Desire is one of the great paradoxes of being human. We find desire both at the heart of our greatest joy, and of our greatest suffering. Sometimes we are empowered and uplifted by our desires, and at other times we feel enslaved to them.
Our desires reach down to the very center of our being, and if we know how to listen, they will tell us important secrets about the hidden parts of ourselves. When we are sincere in seeking to truly know and understand ourselves, our desires give us the keys to a deeper self-knowledge and understanding.
When a desire enters our awareness, it usually takes the form of a concrete desire to posses a certain THING, or have a certain SITUATION. For example, we may desire things like money, clothes, a new car, “toys,” chocolate, etc. We may desire situations like a romantic relationship, a secure or rewarding job, more free time, or parents who really understand and support us.
Our culture has taught us that the way to achieve happiness is by acquiring the things and situations that we desire. However, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have noticed that new desires arise as quickly as we satisfy our old ones. We can see that chasing our desires is a journey without an end, and that lasting happiness is not a product of that journey. If we look closely at our desires, we can understand why this is so.
On the surface, our desires seem to be for a specific thing or situation. On closer examination, however, we find that behind every “surface” desire for a thing or situation lies a deeper, more basic desire for the EXPERIENCE that we believe the thing or situation would bring us. For example, behind our “surface” desire for more money lies a deeper desire for the experience of security, freedom, or power that we assume having more money would bring. On the surface, we may desire a relationship, but we really only want it for the experience of love, connection, intimacy, sex, etc., that we hope it will bring us. When we crave food, what we really desire is the experience of satiety, the pleasure of consuming it, and the other feelings that it brings. In every case, our deeper “root” desire is for a certain EXPERIENCE, and the apparent OBJECT of our desire is merely the means to achieve that end.
Think about the deeper feelings and experiences you desire that are behind the apparent objects of your desire. Examine the underlying desires for these feelings, but instead of using the word “desire,” substitute the phrase “have a need for.” For example, instead of saying “I desire security, I desire love, I desire excitement” say “I have a need for security, I have a need for love, I have a need for excitement.” At a deep level, whenever we feel a NEED for something, we desire it; and, if we desire an experience, it is because we feel a need for it. All of our desires are reflections of needs that we feel at a deep level.
You feel a need for something only because you feel that it is lacking, or “missing.” Your desires reflect what you feel a need for at a deep level, in order to feel more fulfilled and “complete.” What you desire, then, is whatever feels fundamentally missing or lacking within you. YOU DESIRE ONLY WHAT YOU BELIEVE YOU DO NOT HAVE. When you are feeling safe and secure, you are not desiring safety and security. When you are experiencing great love, you are not desiring love, because it does not feel missing; you are simply experiencing it, being it.
II. The Ego
Our ego is the part of ourselves that believes in the separateness of all things. It believes that it is separate from everything else in the universe. Most of the time, without realizing it, we are completely identified with our ego (we believe that we ARE our ego), and therefore we believe that WE are separate from everything else. Our ego tells us “what we are” and “what we are not.” It also tells us what we “have” and “don’t have” (e.g., happiness, love, suffering, patience, good looks, etc.).
By telling you that you are or are not something, your ego distinguishes “you” apart from everything else. This is how it creates and maintains your “separate” identity. When you feel like a separate, individual person (which is probably 99 percent of the time), you are identifying yourself with — and AS — your ego.
As long as we are identified with our ego, we are identified with separation, so we experience separation. Learning to recognize what our ego is — and to recognize that WE ARE NOT IT — is how we learn to let go of the experience of separation, and all of its associated suffering. Our ego is not “bad,” and it is not our aim to try to destroy it. Rather, we need only distinguish it, recognize it, and recognize its activity and effects in our lives. This alone increases our ability to relax our identification with it.
Desire can play a very important part in learning to recognize our ego. We saw that we desire what we believe we do not have. Another way to say this is, WE DESIRE WHAT WE BELIEVE WE ARE NOT. For example, we desire happiness because we believe we “are not” happy. But it is the ego that says “you are this,” and “you are not that;” therefore, what we desire is what our EGO believes we “are not.”
So your desires show you what your ego believes you do not have, and are not. Therefore, your desires reveal parts of your “identity of separateness,” which is your ego. This is very valuable information, if you are interested in understanding yourself and healing your separation. It helps to know some specifics about your identity of separateness in order to recognize it, and to recognize how and when you identify with it.
Your ego IS separation, and it will always be so. “Healing your separation” is NOT healing your ego; rather, it is healing your IDENTIFICATION WITH your ego. The ego itself does not cause your experience of separateness; rather, your IDENTIFICATION WITH your ego does. Your ego only has power to define your life and your experiences to the extent that you are identified with it. The more clearly you distinguish your ego, the more freedom you have to NOT identify with it — to not “be” it — and therefore the more power you have to transcend your ego’s world of limitation and separation.
How we relate to our ego (i.e., whether or not we identify with it) determines how our ego affects our experience of life. In the same way, how we relate to our desires determines how our desires affect our experience. When we identify with our ego, we take on its belief that we do not “have” certain qualities and experiences, and so we feel a need for them. Thus desire arises, pointing the way for us to obtain (or somehow make up for) what we believe we are missing.
