parts of my life that are now coming up for review? What will happen to me if I let go of the parts of myself I now know to be false and open myself to what's real?

 

Living an awakened life requires enormous courage. Society wants us to take the sleeping pill, to accept reality as it is, to remain small. The calamitous state of the world is reflection that people are waking up, no longer content with certain structures that were erected and solidified at a level of consciousness that demanded that some lives matter more than others, that some deserve and get more than others, that our earthly resources could be abused and squandered without consequence. For many, a new consciousness is emerging, and like all births, it can involve some pain.

 

Dismantling old ways of being and installing new paradigms for oneself are not easy tasks. Being true to one's self can seem overwhelming in the face of so much opposition, and that is how I can help you: to show people how to stay awakened and not slip back into the slumber of the ego. I know who I am and where I belong. I have traveled the road of longing and belonging, and, in truth, I continue to walk it, learning each day to be more fully and authentically me in every situation and with every person. As a result of those travels, when I work with people, I quickly intuit where they are struggling, where they are blocked, and what they need to move through those blocks. For those waking up to a new paradigm but still dismantling old beliefs, I understand the challenge and am here for you.

 

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