by Derek O'Neill
Desire can be defined as the longing for those things we feel we need or want, but where does it comes from, and where does it lead us? How is desire connected to suffering? How does your past, and your subconscious, play a role? Is the endless chase of empty desires running your life? How do we achieve higher, healthy desires, such as being happier and more loving towards others and ourselves?
If we trace back where desires come from, we find attachment and the fear that drives it. We are scared that we will not have love, or money, or status. We can even become attached to anger and resentment, sadness, or other emotions. Attachment exaggerates and distorts what we think we must have, and creates even more desire. More desire creates more attachments. It is a cycle that manifests into suffering. In order to break the pattern we must begin to learn how to let desires go. When there is less desire, there’s less attachment and more room for growth and joy. Empty desire makes your world very small. Freeing yourself of desire expands every part of your life. It takes time and commitment, however, and a lot of patience.
Making a conscious effort to let go of these kinds of desires, and practice acceptance of the plans the universe has for us, can open doors to wonderful surprises and new energy. When we become aware of our desires, we interact with the world and begin to live with a higher level of consciousness and gratitude. You are creating your own life, all the time, by how you react to it and move through it. Desire, when it manifests as attachment, conceals your truth. Desire that drives your actions and emotions can shift the way you see the world and create a false reality.
We begin to form higher desires when we detach from expectation and move into acceptance of all – good, bad, and everything in-between. This is one of the most powerful elements available to us.
We have to take back our power. We can create what we want but only when we bring our hearts, not just our heads, into daily life. It’s from the heart that we can manifest our own true higher desires. Enlightenment is when even those higher desires drop away, but for now, reaching for a desire that promotes something virtuous will give you a greater sense of satisfaction.
Strong desires make it hard to be grateful for what you do have, right now. Even when it is not exactly what we would wish for ourselves, we need to say, “thank you depression,” “thank you anxiety,” and “thank you bank manager, who wouldn’t give me the loan!” The more we say thank you, the more we eliminate the chances of it happening again and again. It is not easy to have gratitude for what feels negative or sometimes even traumatic. It must come in equal measure and with the same passion for everything that happens to you. This is a form of enlightenment. It is all part of your creation.
Before we dive into this exploration of desire, I want to acknowledge that desires that don’t serve your higher purpose are not going to disappear from your life entirely. Just as it is important to welcome every element that comes to you, desire cannot be cut out of the whole of experience. Desire is a natural part of being human. Wanting something is not “wrong” or unnatural. It’s how we recognize, explore, and process desire. There are many belief systems and teachings that incorporate a karmic view of desire, as something you are born into this lifetime with. The Hindus call it the garland of karma. You have a set of desires that were unfulfilled in a past life and because they were unfulfilled, you have come into this life again. If you have a desire to do something and it is a driving desire that will not harm others, you must fulfill it. If not, the karmic wheel will continue to bring you back here until you have that experience. If you repress a driving desire, it will only pop up again and again. It is one of the pearls on your chain.
Once you’ve gratified the kind of desire that kept you up at night, you usually find that it is not the answer, nor the path to true lasting happiness. It is the experience of filling a karmic, higher purpose that allows us to let go of the obsessive pursuit of the external things and circumstances that actually make a lot of people miserable. The suffering is in repeating the pattern, without gaining clarity and perspective. Buddhism uses the word ‘tanha’ or ‘thirst’ for desires that crave and cling to expectation and attachment. It’s a lower desire that mirrors an addiction where satisfaction will never come, unless more is provided, in a never-ending chain of suffering. A good, higher desire aspires to and wishes for improvement and light, whether it be in service to others, better understanding, compassion or remembering your truth.