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May 13, 2020

Is reading about Longing Anti-Mindfulness?

The other day I read this article—Someday when I’m Yours & You’re Mine—and I melted.

It describes a series of touching, romantic, heart-throbbing activities the author will someday do with her lover. Brilliantly written, my heart aches now, just thinking of it.

Yet I can’t help but wonder, when we read these examples of soul-melting romance, are we doing ourselves a disservice? Are we just propagating the myth that love will come to us someday, instead of feeling the love inside us right now? Are we making it worse by waiting for something in the future that we believe will finally fulfill us?

Yes, it feels wonderful to read an article like that, but it arouses such a powerful longing for some event in the future, it rips us by our heartstrings out of the present moment into some imagined time yet to come, when we’ll finally feel the love we crave.

Is this anti-mindfulness?

It feels good to indulge that longing. Reading those articles, or watching a quality romcom, feels exquisite—”Love Actually,” anyone? But are we just making it worse for ourselves in the long run?

Is this the emotional equivalent of eating frosting straight out of the can—it tastes yummy, but clogs our emotional arteries, preventing us from feeling the love that is all around us, always?

I don’t know.

All I do know is that after reading an article like that, I’m filled with a longing so intense it makes my teeth ache, every fiber of my being craving that love. Please god, when will it be my turn? When will I get to share loving, tender moments with my beloved?

After reading an article like that, I’m not thinking of everything I already have in my life, I’m not feeling in love with myself, because I desperately want to feel this picturesque love from another.

I’m not sure it’s beneficial to focus so much on what we don’t have. That’s the essence of mindfulness, isn’t it? Where we focus our attention determines our state of mind. When we put our attention on longing, it creates longing within us. And then we just want more and more.

And these articles are like crack for us Elephant Journal readers—that Someday article was an ecosystem winner the week it came out. A few weeks ago, editor in chief, Waylon Lewis posted “possibly the most popular article on Elephant Journal ever”: You Don’t Need A Man, You Need a Goddamn Warrior.

Again, that’s an amazing article, but it propagates the idea that we need something we don’t have. That Warrior article has 2.8 million reads—astounding. Another article, by the same author: The only “One” you Need to Find, which is about not needing anyone, has a mere 1,200 reads.

That Warrior article is particularly powerful, because it speaks to the idea we all have that we’ve been seeking the wrong kind of person, especially women, finding men who tear them down, fear their power, attempt to subjugate them in echoes of the dying patriarchy. That resonates because it’s an empowering message about love, but it is entwined with the idea that we need another person.

The fact that the Warrior article is one of the most popular ever points to how deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness is this idea of longing for the right person who will finally complete us, finally make us happy.

It’s a self-propagating cycle, we long for love, so we read about longing for love, which makes us long for love more, and read about it more, until we’re licking the bottom of the frosting can, desperate for the next fix.

This is like the drug problem in America, as long as there is a demand, there is incentive to supply. Us writers want to be read, so we write what readers want to read, and collectively we’re propping up this notion of want, desire, and need, instead of peace, contentment, and mindful being.

I do it too. I can’t resist clicking on a title about love. But maybe, moving forward, I’ll think twice before clicking…pause, and wonder if I really want to do that to myself again. Maybe I’ll remind myself of what I already have instead of focusing on what I lack. (I say “maybe” because, let’s face it, I’m hooked on this juice as much as anyone…)

I want to be clear on one thing, in no way do I think it’s “wrong” or “bad” to read an article about longing. Like I said, it can feel wonderful, it can make us feel hope for a bright future. I am simply wondering—and maybe I’m way off base—but I wonder if articles that conjure such an acute sense of longing may be counterproductive to the goal of living a mindful life.

Please, share your thoughts on this idea, I would love to hear other opinions.


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