Reflection for the meetup - The Anatomy of Desire

From: Janardhan
Sent on: Friday, March 21, 2008 12:33 PM

The Anatomy of Desire

Mike George


Following last weeks reflections someone sent the following comment/question.

Under freedom, you write this marks the 'end of desire'. How does the soul or our inner being expand if there is no desire or a desire for expansion?

It's a great question and an invitation to explore the whole area of desire, what desire is and why we are so easily ruled by our desires. 

Almost all spiritual paths (not just Daoism and Buddhism) describe desire as the trapdoor to the cravings  and dependencies that keep the soul, the self, in bondage and enslaved to the object of desire.  It is in this slavery, they say, that true freedom is lost.  And if one is not inwardly free, spiritually free, then it is impossible to be happy which, in spiritual terms, means peaceful and contended.  For most people this is challenging territory in which to find clarity not least because our global culture runs on and is dependent on 'desire'.  It is desire that drives the consumer to consume, it is desire that keeps the producers producing and therefore, according to almost every economists, politicians and business persons perception, it is desire that keeps the world going round. 

It is the desire to achieve that gets the athlete up early in the morning, slogging miles a day to become fit enough to 'win'.  It seems to be desire that gets us through our education.  It is desire that drives us towards career success, or business success, or any success, as we embody the modern mantra 'you have to want it badly enough'  

However it's not difficult to see how desire can easily become one of the symptoms of self obsession, the basis of an individualistic 'me first' culture and even a lifetime of joyless striving, struggling and stressing under the illusion that happiness is not possible until all the 'objects of desire' are acquired or achieved. 

By now you probably sense the inference that desire is not such a good thing!  So let's explore the mechanics of desire and the thought forms that it takes, the most common of which is 'I want.'Returning to the original question - How does the soul or our inner being expand if there is no desire or a desire for expansion?

If you take a moment to watch and see what happens within your consciousness when desire arises you might notice expansion does not happen.  In fact the opposite happens.  When you desire something or someone, your consciousness, which is you, contracts around the object of your desire.  Your world in that moment becomes very small because the image of the object of desire is much smaller than 'you'.  Your world becomes limited because all objects have limitation built in, whereas consciousness, you, are unlimited by nature.  Your world becomes fragile because all objects can break, change or be lost, so built into every desire is the fear of being broken or lost.  This is where the idea of a broken heart originates i.e. the loss of the object/person that was desired and then 'apparently' acquired.

When you desire something it is 'the image' of that something that not only takes mental space, thereby  shaping our thoughts, but it is an image in which you can easily lose your sense of self.  The self becomes small and contracted as it traps itself in the image of the desired object.  This is why, when you desire something/someone strongly enough, ALL your thoughts are shaped by the object. You cannot think of anything else.

Expansion of consciousness, of the self, can only happen when we are free of all attachment to images, ideas, memories and beliefs.  This is why 'desirelessness' is such a highly praised and prized state of consciousness on almost all spiritual paths.  It's not that it's bad to have desires, it's just a mistake.  It means there is an illusion that we will be fulfilled only when the object of desire actually shows up in the tangible world 'out there', only then will we know happiness and only then will we have permission to celebrate success.  In fact the opposite happens.  The more we accumulate the objects of our desires the emptier and the smaller we are likely to feel.  Why?  Because we are trying to fill our life with things, people and achievements, which are all material and tangible things and we, as spiritual beings, are not material or tangible.  You cannot fill a mind with matter, you cannot fill consciousness with form, you cannot fill a soul with a body.  However to fully understand this, it is necessary to see and realise the self  is not form.  Not so easy in a world obsessed with form and where we learn to believe we are form.  In fact this identification with form is what generates the belief that expansion is only possible in the accumulation of more objects i.e. more 'things' that have forms.

