In her book, Falling Open in a World Falling Apart, Amoda Maa writes, “Instead of asking how can I change my life? it’s more helpful to ask what is my deepest longing?” The first question is ego-oriented. Our ego doesn’t like certain difficulties in life and wants to change them as quickly as possible. This doesn’t mean such changes aren’t beneficial. Getting outside to walk rather than staying glued to the TV or deciding to meditate each morning are important changes. These kinds of changes make for a better life. But if you want a quicker way to what I call “the Radiant All,” to liberation, it’s best to simply focus on the longing in your heart, whatever that longing might be. At first it might be for ice cream, a life partner, or lack of pain, but if you keep asking, “What is the longing which lies underneath this one?” you’ll eventually reach a place of fulfillment and peace.
Another helpful practice along these same lines is to simply focus on the longing in your heart while letting go of the object of your desire, whether it be ice cream, a lover, or even God. Sometimes just repeating “longing, longing” can start a process of opening your heart. If you keep staying present to the changes in your heart as it opens, your heart will expand until it reaches a point where it encompasses all.
An exquisite example comes from a friend of mine, a priest to whom other priests came for advice when they had fallen in love with a woman. They were torn between their commitment to the priesthood, including its vows of celibacy, and loving this woman. My friend would respond. “You have fallen in love with this woman, great. How deeply can you love her? Who else can you love? How deeply can you love them? Keep on loving and then you’ll get to God.” In other words, stay with your longing and watch it expand to a greater longing until it leads to the fulfillment of all your longing.
As Hazrat Inayat Khan declares, “If the heart is large enough, there is nothing it cannot accommodate.” An expanded heart can tolerate all, even the most painful, because it’s connected with a deeper Reality that is all-loving. This doesn’t mean you are to ignore annoyances and hardships or suppress painful feelings, but keep them in your heart and also acknowledge that there is a deeper love that encompasses them all. Something positive, such as peace, emerges when you hold both realities in your heart.
To have a full, expanded heart changes how you relate to the world. No longer are you desiring to change or gain something, but rather are overflowing with an inner joy, with a love for others and for all of life. I agree with Amoda Maa. Instead of asking how can I change my life, ask what is the deepest longing in my heart.