What do you want right now?
What do you want most of all?
When you let go of worrying about whether or not you can have it, how does desire feel?
Last weekend, I participated in my second Diamond Approach workshop. The approach was developed by a man named A.H. Almaas as a synthesis between spiritual and the psychological experience. The group uses meditation and focused inquiry to help people gain a direct experiential understanding of a situation. As a person gains direct experiential insight into a situation, their ego structure is both repaired and abandoned, so that their essential spiritual nature is more fully expressed (i.e., more LIGHT can shine through).
This weekend, our insight process focused around desire. Buddhist teachings might leave one believing that ALL desire is bad. Wanting brings suffering. To stop suffering, stop wanting.
This weekend we explored a different, more subtle approach to desire. Basically, some desire leads us AWAY from ourselves. We desire things because we feel deficient in ourselves. We crave things because we are seeking to not feel something. We desire things to give us a sense of self. This is the type of craving that Buddhism counsels against.
But there is another kind of desire. The kind that is borne out of love. The kind that rises in your chest, bubbly and yellow like champagne. The kind that feels so good to allow, you want to sink your toes into it. And this second kind of desire arises from a sense of fullness, not deficiency.
This second type of desire is a natural activity of the heart. It is the heart’s GPS. Follow these desires, and you will find the things in life that affirm you. And even if you never get the things you desire, the sheer pleasure of loving them, wanting them, is what the heart wants and needs to feel alive. This type of desire is a sacred movement, profound in and of itself, regardless of whether it is actually fulfilled.
One type of desire brings you closer to yourself, one takes you away.
How do you distinguish one type of desire from another? You can tell by how it makes you feel. Let’s say you crave chocolate. Do you feel happy and excited about the deliciousness of the treat, a pure and innocent joy in this treat? Enjoy the pleasure of wanting, free from any attachment to actually eating the chocolate. Or do you feel an anxious craving, and a gnawing sense that you are ignoring what is really bothering you? If that is the case, then dig deeper to see what you really want.
So all weekend, this group of people, slowly at first, and then in a joyful rush, shared all of the things that we desired truly, with our hearts. When we let go of whether or not we could actually have them, the energy shifted from one of frustration or tentativeness, to one of freedom and play. We desired fun and travel and lovely work and intimate conversations and hot sex (as a seventy-year old woman gamely volunteered).
We were like children who had not yet learned the harsh rules of the world, and were free to love everything we wanted to love.
And we also discussed the things that kept us from our desires.
The most poignant scene of the weekend for me was the inquiry with a man in his late 50s. He recalled that when he was a little boy, he loved women. Worshipped them. He could vividly recall sneaking behind a girl’s desk when he was just starting school (6 or 7 years old), so that he could breath in her scent and stare at the pattern on her dress. But he quickly learned, because he was brought up Catholic, that such desires were a sin. So for most of his life, he has had a tortured relationship to women. He buried his desires because they were bad.
As this man recalled the bright red and white check pattern of the girl’s dress that he so loved over forty years ago, tears streamed down his face. Together, we sat in silence, letting him cry, sharing the beauty of this innocent desire.