Knowing you cannot expand your self by accumulation is often not enough to kill desire.  Some people know this (intellectually) but still get trapped in craving.  Instead of trying to fill the self with stuff, which they know in theory is impossible, they fill themselves with images of stuff.  This is where it becomes a little more subtle.  You can possess an image of a thing more than the thing itself because the self creates the image of the thing, the object of desire.  Within the self is a mind and it is on the screen of the mind that we create images of the things we want.   And as we do it's as if we already have what we desire.  The trouble is the self does not realise it is not the mind and it's definitely not what is 'on the mind'.  We have a mind but we are not our mind.  So the second mistake, the second level of desiring,of craving, of accumulating, is when we try to fill the self with mental images of all that we want, which is impossible.  We just exhaust our self  as we create and flit between hundreds of images of things.  Think children in a toy shop! 

But the final trapdoor that desire invites us to fall through is one that leads to an emotional treadmill.  Seldom noticed and little understood this is the treadmill that the vast majority of us will spend a large part if not all our life running on.  And we won't even know it.  It goes something like this (remember don't 'believe' a word you read here, see if you can see 'how true' this is in your own experience) 

When you want something/someone you already have it/them!  Where?  On the screen of your mind.You want the new car.  You are already driving it in your mind.  And when it doesn't show up in 'material reality' you feel you have lost it.  You feel you have lost what you didn't actually have. Strange but true!  And when you believe you have lost something, however subtle the sense of possession was, you create sadness.  Sadness always follows the illusion of loss.

Now sadness is an emotion, and all emotion passes, it has to because it's not real.  But before it passes it turns into anger as you look for someone to blame for your 'apparent' loss.  Like sadness, anger cannot last, but before it fades it turns into fear, the fear that loss might happen again.  And if you fear something will happen, it will happen.  And so you create sadness, anger and fear, then sadness, anger and fear.  And so on.  It is in this emotional cycle that many if not most of us will become trapped without being aware we are trapped.  Otherwise known as 'perpetual suffering'.  It's just that we become so accustomed to it that we think it is normal!  All because of desire which is based in the illusion that you can actually 'possess'.  Only when this false belief that you can possess something is exposed as false in the universe of your own consciousness is it possible to free yourself from the illusion of losing something.  Only then can you free yourself from the suffering of sadness, anger and fear.  Not so easy because the culture of the world is stacked against us.  It teaches us the opposite. 

Hence the reason why so many suffer, why so many are depressed, why there is so much anger and fear in the world, even though so many of those 'many' appear to have everything they could ever want.  The problem is they still 'want' even when they have everything they ever wanted!  And wanting is to go against the grain of the soul, the self.  If it wasn't against the grain we would all be living in the most harmonious, happy, blissful, paradisical world.  Wander through what we sometimes call a 'third world country' and you will see people with almost nothing and it's likely you will see and meet happier people.  Watch their hearts expand through smiling faces as they invite us to share in what little they have.  We may be rich in things, rich in fulfilled desires, but we are poor in happiness.  Why, because the self contracts when desire arises.  And the self is not designed to contract but to expand.  Expansion can only happen when there are no desires for the self.  Even to desire to expand will be an inner obstacle to being expanded���so to speak.  

In truth, the self, the being (not the form) that we are, is already expanded, already has the natural capacity to give unconditionally, accept and embrace whole heartedly, be unlimited in possibility.  But when 'I want' something or someone the self becomes momentarily small.  Then those moments of smallness expand, not in quality but in quantity.  

Can you see it?  It is not that you should never have a desire again.  That's not going to happen after a lifetimes training in desirefulness!  The secret is to become aware of the process and mechanisms of desire, the anatomy of desire, within your self.  Eventually you may notice and realise that ALL desire is motivated by the same things, which are non-things i.e. the experience of peace, love and happiness.  These can never be acquisitions because they are never not present within every human being!  They already exist within the self and can never be lost.  Paradoxically it is our old friend 'desire' that blocksand suppresses them.  Perhaps that's why it has been said, "To desire riches for yourself is to deny the world the wealth of your being".

QuestionWrite down all the things that you currently desire.  Then write 'Why Because' after each one, finish the statement and see where it leads you

ReflectionWhy does the satisfaction of any fulfilled desire not last?

Action:  Replace one desire each day this week with some gesture, however modest, to give to another.

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