Desire is a great enigma: some teachers tell us that all desire emanates directly from the Divine and other teachers tell us that desire is the cause of all suffering. Which one is correct? The answer: Both of them, when rightly understood.
To understand this paradox we must distinguish desire from craving. Craving is desire with attachment; aka addiction. Desire is a certain type of energy that arises in the mind; craving is attaching that energy to some future experience or event. Desire, in and of itself, can rise and disappear; it is impermanent. But craving can be endless because it is always looking to the future to be satisfied. It’s like the donkey that chases a carrot hanging from a stick which is tied to its own neck: satisfaction is always just beyond reach; always in the future.
The practice of Living in the Heart of Desire is being directly aware of the experience of desire without attachment to a particular outcome or object. We experience desire without craving.
All desire is ultimately the desire for happiness. Our heart desires happiness from the day we are born but at a very early age happiness becomes associated with physical satisfaction. Happiness becomes equated with getting our needs met. As we grow older we are conditioned to believe that happiness results from getting what we want. In our search for happiness we want more… and more … and more … but nothing is ever enough!
All desire is ultimately the desire for our own true nature. Happiness arises from the realization of our own true nature but the conditioned mind tells us that happiness must come to us from an external source.
A quote from the Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj:
All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever they may be, are longing for happiness. Basically, you wish yourself well...desire by itself is not wrong. It is life itself, the urge to grow in knowledge and experience. It is choices you make that are wrong. To imagine that some little thing-food, sex, power, fame-will make you happy is to deceive oneself. Only something as vast and deep as your real self can make you truly and lastingly happy.
Living in the Heart of Desire is allowing oneself to feel desire fully without being attached to the object of desire. We then experience desire without craving. We do this practice with the understanding that our deepest desire is to experience our own true nature.
This can be challenging at first because the mind is convinced that the object of desire will bring us the happiness that we seek; we must remember that this is not true. It can be challenging also because letting go of the object of desire may bring up grief arising from unmet needs in the past.
The key is to feel all of our feelings and remember that what we most want is the experience of our own true nature, and that is not dependent on any external condition or circumstance.
It is, of course, necessary to fulfill some desires in order to be healthy and functional in the world. Having some needs met may be essential for survival. The desire for food when we are hungry or for money when the rent is due should not be ignored, but the key is to recognize that getting our worldly needs met will alone not make us happy.
Living in the heart of desire with nonattachment to results will connect us with the very source of desire itself which is the Divine seeking to know Itself and experience Itself in you, through you and as you.