How does a seeker become a finder?
When does longing finally result in homecoming in our search for love in a fallen world?
These are the sort of questions which I couldn’t have articulated as a boy, but which were already circling me looking for answers.
In the beginning, I didn’t even know what I was looking for but just felt an incredible thirst.
So, I did the obvious thing. I drank. I guess I was 13 when I became a serious drinker, just 14 when I was having blackouts.
There was clearly something I didn’t want to face, couldn’t face, ‘a pain so utter,’ as Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘that it swallows substance up …Then covers the Abyss with Trance…So Memory can step around..across..upon it.’
The corollary is there was also something I needed, something I had to have, although I could not have voiced it.
My childhood had left me with an abiding image: of being blindfolded and spun around. I was going to spend a lot of time trying to find my way, make sense of a benighted history before I would find any peace.
My search was the genesis of my career in helping others, those who had been similarly let down, but I couldn’t have known that then. It was all too unconscious.
As I later learned, much of what ailed me and others had its roots in the murky past of earlier generations and much of my distress was really theirs not mine.
(I would recommend Mark Wolynn’s excellent book It Didn’t Start With You to explain how we pick up the pain of previous generations.)
Yet it’s the sensitive souls that suffer most and I was one of them, still am, but I have learned to turn what often feels like a curse into a blessing.
Not every day, but most. I can feel others’ pain, can’t help it, my gift is feeling into the unconscious of those who can’t, and helping them work it through in a manageable way.
We are all looking for something, I know I was. You could call it wholeness or healing, the integration of those parts of us we have buried in shame on realizing the world didn’t want them; was not ready for them.
But in essence, it’s about the soul coming home to itself. When all is said and done, it is simply about love.
The first thing I had to do was stop drinking and begin to slowly immerse myself in what was buried inside me, like stepping gingerly into a hot bath. That leg of the journey began when I was 25.
Feelings did not come easily. I had fear and anger by the ton, but little else as if my feelings had been packed in ice, held in abeyance awaiting my return.
It was a slow journey with many false dawns and cul-de-sacs, not least in the area of romance, which I wholeheartedly believed would provide the healing balm and sense of home I longed for and had never had.
It isn’t surprising that human love is so addictive. When you have not been loved properly, are chockful of loss and betrayals, it looks like the obvious answer.
My own experience is that it isn’t.
For years, I had a recurring dream about being with my beloved in a bazaar, somewhere like Marrakech, and getting separated in the crowds.
I couldn’t find her and my search would grow increasingly frantic and desperate.
It was an age before I could understand the dream, then one day, reading a book, I had a Eureka! moment.
The soul is feminine! I am looking for my own soul! I almost jumped out of my skin with excitement.
I sought advice at one point from an astrologer who confirmed my chart strongly indicated the purpose of my life, this life — I believe there have been many others — is to achieve soul union.
In the years since when I began studying client’s charts myself, I can confirm she was right. With Venus (romantic love) sitting on top of Neptune (spiritual love) I had sought a merging of the two.
What I didn’t fully understand then was that I would need to find a spiritual love within myself first, my soul’s reunion with God, before it would be possible for me to be clear about the sort of relationship I needed.
For years, decades even, I searched high and low in the outer world, immersing myself in different faiths, travelling to India, living in retreat centres, before I had finally had enough.
I would have to do the one thing I didn’t want to do. I would have to stop looking in the world for love, let go of outer forms including my attachment to women, and go deep within.
Something shifts when you make an inner decision, as if the whole universe is listening and steps up to help.
It wasn’t long before I found a group of people and teachers who would show me an inner pathway through deep meditation that would begin to bring me home.
As a writer and a romantic, I had always loved the Sufi mystical poets who wrote about a hidden spiritual world within through the language of romance.
I understand that Rumi is, or certainly was in recent years, America’s most loved poet.
It always strikes me as apposite that a country so devoted to individualism should fall in love with a mystic who urges us to give up the world and face a ruthless burning away of the separate self.
Hidden deep within all of us, however, is a yearning for a purer wine than materialism or even human love can offer.
For some, the world and what it offers is enough, but for a small minority the world will never satisfy.
Often, these are the people who turn up in therapy citing an unhappiness they can’t pin down, a restless dissatisfaction with life.
Some are depressed and don’t know why, just as I was.
More often than not, they are lost simply because what they are seeking is not in the world but within themselves, yet they don’t know it and nothing in western culture supports the inner journey.
Without a context or proper guidance it is almost impossible to find home, precisely what Christ was alluding to when he said it is harder for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for the rich man to find God.
It seems we must choose the world or the divine, and it’s a radical choice. Mystical love is not for those still wanting the outer world.
Sufism is a science of the heart and the masters of the path know how to activate it so the aspirant can awaken to the primordial passion that lies deep within.
When love is created within the heart, when fulfilment has finally arrived, all wanting and needing is no more, apart from the solitary desire for the kiss that is given on the inside by God.
It is the most difficult of journeys: first the long years of heartache and longing, not belonging and constant dissatisfaction. Many mistakenly castigate themselves as ingrates.
What else would you think if you have everything the world claims is important, but still aren’t happy. It must be you, right?
Sometimes, that’s true, with a certain type of entitled personality it is, but often people — certainly those I have worked with — are mystics who don’t know it and have neither understanding nor context for their longing and its accompanying sadness.
But Rumi writes specifically about longing and its importance as well as the price to be paid for the wine of pure absolute love.
This is not the love we find in this world of duality with all its imperfections, but a oneness that is total.
His quatrains reveal a great deal.
What do you hope to find
In the soul’s streets
In the bloody streets of the heart
That have no news, even of yourself?
How long will we fill our pockets
Like children with dirt and stones?
Let the world go. Holding it
We never know ourselves, never are airborne
And this, my favourite
I lost my world, my fame, my mind–
The Sun appeared and all the shadows ran.
I ran after them, but vanished as I ran –
Light ran after me and hunted me down.
Sometimes, losing all is the best thing that can happen to us. The good news is on the other end of our longing is a divinity that also longs for us, the very one who placed His own spark within our heart.
Intimacy, nearness and finally union with the Beloved takes us back to our source, as lover and beloved finally merge and become love itself.
That’s what we are beyond the veils of our forgetting. Then we can enjoy the world for what it is, wear it like a loose garment, let go of our self–obsession and need to exploit the world and its people.
For when the heart is finally satisfied, what else is there?
© simon heathcote