Nearly everyone is in the grip of at least one desire, sometimes many. Desire is a natural part of the human condition. It comes from a sense of lack that is created by the ego, the false self. It comes from the belief that we need something outside of ourselves to be happy, which is the lie that makes the world go round. What would we do and what would our lives look like if we didn’t believe we needed something else to make us happy or fulfill us? It’s easy enough to see that this is a lie whenever we do finally achieve what we thought would make us happy, only to discover that other desires arise and take the place of the one that was fulfilled. Chasing after what we want only results in more wanting, not in satiation, because the ego is in the business of manufacturing desires, not peace and happiness.
Getting off this unending wheel of desire requires seeing the truth about desire, and there are actually many truths that need to be seen. One of them, which was just mentioned, is that fulfilling desires leads to more desires, not happiness. Another truth to be seen is that your desires don’t belong to you. They are part of the human condition, the human ego, but not part of our true nature. We take them as indicators of what will be personally meaningful to us if they are fulfilled, but all of humanity has the same basic desires: security, comfort, prestige, money, power, beauty, control, safety, love, and so on. Everyone’s ego wants the same thing. Desires are universal and predictable, and don’t point to what will be meaningful for us personally to attain.
Another truth to be seen about desire is that it is fed by our attention and disappears without our attention. Have you ever longed for something very deeply, and then some other desire came along that captured your attention, and you forgot completely about that first desire? Desires have no intrinsic power except the power we give them through our attention. So if you want to be without desire, then withdraw your attention from thoughts about what you desire. Focus on something else, preferably on what is real in the present moment, rather than on a thought.
And finally, another truth about desire is that our desires don’t matter. Life will be what it will be regardless of what we desire. Desires don’t change life, but they do affect our experience of life. They cause us to be dissatisfied and unhappy with the way things are, and that is a negative state and, consequently, a less effective and attractive state. Contentment, peace, and love, on the other hand, are extremely attractive and tend to draw to us what life intends for us. Notice I said “what life intends for us,” not what we want, because sometimes what we want is not what life intends for us. It is not our fault if we don’t get what we want, and it is not our fault if we do get what we want. There is a higher order in life than our desires. The Whole operates in support of the Whole, and we can trust it to bring us the experiences we need that will ultimately benefit the Whole.
We don’t have to pick and choose what we desire carefully. Seeing desires for what they are and not getting involved with them mentally will lead to a much happier and productive life. Life will unfold as it will unfold, and we will be much happier if we don’t feed the desires the ego manufactures. This is not to say that there aren’t more meaningful deeper desires that spur us on in our life toward the intentions of the Whole. But these deeper desires are not experienced the same way and do not cause suffering, unless the mind gets hold of them.
If you would like to find out more about desire, including deeper desires and how to tell the difference between these and the ego’s desires, you will enjoy Gina Lake’s book Anatomy of Desire: How to Be Happy Even When You Don’t Get What You Want, available on Amazon.com or as an e-book on Gina Lake’s website, radicalhappiness.com.