Out there in the soup of mainstream spirituality, many of you are attempting to deny that you want what you want. You have heard that to be without desires is more spiritual than to crave the things of this world. So you do your very best to sever those desires… or at least squash them and stuff them into a dark corner.
Then you turn away and go back to your regular life, feigning satisfaction with what you have, until…
That desire nudges its way out of the shadows and back into your mind – perhaps as a sudden fantasy or jealousy towards someone else who has what you yearn for.
So you try to shove it away again in a variety of ways: You might condemn it, or shift your focus to meditating on “no thoughts”, or do a gratitude exercise on the abundance in your life, or criticize the people who have that thing you want. Or you might do a combination of the above.
Following are some examples of what this might look like…
Fruitless Mental Attempts to Destroy Desires
My desire to be an actor is really so silly – it’s just an old fantasy from my teens. I don’t know why it still hangs around. Actors are vain and egotistical! I’m beyond that now, right?
My desire to have a passionate, adventurous lover is so unspiritual! Pleasure is a lowly urge. Who needs orgasms when you’ve got Source energy? I’m going to sit down and do 15 minutes of Zazen…
My desire to have my own successful online jewelry shop is so cliche! So what if I love making accessories? That doesn’t mean I have to get all ambitious about it. I should just stick with making jewelry for my friends. There are people out there in the world who have so much less than me. I should be satisfied with my regular job and just keep jewelry as a hobby.
My desire to be the next Anthony Bourdain is so embarrassing! Sure his life looks fun – traveling to all those weird places, hanging out with interesting people, making inappropriate jokes on camera…. but seriously he’s just some hack who eats weird foods in cool sunglasses and glorifies drinking. Anyone could do that! It’s not like he’s adding anything truly important to the world.
Does any of this sound familiar? You ever hear yourself doing half-assed “spiritual” negotiations with your pesky desires? If so, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty common. But on the other hand, don’t expect to feel good anytime soon either.
You Cannot Kill Your Desires
I’ve got some bad new for you (actually it’s good news disguised as bad news): You can’t kill your desires any more than you can drill a hole in your own head and give yourself a lobotomy. Why? Because they are a relevant part of your spiritual anatomy.
Your desires aren’t like mosquitos that come buzzing into your bedroom that you can just squash, flick, and be done with. They don’t actually come from outside. They come from inside. But it’s confusing because they show up dressed in images and fantasies that you recognize from the outer world… which is where you must venture to get your answers.
You will not know if you actually want what you want until you admit it, and go out there into the world to try to get it. By pursuing that desire, you will get the opportunity to find out if it is an actual match for your own next leading edge in life. But you will not know until you go exploring.
Let me give you an example from my life…
Dating a Famous Guy
When I was in my early twenties I was backstage at a concert and a famous musician was there who I happened to have a crush on. He wasn’t performing that night, but he was friends with the band, and so was there hanging out. When I saw him I had such a strong desire to connect with him. I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to want me.
So I moved in and started talking to him. We were sitting on the floor against a wall together and I was giving him my best attention – breaking down a song he had written and telling him why it spoke to me so much. And we happened to hit it off.
For the next week we spent a bunch of time together – drinking loose tea and listening to music and staying up late talking about life. Other famous musicians would come over to his place and hang out and have jam sessions. I wore his tee shirts and he told me he was writing a song inspired by me. It felt really good to get what I wanted… well, almost.
Although I thought I was getting what I wanted, something quite obvious showed me that I actually wasn’t. I could not get the slightest turned on with him. Absolutely no butterflies. No glittery sparkly feeling in my second chakra. Nothin’. My body did not respond to him at all.
So after that starry week was over, I declined his further invitations. I went back to my regular routine of waitressing and saving cash in a high heel in the closet of my rented room. Hoping to figure out what to do with my life, hoping get my own apartment one day.
Finding Out What You Need
Sure the famous guy’s fame was sparkly and bright. But it wasn’t actually him I needed. What I needed was to reconnect with my own inner sparkle and light. It was a glum time in my life, a time when I didn’t know where I was going or what I would do next. I really needed hope.
