Success & Abundance
What Do You Long For?
The need for spiritual space.
Published: January 24, 2013
How to satisfy the thirsty soul.
I had never heard the word yurt before, but within minutes I realized it was exactly what I’d been looking for. At the time, I was at lunch listening to my friend describe his new project. “I’m building a yurt on some wooded property by a lake.”
“A what?” I asked, in a voice muffled by my sandwich.
“A yurt, a Mongolian yurt. It’s like a tent or a teepee, but bigger and more deluxe. I’m hoping to build it and move in before winter.”
“You’re kidding?” I asked, my eyes squinting in disbelief.
“No, no, I’m serious. I got approval from the township, but I was told to describe it as a ‘membrane-covered dwelling with a dome at the top.’ I guess people freak out a little at the thought of a teepee.”
“And you are building this by a lake?” I asked, questioning each word: you? building? by a lake? “Like Walden Pond?”
“Yeah . . . that’s right.” He nodded, pleased that I was starting to catch on.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “I want that. I want your yurt!”
I need to pause here, for a moment, to explain a few important things. First, I did understand, even then, that I couldn’t really have his yurt. I knew that it was unreasonable to suggest that he should give it to me, and that unlike in the expression mi casa es tu casa, his yurt is his, and my presence in it would only ruin its fundamental yurt-ness. But all the same, it’s a rare moment to have one’s needs captured in a tangible form, and rarer still to encounter a person who is about to pick up a hammer and bring such a thing into being.
Even that day at lunch, I could see that a yurt wouldn’t solve all of my problems, that it would be insufficient to pick up and move to an alternative housing structure. But that didn’t stop me.
“Would I have to go before the board to build a yurt in my backyard?” I asked my friend once the dessert had arrived. “Or would it be possible to get some type of invisible fencing?”
“Maybe what you need,” he gently offered, “is to create this retreat in your mind. You know, to find some way within to honor your need for balance, or just to accept that as humans we often want things to be other than what they are.”
“No, no I’ve tried that,” I joked. “I’m done with interventions on the inside. I need lumber. I need nails. I’m leaving for Home Depot as soon as we get the check.”
The story of my yearning for a yurt and the circumstances surrounding it highlight much of what I see in my therapy practice. So often, I hear clients lamenting: “I’ve just had so much going on—I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath.” And it’s likely that we’ll find ourselves speaking such words—and searching for our own getaway—at one time or another, as we balance the demands of adulthood. Often the more successful we are at carving out a life with meaningful activities and relationships, the more likely we are to get overwhelmed by the demands of all that we’ve created. It seems this predicament is an inevitable cost that comes from being effective at filling our lives with engagements and commitments. I’m not quite sure why it has to be this way, but I’ve seen it in my own life as well as in the lives of many people I counsel and teach. The schedules we create with the best of intentions often become too much to bear, and we end up feeling like the sunflowers of late summer, slumped over by the size and heaviness of all that’s resting on our shoulders.
This dynamic can be hard to spot at first, especially if our life’s cup is overflowing with good things. It’s easier to see and feel the need to slow down and fill up when life is difficult. Either way, however, the qualities of busyness and too much–ness can create an ache in our souls based on their sheer volume. They can keep us from hearing our own wisdom to know what needs to happen in our lives and inside ourselves. They can also leave us feeling disconnected from a sense of gratitude for the things that, deep down, we feel grateful for.
What we need most during these times is to turn our attention within and replenish. We need the very thing that often feels the farthest away. Finding time to slow down can be an obstacle, no question. However, I’ve come to see that not knowing how and where to begin is often an even greater challenge.
Along with discovering how to create such pit stops for ourselves when we most need them, other shifts are sometimes required if we want to bring our lives into balance and sustain these changes over time. These shifts include reconnecting with what matters most, bringing this awareness into our everyday lives, accessing humor and playfulness when we can, and being present with life’s challenges when we must.
Karen Horneffer-Ginter has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. The aim of Karen's work is to reconnect people with the wisdom of their inner-life by reclaiming what gets lost amidst the busyness of day-to-day life: qualities such as stillness, self-care, creativity, joy, humor, gratitude, and compassion. Her intention is to support people in finding a sense of balance and sacredness in their lives.