What makes a desire problematic is our becoming ATTACHED to it. When we are completely identified with our ego, we really BELIEVE we are missing some experience or quality; then we feel a deep, great NEED for it. The more firmly we believe that it’s missing (i.e., the more completely we are identified as our ego), the stronger our need to somehow “replace” it. It can feel absolutely VITAL for our well-being and wholeness that we “get it back.”
This overriding urgency and importance we feel IS our ATTACHMENT to our desire, and we experience this attachment only because we really BELIEVE we are missing a piece of ourselves. This is because we are totally identified with our ego; “missing a piece” is our ego’s belief about itself (and it’s TRUE about our ego, but not about US).
When we are firmly identified with our ego, we are quite convinced that we do not have anything that is “not us,” and therefore the only thing we can do in order to “fill the hole” is to go looking for the missing qualities “out there”. Then, if we find what we’re looking for, we latch onto it for dear life.
We believe that by chasing our desire and “obtaining” the missing quality or experience, we will fulfill the deep need we feel. The problem here is that, when we “succeed” in obtaining the experience, our ego’s belief in separation is completely unaffected. If your ego believes that love is “missing” from itself (and it DOES), then when you do experience love, your ego will experience it as coming from “out there.”
The ego’s belief that it is missing love cannot be changed by experiencing love. The ego REALLY IS missing love, because it was made without love, and that cannot be changed. So to the degree that you are identified with your ego, you WILL experience “missing love.”
If you chase your desire for love and find it “out there” in someone or something ELSE, you will have to HOLD ON to that someone or something else in order to prevent the return of the painful experience of “lacking” love. Finding love “out in the world” does not equate to healing your sense of separateness from love. That requires healing your separateness from your True Self, which is the same as healing your identification with your ego.
When we do achieve our desires, we give up our freedom in an effort to keep what we have “gained.” When we finally find that relationship we’ve been searching for, we immediately start to censor ourselves and restrict our expression, to ensure that we don’t scare our partner away, or offend them and cause them to withdraw “their love.” The love that is filling our need is clearly “not ours,” or else we would not be afraid that someone else could take it away.
By chasing our desires, we are treating the SYMPTOMS (the feelings of lack) of the experience of separation, while the DISEASE (the experience of separation itself) goes unhealed. In addition, every desire we fulfill then demands our eternal allegiance and vigilance to make sure that we do not “lose” what we have achieved, lest we once more experience the symptoms: the feelings of lack. Losing what we have “gained” in this way is especially painful, because it reveals the ugly truth of the impotence of “fulfilling our desires.” To face that difficult fact is to face the real powerlessness and the certainty of ultimate failure that are inherent in chasing desire.
Our power to create (or our empowerment) can be understood in this way: whatever is “real” for you has “reality” because you have empowered it, and whatever you empower becomes “real” for you.
When you are identifying with your ego, you are empowering it by lending your own creative power to its beliefs. This is the only way your ego can have any reality for you; it has no creative power or “reality” of its own. When you identify with your ego, all of its beliefs in limitation and separation become YOUR “reality.” Then all of your experiences reflect the rules and assumptions of this reality of separation.
You cannot simultaneously empower two contradictory realities. Therefore, if you are empowering the separation-based reality that you are NOT love, are MISSING love, and need to “find” love to be fulfilled and complete, then you cannot BE love, and BE fulfilled and complete. Before you can empower the reality of being fulfilled and complete, you have to stop empowering the reality that you are not.
Our desires are like representatives or emissaries from our ego’s belief system of separation and incompleteness. They come bearing the ego’s message of lack and need, and then wait expectantly for us to validate and empower them. And if, in our habitual empowerment of our ego’s beliefs, we accept what they represent as “truth,” then we DO empower them, and we empower the ego’s beliefs in separation and limitation, and thus that becomes our “reality.” And thus we experience that reality.
Because of their “emissary” role, our desires are a “leverage point” in the ongoing process of empowering our ego. Our desires are highly visible to us; we are very conscious of them, in direct contrast to much of our ego’s system, which is mostly hidden and obscure.
What we empower is always our choice. Our power cannot be “taken,” nor, once we have empowered something, can our power be “kept.” Since the ego cannot take our power, it must convince us to lend it. Because it cannot keep our power, the ego must continually persuade us. It does this by constantly sending us messages on the wings of desire, each of which solicits us to empower its belief in lack.
What your ego believes it is not, it tells you you can never be. What it believes you do not have, it tells you you cannot create, because IT cannot create. To believe this is to be identified with your ego, and to believe that you, like it, are limited and separate from everything that it is not.
Because you have identified yourself as your ego, you have empowered the reality that you are not love, do not have love, and cannot create love for yourself. Within this reality, to have love, you must find it outside of yourself. This is the message that your desire for love brings you.
