The biggest barriers to living joyously are the conditions we place on life. We demand that certain things must be according to the way we see fit, in order to be happy. The stronger our desires, the greater the pain that comes as a result of not achieving what we want. In our youth, we can always rely on hope to go onto the next thing. But as age catches up on us, we come across this sinking feeling that our yearnings might not come to light. And this leads to bitter disappointment. We saw this in a previous post (How to age gracefully).
And this is the paradox – we want to connect to our innermost yearnings – that which defines us. And yet, on the other hand, unfulfilled desires bring unhappiness. So we fear desiring – we fear having a vision. What is the way out? Do we drop all desires? Do we drop our vision? This, of course is an extreme reaction to disappointments. The other extreme is that we live on hope – until it comes crashing down on us. There is a middle path.
The skill, I believe, is in having strong desires that move your soul and yet, not let them override you. But wait, what about that beautiful quote from the Upanishad?
You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.Easwaran, Eknath. The Upanishads (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 114). Nilgiri Press. Kindle Edition.
Don’t the Upanishads say: we are our desires? This is the problem with taking quotes out of context. The Upanishad certainly says we are our deepest desires. But it also says that we are unconditioned by our desires. In fact the underlying theme of all Upanishads is that we are an immortal soul. Untouched by anything in this world – relations, money, wealth, fame, even our own body and indeed our own desires. Here is the Upanishad once again:
We live in accordance with our deep, driving desire…. But not those who are free from desire; they are free because all their desires have found fulfillment in the Self.Easwaran, Eknath. The Upanishads (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 115). Nilgiri Press. Kindle Edition.
And this is the paradox. The innermost part of us, is desire. Don’t forget each one of us is born out of desire and indeed sustained by desire. Shutting ourselves from our core feelings means we are cutting ourselves off from the source of our uniqueness – cutting ourselves off from the source of life. And yet, these feelings bring pain and misery.
This is where, each one of us must realize that we are also the space that allows the desire to exist. We are also that empty space. We are both – form and formlessness. And embracing this duality is a part of the spiritual process that we must go through. When we know that our innermost yearnings are part of us but not us – then we begin to realize that nothing can touch us. We are untouchables (in a good sense). We are unaffected by life. This is a very very powerful realization. But this cannot be an intellectual concept. This realization must seep into every cell of our bodies and mind. It’s like when a master dancer becomes the dance. They no longer need to dance – they are the dance. This ‘becoming’ is the integration of knowledge into your soul – that is wisdom.
And when we have this untouched reference point in our lives, we can go through all kinds of good and bad. We can go through death, love, hate and loss with an equanimity of a seasoned philosopher. But until then, we need to practice. Practice what?
- Connect to your innermost yearnings: Make it a regular exercise to sit down with yourself for 30 minutes a day. Ask yourself what is it you want in life. Find this out. Be honest. What is it you want for yourself? Not for your mother, or father or somebody else. For you. Some of us may be fearful of even asking ourselves this. No matter. Sit with that fear. That is the reality. That is the innermost emotion for now. Accept what is.
- Understand you are not your emotions and yearning. As we meditate on these intense yearnings, we begin to realize we are a little distance away from it. Yes, they are so strong that they feel like ‘us’. But with practice and time, we realize that we can ‘see’ these yearnings, which makes us a little away from it. This doesn’t mean that the yearnings are false or shouldn’t exist. No! On the contrary, being some distance away helps us gain perspective and in fact helps solidify the emotion. It allows us to bring more energy into it. And that is a very powerful feeling, when we can actualize our desires.
- Deal with your fears: What if the desire fails? That’s okay. We know we are not just the desire. And therefore we do not fail.We bring our energy and enthusiasm to something else. Something which is possible considering the present conditions. Since we do not depend on the desire, we can change it to suit the present moment, the conditions we are in, and the persons around us to whom we need to calibrate ourselves.
Having deep desires helps us connect to what makes us human. Accept this. And accept the fact that when our expectations aren’t met, misery ensues. Accept this too. And realize you are beyond both the joy that arises from the fulfillment of the desire and the sorrow that accrues from its failure. Then, and only then, we can live the life of that wise man (or woman) that Rudyard Kipling, so aptly portrays in his remarkable poem ‘IF’.
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;Rudyard Kipling. If. https://bit.ly/3aEodbl
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
[..] Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Therefore, know and connect to your desires. Act on them. That way you express yourself in this world. You become a unique rainbow in this infinite existence. And yet, realize you are beyond the fulfillment of your desires or their failures. You may ask, what then is the impetus to act? How can I act if I am indifferent to the success or failure of my action? No! You are indifferent to the result of your actions since they are dependent on a variety of external factors. But you are not indifferent to making your desires come true. The desire to want something to happen is what matters. Not whether or not that desire is realized. The desiring makes us human. Be it. What happens to the desire is immaterial.
Through the three step process, we sharpen our skills to desire. There is freedom surrounding the act of desiring. It is similar to playing a board game. You play to win. But if you lose, you still had a great time. It is the wanting to win that made the board game fun. If everybody played listlessly, the game would be no fun. We need to want to win, knowing very well that we might lose. And that would be okay too.
This is the true meaning of the Law of Attraction. The law popularized by the book ‘The Secret’ says you can manifest your desires. Yes! By realizing you have nothing to lose. And that you are okay with failure. Make your dreams generous enough so that they can accommodate its own failure. This is alchemy. This makes them powerful. This makes us powerful. And that is the true meaning of the Law of Attraction.