In Defense of Spiritual Desire: Why It’s Time to Get Clear About What You Deeply Long For

And when the Spirit really did come . . . I’ve never felt nothing like that in my life. The joy! The fulfillment! The explosion! The everything — was there! And I had longed for that. [1]

What do you long for? This is an important question to ask ourselves. Before you answer, however, take your spiritual temperature. Don’t just pose the question to your rational mind and answer it with small thoughts and cold words. Take it to the big room. Sing it on a soulful melody. Dance it, wiggle it, and stomp it out. Put this question on a fascinating rhythm and cook it. Let it simmer, shimmer, and tumble through you day and night. Hear it being asked by a chorus of angels, the old oak trees, in the grandest of cathedrals, and near the banks of the littlest stream. What do you long for?

While it’s true that we have to be careful about the pitfalls of being too outcome driven with our spiritual lives, it’s equally true that losing touch with the purpose of our efforts can get us sidetracked. There is a trickster falsehood hidden in the old truism that there are many paths to the same ultimate spiritual destination. Different paths can actually lead to very different places. For example, if you want to spiritually cook, shake, and heal like a Kalahari Bushman doctor, sitting on your meditation cushion will not take you there. Nor will listening to Alan Watts. Although we really enjoy Alan Watts’ lectures, the man didn’t know anything about the sacred vibrations of n/om. If you follow his recipe you end up with cool cucumber sandwiches rather than hot baked Kalahari bread. The point is, if we’re not clear about our highest spiritual target we may find ourselves following the wrong recipe. It’s important to consider what your ultimate spiritual goal is, because that will tell you what trail you ought to be walking on. Ask yourself: Whose tracks do I want to follow?

Oh! in his rapture he was weeping even over those stars, which were shining to him from the abyss of space, and “he was not ashamed of that ecstasy.” But with every instant he felt clearly…that something firm and unshakable as that vault of heaven had entered into his soul. — Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

We follow the recipe for setting your soul on fire and walk the tracks of the shakers, quakers, and spirited holy bread bakers from diverse traditions. We suggest not being shy about openly desiring “the joy, the fulfillment, the explosion, the everything” of sacred ecstasy. This longing is a rope that pulls you toward the path walked by the soulful mystics, song catchers, and shamans from Saint Teresa of Avila, to Lucie E. Campbell, Osumi Sensei, and the great doctors of the Kalahari. You must first be ignited and excited before you can fulfill your mission and make a difference in the world. We are here to get spiritually cooked, hooked, and lassoed by the Big Holy and it does us no good to be wishy-washy about it. Only when we know our ultimate destination can we know what maps to follow to get there.

The Big Room Calls for Big Desire

Introduce yourself to the truest spiritual law of attraction: big rooms attract profound wholeness and small rooms attract trivial partiality. As the room expands, so does the nature of your prayers. Hence you are protected from making petty requests as you move away from ego’s shallow wishing well. Here we find that the New Age/New Thought belief in the power of thought, intention, and attraction simply makes a monstrous part–whole error. It is the room that holds your thinking and action which attracts, not any particular thought found inside it. Divine-centered contexts attract sacred mystery and make your relationship to the numinous stronger, whereas self-centered contexts attract more inflation of your trickster mind while cutting off your connection to mystical gifts. Before making a prayer, make sure the room is big enough to receive a bigger and more wholesome reward.

But there are those, like you, who have felt the Divine move like an ocean inside them, and, incapable of sustaining an unbroken relationship with that vastness, feel they have been banished to the desert when the wave recedes. There is a tribe of holy lovers, who have tasted the glorious sweetness that lies on the other side of yearning, when the boundaries of the separate self momentarily melt into the One, before the cold wind of ordinary consciousness blows through again, and restores your individuality. You would risk everything to rekindle that annihilating fire. You would leave your shoes at the door and run after the cosmic flute player, if only you could hear that music one more time. — Mirabai Starr

The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a foundation, and all other stones are laid in relationship to it. Start with the right stone and you end up with a room big enough for sacred mystery. When you lay the foundation for spiritual activity you must be both 100% congruent and 100% humble. Be congruent in your prayers about your longing and desire to be near the divine. This gets your feet walking in the same direction as your heart and mind. Then follow that prayer with the humility that comes from feeling your smallness and fragility in the grand scheme of things. If for some reason you can’t muster up some sincere humility, follow the advice of Don Juan and look over your left shoulder. There you’ll find death waiting like a constant companion.*

