By Adam Zwig, PhD
Here’s an exercise that turns your attention to your deepest yearnings in life. If you’re like most folks, you get so caught up in your daily routine you lose contact with what really matters. In addition, you’re constantly bombarded with media messages telling you what life’s about — success, money, appearance, etc.. Many people spend their whole lives trying to fulfill these ideals, never quite feeling happy or content, or they succeed but still feel a subtle sense of loss in their lives, a mysterious vacancy at their cores.
Though we’d all like to have loads of money and success, our deepest yearnings go far beyond these things. It’s often said that what really desire is to be seen, be heard, and be loved for who we are. But let’s go even deeper: Why do you want to be seen, heard, and loved for who you are?
The reason may surprise you: It’s because you don’t actually see, hear, and love yourself for who you are! That’s why you want other people to do this for you. And this is essential. It’s human. It’s real. But on the most fundamental level, being seen, heard, and loved is a desire to become aware of and connect with your true self. It’s the drive to know and inhabit your deepest nature. But wait, there’s more! : )
Getting to the core of our personal existence isn’t the only root experience we desire; we’re also driven to connect with something greater than ourselves — call it God, nature, the universe, spirit, love, contribution, or rock ‘n roll! In Eastern spiritual traditions these two basic experiences — connecting to self and beyond self -- are considered one and the same thing.
Really young children, in their primal innocence, are a great example of what’s important in life. They don’t care about appearances or success; their only concerns are experiencing and expressing. If their minds haven’t yet been polluted by adults, they don’t make their happiness contingent on achieving something. Their need is to connect with a certain experience, an expression of their core nature. This deep desire remains with us throughout our lives despite the fact that most of us lose touch with it by the age of eighteen or so.
I recently asked a friend what his deepest yearning was, and he said it was for peace in his life because everything was hectic, chaotic, and difficult. He had financial problems, a strained relationship with his wife, and a newborn baby to care for. What he longed for was some peace and quiet. I suggested he close his eyes and imagine feeling deeply at peace. I told him to amplify the feeling and focus on it.
After a while, he got into a calm, quiet state of mind. Afterwards he expressed surprise at how easy it was for him to access and enjoy this feeling. I asked him why he doesn’t live more like this, and he said his belief system is that he can’t be in a peaceful state of mind until he solves all of his terrible problems. I laughed and said, “Good luck!” and he laughed too, seeing the absurdity of it.
His deepest yearning for peace and quiet was a sign that this experience was already present in him. He just had to tap into it. It was right there. He didn’t have to wait to get to a certain place in his life to connect with his deepest self. All he had to do was honor what he really yearned for, focus on it, and amplify the feeling. From then on he made sure to connect with his inner feeling of peace throughout the day regardless of what was going on in his life.
Okay, Think of a problem you feel stuck in. Is it a mood or state of mind you can’t shake? A relationship conflict? An inner critic? A work issue? Whatever it is, put your awareness onto it and review your experience.
Now, put the problem aside and ask yourself what you yearn for in life. What are you secretly longing for? To explore this question contemplate your life in a relaxed, loose sort of way. Just feel into it. Don’t think too hard. Don’t try to figure it out. Just feel, sense, and let your intuition guide you. Temporarily let go of all the usual things you obsess about all day, and gently sense what’s underneath. Notice your subtle longings and unsaid desires. Take your time and really feel into this.
What do you yearn for? Is it self love and acceptance? Inner freedom? Free expression? Fun? Personal power? God? Meaning? Purpose? Creativity? Peace?
If your answer is, “happiness," you’re still not getting to the core. What’s going to make you happy? I mean, what’s really going to make you happy? Trust me, a million bucks ain’t gonna do it. And neither will success. I’ve had too many successful millionaire clients for that fantasy to hold any water. Don’t get me wrong; succeed at everything you want to in life, but let’s go even deeper to the part of you that seeks to connect with your core.
