Exploring a personal, eclectic path by looking at the intersection of three great traditions.
“I don’t have crushes.”
I accepted long ago that my friend has achieved a higher level of consciousness than I. But, seriously? No crushes?
“But when you were a teenager, surely…”
It turned out the reason was not her high-mindedness, but her feeling that crushing on someone was unsafe, reviving an ancient, powerful fear of rejection.
That threw me. I crush early and often and am always vaguely ashamed of having done so. I certainly enjoy all the pleasures of a good crush, but I’d never considered that my crushes might reveal a belief in my own potential. Yet if a crush allows us to see the beauty in someone else, perhaps it also helps us see our own. At some level when we dream of someone, we also dream of who we can become in their eyes or at their side.
On the down side, a crush can feel out of control and self-indulgent. During yoga training, I fell into a completely inappropriate crush (considering I was and am very happily married). I could barely speak to the object of my obsession, and yet we had to work together. All sorts of energies were rattling through me, with shame at the top of the heap. I was convinced I was derailing my entire spiritual development.
Luckily I confessed to an advisor, who laughingly told me to enjoy the joy of “being 14 again.” She went on to suggest that admiration for someone else could be understood as a longing for wholeness, as the soul’s recognition—in another—of qualities lying dormant within oneself. So maybe I wasn’t a lost cause after all. Maybe I just wanted to be a better person. Maybe I already was.
I tried to keep that in mind when I realized that I also crush on divinities, and have allowed my hunger for this experience to shape my spiritual life. As a young Christian I had a suitably devout crush on Jesus. Suffering, compassionate and willing to die for me—he was my type. Later, there was the Pagan Dying God, a gently sensual figure who also gave up his life, and in a less guilt-provoking way. Loki, Dionysos and Shiva were bad boys—worshipping them had its own risky, secret thrill. And they too suffered, with plenty of satisfying angst there to be mined in their mythologies. (Buddha, leading an exemplary life and dying of food poisoning at 80, didn’t make the cut).
It sounds flippant, but there’s more to it than that. These divinities, their stories and images, have drawn out my sense of longing. They speak to the space inside me that aches to be filled and yet is not meant to be. In their elusiveness as well as their power they teach me a lesson that’s Buddhist in its paradox: “The art is not to satisfy our longings, but to learn how to cherish them.” (Susan Swan)
Longing feels very precious to me. When I am all in my head, or tightened up in petty resentments, connecting to the well of longing slakes my soul. Even if there’s the taste of sorrow, there’s also a balm there, a return to the deeper flow of life and feeling. I know myself vulnerable and open, loving and needy. In that moment, I know and I can honour the terrible/beautiful/inevitable dissatisfaction we all share: that of being human, and so fated to be in love with the divine.
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