The desire itself is quite valuable, because it reveals the belief that we cannot have or create our own love or belovedness. The desire has no power over us; it merely shows us what we believe to be true, what reality we are empowering. Ordinarily, we choose from sheer habit to empower our desire (and empower its reality source of separation), without even realizing that we HAVE A CHOICE.
Not seeing our choice, we assume there is none. Thus we lose the opportunity to be CONSCIOUS of what reality we are empowering, and to empower our reality consciously. Simply by becoming aware of this choice, and becoming aware that WE ARE CONSTANTLY MAKING THIS CHOICE (whether consciously or not), we reestablish the option to choose differently. For this powerful step, it is not even necessary to actually choose differently, but only to observe the choosing that is already, always taking place.
As long as we are empowering a reality of separation and limitation (e.g., we do not have, and cannot create, our own love), we cannot simultaneously empower the complementary reality of unity and unlimitedness (that we have, are, and do create love).
V. The Other Way
A desire is a “representative” from a limitation-based belief system, or “reality.” You are intimately familiar with that reality by now, so you have the experience you need to be able to recognize it. You are beginning now to CONSCIOUSLY recognize and understand the nature and experience of that “reality,” and so you are starting to recognize its echoes within the choices you make. In consciously distinguishing the “reality” of separation that you have empowered, you automatically begin to distinguish HOW the choices you make are empowering it.
One of the ways you make these choices is how you relate to your desires. In “valuing” or “agreeing with” a desire, you empower it, and you empower its underlying belief in lack.
By choosing NOT to empower a desire, you choose not to empower the “reality” of limitation that it represents. In recognizing the belief or “reality” that the desire represents, you gain the option of choosing to empower a different and contrary “reality,” such as the reality of wholeness and unlimitedness.
To make this choice is to heal your identification with your ego, with separation. Every such choice you make returns some of your power that has been “lent” to the ego’s belief system of limitation. This is the very power that has made limitation and separation your “reality.”
Initially, this may look like a severe ascetic’s path, leading to a boring life with no desires. You might hear “not empowering your desire” to mean that you should not want what you want, or that you should simply not try to achieve what you desire.
This is not at all what is meant, however. The real goal is to distinguish the underlying beliefs in separation and limitation that we have empowered. Once we bring these beliefs to consciousness and see their effects in our lives, we start to become aware of the choices we make to empower them.
Choosing not to empower a desire does not rob you of what you are desiring, nor does it prevent you from experiencing it. What it does is allow you to empower a reality where you don’t NEED something that is “missing” from you. Not empowering a desire allows you to empower a reality where you simply HAVE and ARE what was missing, but to do this you must cease empowering the reality that you ARE missing it.
The needs and desires that we used to feel are thus replaced by experiences of HAVING and BEING what we used to “need.” Having these things, we no longer feel desire for them; they are now simply a part of us. Thus, where once there was the feeling of a lack of love, and a desire for love, now there is simply the presence of love, as a part of one’s being.
Do not fall into the trap of making your desires (or the fact that you continue to empower them) into another testament to your belief in your powerlessness or your unworthiness. To do so is simply to choose to empower yet again the belief in separation and limitation. By now, you cannot help but realize that it is a CHOICE to do this, to continue to use your power to create beliefs that trap you in feelings of victimhood and disempowerment.
To believe in your own powerlessness and unworthiness is to agree with your ego’s negative assessment of you. This is your ego’s assertion that YOU are IT, in all its limited, separate glory. When you see that YOU choose to empower this “reality” of powerlessness, the illusion of the “victim” is apparent:
THE VICTIM CHOOSES TO EMPOWER THE REALITY THAT HE IS POWERLESS TO CHOOSE WHAT REALITY HE EMPOWERS.
(That sentence is worth studying until you really understand it, and understand the self-contradiction that it is).
The victim chooses to believe and empower that he has no choice and no power, and that belief has reality for him because he HAS CHOSEN to empower it. When the thought “you are powerless” comes to the mind of the victim, he says “I certainly agree,” and that is how he empowers it. Someone who is not a victim might have the same thought, but say, “I may FEEL powerless, but I know that it is always my choice as to which thoughts I will agree with and empower, and which ones I will ignore, and I know that to FEEL powerless is different that BEING powerless.”
To FEEL powerless is to experience limitedness. We all choose at times to empower a belief in limitation, and experience that “reality,” so we all know what it is like to FEEL powerless. On the other hand, to “BE powerless” is to empower the belief that you are not empowering your belief, and to experience that “reality.” It is a valid experience, but a dismal one.
VII. Listening for Empowerment
When the voice of desire speaks to you, do not hear the voice of your ego telling you what you do not have and cannot be; hear instead the voice of your Greater Self, reminding you of what you have forgotten you always have, and always are.
Let the voice of desire remind you of the separation you have chosen to empower, and let it remind you to choose consciously what you would create now.
Let it remind you that you seek to understand what you have created, so that you may release it and free yourself to create anew, to create consciously.
Let the voice of desire remind you to recognize the seeds of experience that are within every choice to believe, and every choice to cast away belief.
Authors Details: Matthew Blais <healspirit (at) yummage.com>