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Understanding Desire


If there is anything that we have misunderstood as much as love, it is desire. Our limited spiritual knowledge that projects desire as the reason for suffering makes it even more difficult to understand this mysterious force of life. One thing I believe we all will agree on is the fact that desire is what motivates us to move forward, yet if we are not consciously choosing the desires we chase, it can lead us astray.

There are two prominent lenses to look at desire. One projects desire as the path to pleasure, while the other projects it as the cause of suffering. We know that both these lenses are incomplete and fail to give us a holistic view. They can be viewed as different sides of the same coin. Most of us can’t find happiness and fulfilment by renouncing the worldly pleasure, nor can we find them by pursuing all our desires. This makes it important to consciously choose the desires we pursue.

The most important thing we need to understand about desire is the source from where it is born. If observed closely we can see that almost all our desires are born either from fear (need to fill a lack) or from love (joy of expressing a possibility). In her Ted talk, The Paradox of Desire, Amber Krzys says, “our desires show us two things, what we want and where we need the most healing”. Which means, not all our desires are to be chased; some are here to reveal a wound within us. The key in choosing which desires to follow is to identify which desires are reflection of what we want and which ones are here to point us to the healing we need.

Now that we know there are two distinct purposes to our desires, it helps if we can pause before acting on our desire and ask ourselves – Is this desire taking birth from any lack/fear I have experienced in past? If it has no trace of lack/fear, then the next question we need to look into is – Is this something I truly want or is this my attempt to fit in? There is no harm in following a desire born out of fear or from a need to fit in; however, the joy of fulfilling such desires will remain incomplete till we heal the sense of lack hidden beneath it.

The issue with our attempt to fill such a lack is that the lack in itself is an illusion and hence can’t be filled. This is what makes some of us feel a void within despite striking off most of our desires. This can trap us in a vicious circle of chasing never ending desires. This is what Jim Carrey was pointing to in his commencement speech at Maharishi University when he said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.”

Desire in itself is neither good nor bad, however, if we mindlessly chase all our desires hoping to find happiness at the end of it, we will lead ourselves astray. All we need to do is to take a moment to understand our desire and act wisely.