I have spent my life hunting for human connection. My longing for deep, visceral, bonds has led me into The White House and on a pilgrimage with Tibetan monks. It’s taken me to movie studios, psychedelics, orgasmic meditation, spiritual retreats, and thousands of movie theaters. It’s seen me blackout drunk. It’s steered me to a master’s degree in spiritual psychology and workaholism. I have spent my entire life driven by this longing. It has been my most relentless fuel and intimate companion. I’ve looked for every possible way to meet it, escape it, lean into it, and transcend it.
First my longing aimed its billion-watt laser at work. I was ambitious as hell and worked my ass off making movies to engage people with themselves and the world. If I just worked hard enough and could do enough good in the world, I thought, this longing would be fulfilled. I aimed all of my longing at the world outside and no matter what I created– or how hard I tried– my longing never seemed to be enough to make the slightest dent. The busier and more successful I got, the more disconnected and lonely I felt.
Longing shoved me sideways, off the work treadmill, and onto the spiritual path. Okay, if work wasn’t going to answer this longing maybe God (even though I’m not sure I believe in such a thing) will. Maybe if I get spiritual enough I can transcend it. That sounds great. I did yoga, meditated, read self-help books, chanted, studied consciousness, and made getting vulnerable my new job. And it did kind of work… to an extent.
Layers of armor started to come off and I was forced to see I was just another fragile, mushy, tender human longing for safety, relevance and control. My ego was to face its greatest fear of all time: mediocrity. Whether there is a God or not, the ultimate surrender was to let go of my ego’s will to be God.
The coup de grace of longing was revealed at a spiritual retreat in Santa Monica where I was bouncing between the sweetest state of subtle bliss and eye-fucking a brown curly-haired dude in the back. Is he single? I wondered. I heard this young, hormone-addled voice inside me, saying “Choose me! Choose me! Choose me!” The arresting, all consuming ache to be chosen was all that was there in the moment. The chant started to slow down like a record player slowing its RPM. “Choooose me. Chooooooose me. Choooooooose me.” The code in my brain, biology and psychology was suddenly revealed. In that moment I knew this longing was ancient and deep– like perpetuating-my-fitness deep; like Jared-Leto-in-My-So-Called-Life deep; like Little-Mermaid-obsessed-with-her-prince deep.
This was the longing for a man. The one true love. The Rumi/Shams mash-up. The kind of connection that murders the rest.
Oh longing, I see you now. You are a billion-watt laser of energy I can harness to create and play and love in the world. I keep pointing you at things like a job or God or a man and hope you will be satisfied and fulfilled. And every single time you come back to burn through whatever illusion I’m buying into, breaking my heart open to something greater than I could have ever imagined. You are the connection I’ve been hunting for. Agh! And you have been here all along. I get it. Longing isn’t the problem. My trying to escape or transcend it is.
Okay longing, I give up. Have your way with me.
Bristol Baughan is an Executive Producer of Emmy-winning and Oscar-Nominated films, author, and private coach. She is a TED Fellow and Founder of Inner Astronauts, a custom experience and private coaching company supporting people in coming more fully alive in service to the world. Bristol holds a B.A. in International Studies from the American University School of International Service and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
Artwork by: James Ormiston.