It happens every year around this time. And it’s getting stronger. At some point in January, when the winter sun shines at a certain angle through the bare brown trees, it comes. Rising up from within like the sap in their branches, it comes. The Longing. The Restlessness. A thousand books or so into this journey and I can’t latch onto a name. Those are the closest I can come to the feeling.
It’s like a spiritual itch. Christians will tell you that it’s that missing piece where God fits – a sort of God-hole. They may be right, but I’ve been thinking about this a *long* time and I find that their answer is too simple. At least, their solution is too simple. Fill the hole with church services, worship, Bible study, various service and social groups and call it “God”. Tried that for years. Their were points where I thought it would drive me actually insane. The last few years before I left the mainstream church I think I truly had a spiritual addiction. I ran from activity to activity, frantically, maniacally – craving that “high” that comes from a great prayer meeting or worship service. A few hours later, back in Reality I would crash, and crash hard. I feared for my sanity until I realized what it was I’d actually been doing.
Cause in the happy shiny Christian world more Church is always a Good Thing. Right and proper and holy. Except when it’s killing you. Killing your spirit as slowly and surely as drugs are killing an addict. But more insipid. Because actual addicts have groups they can go to for help and support. Understanding, fellowship. It was about 3-4 years in to this bizarre journey before I even wondered if such a thing was possible, a spiritual addiction.
Five years now since I left, I know is’s possible. I also know that trying to kick a spiritual addiction brings on a very peculiar sort of detox. While my body remains perfectly fine and healthy, my mind and spirit have been undergoing a painful sort of purge. At the point last summer where I realized I was on a Hermit’s journey I knew I needed to find a way to accept the process because it wasn’t going to leave me alone or go away.
Well – I’ve cleaned out a bunch of both physical and mental clutter over the last 6 months or so. I thought perhaps the thing I’ve thought of as the Longing or the Restlessness would maybe go away – simply a side effect of my misguided craving. Uh uh. Not only did it NOT go away, I found to my surprise (and sometimes distress) that it was getting stronger.
I tried to step back and analyze it objectively. (As objectively as anyone can analyze something within their own head.) Was it mid-life crisis? Hormones? Boredom? Surely there were elements of all those tossed in there, but it just felt Bigger than that. I’ve been going about my daily life looking for clues in other people. Read books from different spiritual paths – Wicca, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. looking to see if anyone else had the answers. I do know one thing. Not many people are engaged in looking for it. They happily go about their business, absorbed in their technology, family activities, work, hobbies, even church. If they feel the Longing, they certainly don’t show it. They don’t talk about it.
I’ve puzzled over it a lot. I think it wears different faces, shows up in different ways. Sometimes it comes as the Muse, banging away inside my brain till I write. Sometimes it visits as Lust, giving me cravings like I’m a teenager again. Sometimes it makes me want to go for a run – feel the pounding of my feet on Mother Earth, dappled sunlight warming my skin. Other times I’ve been moved to look for my art supplies, long buried and dusty (along with my skills.) It sends me searching for music that soothes it, or perhaps that sets my feet to dancing. Sometimes I have to find a few favorite songs and just sing them at the top of my lungs.
The best I can come up with is to call it The Longing of Life for Itself. Others have found it and called it different things. Prana. Chi. Breath of Life. Ruach. Holy Spirit.
I realized that what I’m longing for is not the outward manifestation of the thing (religion in all it’s many guises). I am longing for the Thing Itself. God within seeking union with God without. In Kabbalah, Ein Sof – the Source of All That IS.