What is it that you really want? What do you most deeply desire?
My Spiritual Director asked me these two questions two years ago, and to this day they still echo in the corners of my spirit.
Desire is one of the most fundamental aspects to what it means to be human, and often the driving force to most of our decisions in life. Depending on what kind of tradition you grew up with, opinions and teachings on “Desire” could have been very skewed and seen as something to be suppressed or even exterminated. Especially in regards to sexuality, which is a huge part of what it means to be human! Or perhaps you were encouraged to only live by what you desired in the moment, to indulge in whatever you wanted or could. Both of these extremes aren’t very helpful. Like most things in life, extremes can be harmful, and even limiting to us, not allowing us to live a whole, full and satisfying life. Our deepest desires are good, they are gifts given to us from God, to be cultivated, nurtured and given back to the world.
Each of us are made with this sense of “ness” to us. What I mean is, you are specifically you in your “you-ness”. I have a Melissa-ness about me that no other has. We each carry desires, passions, longings within us that only we have been given. Though those things can mirror one another in some ways, no two people will exhibit them in the world in the same way. And so, our journey is one to explore, and discover that “ness” within us. To ask ourselves the questions “What do I really want in life? What do I most deeply desire? What makes me ME?”
For some of us, the answer to those questions come easily, and without much hesitation. For others, it is a longer process and frankly one that I don’t think we ever fully arrive at with the answer. But rather, life is an invitation to discovering more of what we most deeply want. Beneath the temporal wants, desire gets at the deep place within us, a soul level desire that drives us to exist in the world as who we truly are.
As Jesuit Priest James Martin writes,
“Desire is a key way that God speaks to us…Holy desires are different than surface wants, like ‘I want a new car or a new computer’. Instead I am talking about our deepest desires, the ones that shape our lives: desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deepest desires help us know God’s desires for us, and how much God desires to be with us. And God, I believe, encourages us to ‘notice’ and ‘name’ these desires.”
I have been thinking a lot about Vocation lately. What it is I want for my life, and feel a sense of calling towards. Though this is not something that is always clear, or black and white, it is something I have found I can’t ignore. I think getting back to desire, to what we most deeply want in life, is the foundational starting point to discover the things that make us come alive, give us purpose and open us up to the world in front of us.
Whether we are trying to sort out what we want to do with our lives, where we feel we want to live and exist, who we want to journey with, or simply, what kind of rhythms we want; its important to remember that these are all aspects of our day to day life. We don’t somehow just arrive at a place that necessarily encompasses all of our desires. Rather, the big picture of our lives are made up of the small, every day moments. And so, I have found, paying attention to the day to day, to the reality in front of me, helps me to embrace what I do have, while still turning my ear towards that inner voice who propels me forward and whispers of deep desire.
Teresa Blythe asks these three questions for Spiritual Direction that I encourage you to explore for yourself. They can be helpful starting points to looking more intentionally into one’s life.
What is it you care most about in life?
When do you feel most fully alive?
When do you feel least alive?
I will leave you with a blessing, once again by John O’ Donohue. And as you continue on the path you’re on, may you be reconnected more and more to your deepest desires; may you embrace them, explore them and discover more of your truest self in them. May you find the courage to look at them, and at yourself and say “yes”.
A Blessing by John O’ Donohue:
“Blessed be the longing that brought you here, and quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire, that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease, to discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and friendship – be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.”
I have collaborated with the wonderful Staci Lee Kennelly in some of these writing projects. Please check out her work here:
https://alifedeveloping.org and follow her on Instagram at stacileekennelly