“There’s a part of every living thing that wants to become itself, the tadpole into the frog, the chrysalis into the butterfly, a damaged human being into a whole one. That is spirituality.” ~ Ellen Bass
Many of us are driven by inner restlessness and longing. A sense that something is missing in life although it is difficult to put our finger on what it is.
We have the belief (even though we may not be aware of it) that when we have a better relationship, a more fulfilling job, more money, the next vacation, a better body or a number of other things that we’ll feel satisfied. That our life will feel more complete.
And yet even when we get the new relationship, more money or whatever it is we still feel there must be more.
So what is it that we’re really looking for? What are we seeking?
At the heart of this seeking is the need to know who we are and why we are here. What is this journey we call life all about?
This sense that something is missing is often an invitation to become more aware of our essence and who we are beyond the surface level of our life.
I personally experienced a feeling of what I came to call “soul hunger” in my own life which manifested as stress-related health issues, relationship troubles and a lack of meaning and purpose.
This soul hunger is an invitation to embark on an inner journey in order to understand ourselves better and shed the limiting beliefs that are holding us back from becoming our best and most authentic self.
It often happens at a time in our life when we’re acutely aware that we have a lot to be grateful for.
We notice an inner tug of war between the part of us that tells ourselves we should just be grateful and the part of ourselves that tells us there must be “more.”
And if feeling lost and confused isn’t enough we also feel lonely because we find that most people don’t understand what we’re experiencing. We get the message- “You have so much and are so fortunate what could possibly be missing in your life?”
I get it because I have been there and experienced these same feelings that were confusing and unsettling. I experienced a dark night of the soul and was really suffering even though I had SO much to feel grateful for.
What are these feelings and inner knowing that something is missing in our lives trying to tell us?
I began to see a pattern in the people I mentor and it usually boils down to three things:
We may be disconnected from our authentic self.
In this scenario, we have been so busy focusing on other people or fulfilling the many roles in our lives that we lose touch with our innermost selves. We may have put a lot of time and energy into raising a family, and/or work and then something changes and we’re left asking- Who am I without these roles or this job? What am I meant to “do” now?
It’s not uncommon to lose sight of our own unique values, gifts, needs and what makes us feel most vital and alive.
Our authentic self can easily get buried beneath a whole lot of layers and beliefs. We’re busy being a “good” person and doing what we should do to be a productive human being and in the process, we can lose touch with who we actually are and who we’re meant to become.
We may be longing for deeper and more meaningful relationships.
As we begin to awaken we are less satisfied with living in the shallow end of life.
Our souls long for deep and fulfilling relationships where we can share our most intimate thoughts and feelings with those closest to us.
We want and need deeper connections with people and have a desire to share and discover our authentic self with others in a safe and nourishing way.
Just as we are meant to grow and evolve, our relationships are also meant to grow and evolve. When this doesn’t happen it’s common to feel like our relationships lack depth.
While earlier in our lives we may be satisfied with relationships that enable us to share the tasks and manage the roles in our lives, there comes a point that our souls need something deeper.
What meets our needs in one chapter of our life doesn’t meet our needs in the next.
Shifting our way of being from a needs-based relationship into more soulful relationships, can be very challenging. But if the soul is needing a deeper connection and it’s not available to us, we are going to feel like something is missing.
Our soul may be longing for deeper meaning and purpose.
This gnawing sense that something is missing in life is a sign that we have a spiritual yearning that we may not be aware of.
It’s an invitation from our soul to bring our life into alignment with our core essence. In The Call of the Soul: 10 Signs Your Soul is Speaking to You, I explore this further.
The Universe, divine, intelligence, God, higher power or whatever you call “it” is setting off an alarm which may be saying: “You are a spiritual being having a human experience.” When we don’t know how to live as spiritual beings it is not surprising that it feels like something is missing.
Our society values material success, achievement, status, and identification with our roles. When we achieve these things and/or something changes we are confused about what does bring us deeper meaning and purpose. We find ourselves asking what are often considered to be questions arising from our souls- Is this all there is? How am I meant to contribute to something larger than myself? Where am I meant to invest this energy that previously went into my traditional roles and responsibilities?
Spirituality stirs a sense of curiosity, mystery and way of being that acknowledges that there is a life force beyond our control at play in our lives.
The sense that something is missing in life is ultimately an invitation to embark on an inner journey to understand ourselves and get in the “flow” of something much larger than our ego selves.
It’s an opportunity to shift and pivot in our lives from doing what was expected of us in the first half of our lives to responding to what needs to emerge through us for the next part of our journey.
Eckhart Tolle, one of the great spiritual teachers of our time, explains that when we’re disconnected from our essence we commonly feel like something is missing.
How do we begin to awaken to our essential nature? Awakening occurs in stages and is like peeling an onion. Although there are many layers, the following 3 things are a good place to start:
1. Learn how to regulate your nervous system.
Many of us live in a perpetual state of fight/flight/freeze. This inner stress and turmoil must be acknowledged and regulated before we can get in touch with our deeper truths. When we’re functioning in “survival” mode, we’re essentially disconnected from our own inner wisdom and guidance.
Many clients that I coach are surprised by the difference a basic meditation practice makes in calming their minds. You can download a Beginner’s Guide to Meditation to get you started with a simple practice starting with 5-minutes a day.
With a calm mind, you may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions:
- What is my heart’s desire?
- Who am I beyond all the roles that define me?
- How can I best nourish myself?
2. Begin to practice mindfulness to increase your ability to pay attention and be with what is arising.
Practicing mindfulness helps us notice our thoughts, feelings and bodies in ways that increase our capacity to be “present” for our lives as we’re living them. We gain access to the rich inner world that is continually sending us messages. We become more tuned in and notice what is alive for us in the present moment.
Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield are freely offering Mindfulness Daily (Free- Register any time) for 40 days of daily instruction. The series gives you an opportunity to explore a number of different practices that will increase your ability to become more aware. Without greater awareness, we often fall into the trap of looking to things outside ourselves to fill the void and sense that something is missing.
3. Gain awareness about yourself and the lens through which you see the world.
Every human being is born with a unique personality. Our personality enables us to function in the world and fulfill our many roles and responsibilities. While mindfulness enables us to be with what is arising in our lives, it doesn’t help us see the lens through which we see the world. Understanding this about ourselves gives us clues as to the reason we may feel something is missing in our life.
The Enneagram, a psychospiritual system of personality typing provides insights about our core motivations and fears that we’re blind to and which keeps us “stuck” and disconnected from our essence.
A great book to get you started is The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
When we create space and get curious about what is missing in our lives, we open the door to evolving into a more authentic, peaceful and loving version of ourselves.
Leave a comment below if you feel like something is missing in your life. Our community would love to hear from you!
(Published August 2017- Updated July 2020)