Many can relate to the nagging feeling that there’s more to life, even when we have all (we think) we need.

“Seeking” often follows this feeling: a new approach where we begin questioning what life is really about.

This begs the question: What are we all seeking?

If someone asks us this, we might say:

~ I want to be happy.

~ I want to stop feeling unhappy, anxious or depressed.

~ I want to feel good in my own skin.

At least…that’s what we think we want.

Usually all that we can say with certainty is that we want to not feel the way we usually feel. Most of us have never felt happy / free of suffering / good in our own skin / {add your version here}, so these goals are only guesses.

If we’re lucky, we might have had glimpses of these states of being – we might even have them regularly: but they’re like smoke, dissipating as soon as we attempt to grasp them.

Maybe for this reason we should pay close attention to those who have journeyed before us on this path: spiritual masters who have come to strikingly similar conclusions about what it is we’re all after.

Listed below are three states of being that show up constantly in spiritual recollections and literature. They may just help us get a sense of what we’re all really seeking, whether we know it or not.

TO BE

We seek to simply be – to fully experience the present moment.

We spend the majority of moments in our lives rehashing past experiences or imagining our future. This causes us to rarely find ourselves truly living in the present. And yet only in the present we can actually connect with other people and savor the world around us. Only when we slow down to the present moment can we get to see the endless beauty that surrounds us, enjoy flavors, delight in textures, and hear the music hidden in sounds.

Being in the present moment takes true acceptance and surrender to whatever we’re experiencing; it takes leaving aside expectations about what we would like to (or think we should) experience.

Being present might take vigilant practice. The good news is that we can come back to it every moment of our lives – it’s always available to us. The bad news is that we have to come back to it over and over again.

What’s certain is that whenever we’ve felt fully alive or truly enjoyed the world through our senses, we were present. We can use those moments as stepping stones on our path to remember what we’re really here to learn – to be in the present.

TO HEAL

We seek to heal by integrating our feelings.

We experience feelings every minute of the day. We’re meant to experience feelings in our bodies, and to simply allow them to exist until their sensations disappear. However, as soon as feelings come up, our brains go to work to provide an explanation for them, as they do with any other sensation we might experience (such as sensations of cold or hunger).

And so the narrative starts: our brains use our previous concepts and experiences to come up with an explanation for what we’re feeling; the explanation we come up with aims to be consistent with our previous life experiences because we seek coherence.

More often than not, we get caught up in the narrative that our minds came up with and in what our reactions should be, which causes us to fight our feelings – often because our narrative tells us that our feelings are ‘inappropriate’.

There is another way to approach feelings, however: if we simply wait for 90 seconds and don’t get caught up in the narrative created by our thoughts, our feelings wash away. So all we need to do is pause, wait and allow our feelings to go through our bodies. Allowing ourselves to fully experience any and all feelings (without following the traps of our thoughts) is how we heal. We heal by integrating our feelings.

Why? Because our feelings are doorways to old wounds hidden in our subconscious from our early years. When we open those doors and allow ourselves to feel – instead of reacting the same way that we did when we were first wounded – we soothe our younger selves. And over time, we heal.

TO DIS-IDENTIFY FROM OUR SOCIAL SELF

We seek to remember that our social self is not who we really are.

It’s hard to believe that our lives (and everything they contain) are our own creation. Our sense of self, our roles, our beliefs – these are constructs that didn’t always exist.

Think of yourself when you were born – you didn’t yet have a sense of self, identity, or a feeling of being separate. People who experience amnesia and lose all their memories often no longer have a sense of identity – and yet they exist. We can only speculate about what it feels like to experience the world that way, but such situations show us that human consciousness can exist without an identity (a social self).

Many spiritual teachers have provided accounts that they experienced themselves as existing separate from their social selves. For the rest of us, meditation practices such as mindfulness meditation provide an opportunity to experience this separation – I think of mindfulness meditation as a chance to play peek-a-boo with our thoughts 🙂 When we get to notice our thoughts – without also thinking about our thoughts – we get to experience that we are not those thoughts, and that we can exist apart from the voice in our heads.

It starts as brief glimpses, but with time this experience becomes clearer; we get to feel that our identity, our beliefs and our narratives are only a part of us – our social self. This realization brings us awareness that we have a choice about whether or not to listen to and act according to the voice of our social self.

HOW DO WE INTEGRATE THESE IDEAS ON OUR PATH OF SEEKING?

As with everything else in our lives, practice is everything. To achieve these states of being, we have to practice them in our daily lives, until they become second nature (or, as others would say – until we remember).

We can only hope to reach our destination if we head in that direction. Even if we never make it, we’re closer to it than when we first started!

More recent posts:

Who Am I?

When we achieve our goals, we feel good about ourselves. When things don’t go as planned, we feel bad about ourselves. Here’s how asking “Who Am I?” can help us connect to our inner worth and escape this vicious cycle.

Five Reasons to (Re)write Your Story

We can’t change our past experiences, but the interpretation we give those experiences is within our power. It’s how we own our stories! Here’s Why…

How to Build Your Courage Muscle

Your story is everyone’s story, your doubts are everyone’s doubts. Truly feeling that can help you build your courage muscle. Here’s how…