The famous guy reflected my own desire for a life of creativity and passion. For my own apartment where I would make loose tea in teapots and have inspired conversations with other impassioned creatives. He represented living out loud – singing your song. Being brave and free. And that is what I needed.
But if I hadn’t slid down that wall and sat next to him on that floor backstage, I probably would have left that night just thinking I wanted him. My desire would have stayed stuck in my throat. I wouldn’t have been able to swallow it, or speak it.
Sometimes desires work like this one did – they are dressed up in something else’s clothing. But it won’t work to walk away. You gotta undress them to find out if they actually turn you on.
But other times when you undress your desire you are like schwing!!! Because it is EXACTLY what you need.
When What You Want is Exactly What You Need
It is HIGHLY LIKELY that your fantasy about what you want is exactly what you should be doing. Most peoples’ hidden fantasies involve being really artistic, creative, expressive, philanthropic, revolutionary or dynamic players in the outer world.
For most people, if you pursue that desire, you will find the wind of enthusiasm in your sails. That enthusiasm will uplift you to a state of joy and positivity. Problems become opportunities. Fear becomes fuel. Once you commit, you are excited and inspired to try to overcome. Hard work is actually fun.
And this is where all y’all get stuck. There is this crunchy curmudgeon of an idea out there that if you enjoy it, it musn’t be valid. Enjoyment is a big-ass red flag that you are traveling down the road of temptation, away from the Truth. WARNING. This red flag is an alternative fact! It’s not the truth. The truth is, your enthusiasm is the ULTIMATE green flag!
That urge to become an actor could very well be the path your soul needs to explore and embody other “characters” inside yourself.
That desire to have a passionate, adventurous lover could be a big high-five from the universe that you’ve graduated from solitary meditation and are now spiritually advanced enough to go have enlightened play with another human body.
That obsession with starting your own jewelry shop could be the beginning of a glorious way of doing business where you are sourcing stunning stones and raising the vibration of people far and wide through the accessories you design.
That jealousy of Anthony Bourdain could represent your spirit’s urge to “come home” to itself by experiencing and embracing humanity all around the globe.
One aspect of my career as a yoga teacher is doing Life Path Mentorship Sessions with students seeking their spirit’s calling. It’s always funny when I’m working with someone and they assume I’m going to try to get them to find peace without going for what they want.
Sure, we do a little opening meditation realizing how much we have, feeling our gratitude for all that is working. But that’s just to lay the groundwork for conscious action.
The truly fun part is putting a plan into action to pursue what you think you want. Because I know that if you go towards what you want, what you need will reveal itself. And it’s just so fascinating to find out what that turns out to be.
A Word of Caution: The Desires that Destroy
Every once in a while, you might have a destructive desire. You might have the urge to fool around when you are in a monogamous relationship, to steal money from the cash register a work, or to otherwise participate in a dangerous or hurtful behavior.
If you have these sorts of desires, yes, you should move towards them – but do it in your imagination instead of real life. By fully living out that dangerous desire in fantasy, the goal is to get all the way to the end of it – where your craving is satisfied.
Maybe you will get to feel the attention you’re missing in your marriage by having an imaginary affair. Or you will get retribution at your job by stealing that money, since you don’t feel like you’re being fairly compensated.
In these cases, you must take that information learned from your imaginary trip into satisfying the desire, and then approach the person or system head-on with the need that is not being met. You must communicate clearly and directly. This way you’ll address what you need, without undermining your self by leaving a trail of tears or burned bridges.
Now Step Into Your Desire
Hopefully at this point you feel fully pep-talked into realizing that your desires are wonderful pointers to getting the next thing you need.
If a desire has presented itself that wants attention, take some small step in its direction. Sign up for a class, plan a trip, interview someone in the know.
Start moving towards it and find out what happens…
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Photo: Wesley Tingey from unsplash