Let’s take a moment to appreciate wanting. Wanting for the sake of wanting; desire for the sake of desire. This is too often uncomfortable. Strong desire generally means we don’t have it; don’t know how to get it; and we’re acutely aware of this.
Wanting something draws our attention outward; making peace with wanting, as a sensation in its own right, draws our attention inward. We can want things and enjoy our wanting at the same time, ideally. That sounds masochistic, I know, but what’s the alternative? To not enjoy wanting? That’s like not enjoying breathing. We can’t stop, so…might as well be friends with it.
Our wanting represents not only the gap between our having and not-having; it also represents the interface between our animal selves and our god selves. Animal desire is wonderfully uncomplicated and deeply embodied. God desire is so escalatingly abstract as to be, ultimately, inert.
Religious tradition — the only tradition with the historical balls, or perhaps simple effrontery, to tackle the problem of human desire — generally encourages us to dis-identify from our animal desires and over-identify with our god desires. And we’ve generally accepted this wholesale, without scrutiny. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think to question, like the poor desiring to be rich. Why wouldn’t we seek to “transcend” our “base” desires?
The scientific tradition confines itself that which can be measured.
So, we don’t have a lot of help negotiating desire, or even seeing it as something that can be negotiated in its own right. We’re all, in a sense, starting from scratch, here.
The first thing is to acknowledge that, when it comes to desire, nothing “stops the bleeding” — least of all getting what you desire, which is like throwing a tampon into a hurricane. Religious tradition has interpreted this as a reason to reject desire outright. First of all, that can’t be done, as any guise of desirelessness is only a tactic aligned with a different, perhaps even more self-aggrandizing, desire. Second of all, why not lean in to those mixed burden-blessings with which we find ourselves, incarnationally, saddled? For whatever cosmological reason you choose, we’re here — encased in these meat suits, intellectually straitjacketed by the compounding interest of our own experiences, guaranteed our own eventual deaths. It’s like being at the MVD for a long time, but on an existential level. Surrender and enjoy it.
The second thing is to acknowledge that desire is the metaphysical breath, cyclically and constantly connecting what’s inside to what’s outside, over and over, with us haplessly, and forever, the membrane between the two. On the outside, the only control we have is to get out of our own way while offering consistent receptivity. Internally, though, desire can be heaven or hell, so choose heaven, even arbitrarily. Like your desires, like what they say about you, like that they get bigger and more specific as a byproduct of your skill in manifesting. It’s no coincidence that most religious prophets grew up well-to-do. They didn’t have to spend their whole lives wanting another piece of bread; they wanted for nothing, and yet still found themselves…wanting. Siddartha was protected from death and discomfort, but when he accidentally encountered it, he was stunned. “I want better for those people!,” he thought. “What does this mean? How should we interpret suffering?”
The third thing is to acknowledge that it’s tacky to desire poorly. Have some class. You may not be able to solve suffering, but desire something that doesn’t add to the world’s suffering. And if you do desire that which adds to the world’s suffering, you’re not evil, but you are tacky. Refine your fucking palate.
The fourth thing is to acknowledge that the vocabulary of desire shuttles along a spectrum of general to specific. Wanting to keep breathing is so specific as to be useless, except in rare circumstances. Wanting world peace is so general as to be useless — you can’t want for everyone, so get back in your lane. If you’re going to play the game of desire — and you are — you’d like to have a shot at winning, right? Your best leverage comes from finding your sweet spot, along the spectrum of general to specific, which might suggest itself to you as too big of a desire, vs too small of a desire.
Here’s an example from my own life of a desire too big, ie general: home. A home for myself. I can’t decide if I want to live in a house, or a van, or a shipping container that can sit on either a trailer chassis or a foundation; or never go anywhere, or always travel, or some strange compendium of the essence of all of the above. So, rather than manifesting a home, I’ve manifested a strange compendium of the essence of all the above, and I’m okay with that. You never get anything you’re not ready for, even if you want it. My strange compendium is all I’m ready for, and I know that. When I’m ready for something else, I’ll know.
Here’s an example from my own life of a desire too small, ie specific: people being nice. I’d like everyone to be nice to me, all the time. I’d like them to give me the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t want to have to give them the benefit of the doubt — they should just be nice to me, regardless. Clearly this is a valid desire, and also specific to the point of uselessness. A, it’s not going to happen, and B, it’s not going to contribute to my higher good. In fact, if this desire were to be met, I would regress, spiritually.
The fifth thing is to acknowledge that advancement, spiritually, vs regression, is what’s really at stake, and so the outside stuff both is, and is not, very important. Here’s a question: should we, as Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie suggest, make peace with what-is? Lend presence, but not necessarily credence, to our own “mental activity”? Or should we instead, as Louise Hay and Dr. Wayne Dyer suggest, understand that our power is in the present moment, and we can absolutely align with our desires, and manifest them? In other words, should we accept our own desires as valid?
My answer is, yes, let’s accept them as valid, but only in the same sense that a child’s desires are valid, from the perspective of their hopefully woke parent. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, but accept the doubt as well. We’re parenting ourselves all along the way, after all. If we truly desire something, and it truly isn’t good for us, we probably won’t understand why not until we’ve achieved the desire’s manifestation anyway. This is, incidentally, the strategy I use with physical cravings. If I truly want to eat a bunch of whatever, I just eat it and receive the lesson later. I’m unlikely to deprive myself into any state of being worthwhile anyway.
We’re not going to get anywhere we want to go through deprivation. As usual, though, the roasting of that old “resist or allow” chestnut can benefit from some freshening up, the introduction of a “door number three”, in the form of an expanded craving vocabulary. An example of this would be someone who ethically wants to go vegan but feels deprived when they do. Closer scrutiny reveals that they only know how to make, like, two vegan things, so their deprivation isn’t even about meat, it’s about a poor culinary upbringing.
The sixth thing is to acknowledge that, as Abraham Hicks says: when you know what you don’t want, you know what you do want. We often experience our own desires in the negative. I don’t want to be fat, or have roommates, or a barking dog, or unpaid bills. Mentally pivoting to fully receive what it is we do, now, know that we want, and then framing our focus and language and emotion and activity more along those lines is a neat trick. You don’t even have to believe in any particular god or drink any particular kool aid, to pull that one off.
Interestingly, I wanted to write this blog, this morning, and was prevented from doing so in a variety of ways. I became irritable, but then consciously co-existed with that until circumstances shifted, and then was able to finish the blog. One of the things I was most irritable about was that I found myself becoming irritable in the first place, that I couldn’t finish my blog about desire, which is something I desired to finish. I felt I should be better than that, but apparently I wasn’t. But then I was.
I guess it all worked out! As is often the case with desire.