The oscillation of pure congruent desire for the highest spiritual purpose and pure humility creates a dynamic tension with enough movement to keep us from falling into either cold apathy or self-inflation. Just remember, however, that it’s not enough for your mind to contemplate sacred tension and suspension. You must head to the big room, tune your body, and cook your prayers. As Brad once wrote: Your language-focused mind is an idiot; only spirit has wisdom. No matter how much book knowledge or street smarts you have, it won’t help with spiritual affairs. Spiritual wisdom is only voiced by spirit. You may be its instrument, but you don’t know jack squat. Get over yourself and allow spirit to take over. Easier said than done. And it’s never done.[2]

Thy Will Be Done

We held a graduation ceremony at the end of our first mentorship program and gave everyone the tiniest certificate that has probably ever existed. It was so small it fit in a matchbox (inspired by the first mystical prescription in our book, Sacred Ecstatics):

Thank you Troy Marsh for the photo!

Upon receiving it, everyone wept with joy. In the big room our deepest spiritual longings and desires are inseparable from the most profound surrender. While we all have to do the work of wrestling with willful intrusions, trickster confusions and ego delusions, we have to be just as careful that we don’t spend so much time battling demons that we miss the call to fall in love and in line with the divine.

Have you that something, that burning desire?
 
Have you that something, that never doth tire?
 
Oh, if you have it — that Heavenly Fire!
 
Then let the world know there is something within.
– Lucie E. Campbell

The burning desire for heavenly fire is a life-giving force that pulls you straight to the source. You can’t go wrong when you long for holy song, and you don’t stand a chance unless you show up at the dance. Always pray, “Thy will be done,” but don’t let trickster piety dampen your hunger for the sweet sacred pie in the sky.

Target Practice

A few nights ago we received word that one of our mentorship students had a powerful visit to a spiritual classroom. She dreamed that we were all gathered at a mentorship intensive. When she encountered Brad in the vision, he grabbed hold of her hand and shot a bolt of spiritual lightning into her body, which filled her heart to the point of bursting. Brad then gathered a set of arrows with glowing red hot tips and declared, “It’s time for target practice.” He proceeded to shoot arrows of n/om far and wide.

What this woman didn’t know was that Brad had gone to sleep that same night praying with extraordinary intensity for all of our mentorship students to receive a transmission of holy spiritual firepower. In his prayers he saw himself shooting arrows of seiki and n/om into everyone’s hearts. When we received word that someone had indeed received a transmission of the sacred vibration, it delivered an arrow of mystical lightning to our hearts in kind, a blessing right on target.

One of the Guarani shamans from the Amazon, Tupa Nevangayu, once told Brad, “To receive the sacred luminosity, you must pray every day and dance every night. You must prepare yourself to become available for this light.”[3] Follow the advice of the strong shamans and make yourself ready and available for spirit to work on you. Every time you sit down on your bench to move, pray, and sing, consider it target practice rather than spiritual practice. Know your target: heartfelt union and electric communion with the divine. Do as the Bushmen n/om-kxaosi do and learn to track God. In the changing of First Creation you are the hunter, the target, the bow, and the arrow all at the same time. Aim all of your efforts at the highest target. Know that as you do so, the gods are aiming their fire-tipped love arrows at you. Such is the reciprocity of sacred luminosity and the mutuality of on fire spirituality. So: Ready, aim, fire! Because “the longing is your recognition of the deepest truth that God is love and that this is all you want. Every lesser desire melts when it comes near that flame.” [4]

-The Keeneys.

[1] Hinson, Glenn. 2000. Fire in My Bones: Transcendence and the Holy Spirit in African American Gospel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 143

[2] The Bushman Way of Tracking God. Bradford Keeney, 2010.

[3] Guarani Shamans of the Forest. Edited by Bradford Keeney. 2000. p. 61

[4] Mirabai Starr. “Longing for the Beloved.” Parabola Magazine, July 18, 2017

*It’s widely known that Castaneda’s Don Juan is a fictional character, which means we are free to be inspired by him the way we are inspired by any character in literature.