Now that you’ve got a sense of what you’re yearning for, close your eyes and imagine yourself experiencing it. Feel into it, and make the feeling bigger, more intense, more all-encompassing. For example, if you want to feel loved, go deeply into how this would feel. If you want to feel free put your mind and body totally into your imagination of feeling free. Then amplify the feeling. Get to know this core experience.
Next, make a picture in your mind of yourself living this experience. How would you look if lived your life according to this deep yearning? Study your face, body, expressions, and actions.
Now, stand up and move your body in a way that expresses what you’re feeling and seeing. Use your movements to experience what you yearn for.
Finally, put it all together into one embodied experience. Feel, see, and move what you yearn for in life.
After you have a good sense of this experience, apply your new state of mind to what’s bothering you. How does this new way of being relate to your issue? What new attitude and energy does it bring to the situation? What new ideas and solutions does it come up with? Can you take a new action you may have never considered?
Here are some questions:
1. How have you been supporting this yearning, and how you’ve been ignoring it?
2. What has been stopping you from fully embracing, experiencing, and living it?
3. Can you imagine living your life with this attitude, feeling, and way of being as your main focus?
4. Can you think of ways you can bring this into your everyday life, for example, in your inner world, your relationships, your work, and your spirituality?
Write down what you learn.
Here are some of my clients’ experiences:
1. A twenty-six year-old, single woman yearned for a life partner. She amplified her imagination of being in a relationship, and experienced a deep sense of feeling loved. I suggested she relate to this feeling of being loved as an inner process, and she began embodying it in her life. In other words, instead of stressing about finding a relationship, she started living with a loving “partner" internally for the time being.
2. A thirty-eight year-old man yearned to feel calm and centered instead of agitated and scattered. I helped him to focus on his imagination of feeling calm and centered and he had a profound experience. He discovered that he can be very calm and centered but had thought only other people could be like this. He had been projecting his own capacity for centeredness onto other people instead of doing it himself. From that day on he committed to a daily routine of meditation.
3. A seventy year-old man yearned for resolution with his brother with whom had had been arguing for thirty years. He amplified his yearning and got in touch with a feeling of forgiveness. He brought this into their relationship and it helped them heal.
Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to identify what you yearn for in life, and use it to solve a problem. You did this by feeling deeply into what you really long for, making a picture of yourself living this way, moving your body to express the experience, embodying the entire experience of what you yearn for, and then applying it to your problem.
Dr. Zwig—psychotherapist, singer-songwriter, educator, and author holds a PhD in clinical psychology, is an internationally renowned workshop leader and lecturer, and has had 9 Top Ten hit singles on the U.S Adult Contemporary charts. He has been featured in Billboard, Huffington Post, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Forbes, Gibson, and many other publications, and has over 75 million views on YouTube. Dr Zwig has released 7 albums and his songs can regularly be heard on NBC, Fox, and Fuel TV. His forthcoming book, Music in the Mayhem: Tales of Total Transformation from a Rock n Roll Psychotherapist, arrives soon.
DISCLAIMER: The content contained herein is for inspirational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. Nowhere in this Exercise does Dr. Zwig diagnose or treat a viewer with any kind of psychological, mental, emotional or physical disorder as might be diagnosed and treated by a personal psychologist or other professional advisor. The content is not intended to be a substitute for working with a therapist but is for the purpose of educating the viewer about new approaches to working on personal problems. Viewers should use this Exercise at their own risk, with the understanding that Dr. Zwig is not liable for its impact or effect on its users. Viewing this Exercise does not form a practitioner/client relationship between the viewer and Dr. Zwig. Dr. Zwig is not responsible for any action taken by a viewer based upon any information in this Exercise. Never disregard professional medical advice or stop taking psychiatric medication based on something you have read in this Exercise without a doctor’s supervision and ongoing therapeutic support. Dr. Zwig is an educator, author, and life coach in the U.S., and a psychotherapist in Switzerland. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology. He is also a rock n roll musician.