Following Desire

Yesterday, I felt strong and clear. Today, after surviving another battering of thought/feeling waves that swept away both strength and clarity, I find I’m once again clear, but not as strong.

I feel like I’m out on a storming ocean in a small vessel. One moment, a great wall of water rises up, encircling me, closing in, and that’s what reality looks like: My imminent demise. Then, suddenly, lifted on a swell, I can see to the horizon in every direction; reality now looks vast and chartable, if only apparently calm in the distance. My best practice, my only practice at these stormy moments, is to keep myself in the boat, my hand on the tiller. After a lifetime of going where the current took me (asking no more of life, or of myself, than whatever showed up), I have a direction at last. It may prove a figment of imagination, but it’s a destination nonetheless – and it’s about time I tried to get somewhere.

I am following my heart’s desire. For better or for worse, I’m all in. I’m laughing as I write this, because there are no guarantees. In fact, if you’re laying down money the best odds, by far, are against me.  Yet, I persist. Despite a beguiling kaleidoscope of shifting thoughts and emotions about it all, I have a steady desire; and even though the object of my desire may remain forever out of my grasp, my dogged pursuit is calling forth the best of me, and I’m learning mad skills.

One of the most useful new skills: I’m learning to hold my thoughts and feelings more lightly in my mind. After some time of paying attention, I can see how changeable and insubstantial they are, arising and subsiding on their own tides, in response to whatever shows up around me, or perhaps what I ate most recently. I’ve found I can have back-to-back thoughts that completely oppose one another, cancel each other out; yet both are accompanied by supporting, corresponding emotions that lend to each opposing thought an apparent weight and truth. Which of this shifting phantasmagoria should I follow? Oops, too late. They’re both gone … replaced by a third, fourth, hundred-and-fifth, on and on. A kaleidoscope makes a lousy compass.

Desire is a slightly less faulty compass, both because it arises from a deeper place within us and because it endures the buffeting of thoughts and emotions. Whatever you may think or feel about your desire, it keeps coming back. But desire is an intensely problematic compass. First, as noted, there are no guarantees. To co-opt Lord Krishna’s words to Arjuna: You’re entitled to your desires, but not the fruits of your desires. Desire can focus and motivate us, but it makes no promises. We may never get the job, the person, the house, the dream … and, if you’re going to use desire as a compass, you have to accept this going in, or make your peace with it as quickly as you can. Otherwise, you suffer. Well, and this is the second point: you’re going to suffer anyway. As the Buddha said, The root of suffering is desire. And the greater your desire, the greater the suffering. No doubt. Best, probably, to move right along … if you can. Uncurl the fingers of your heart and release whatever it is you wanted back to Life.

But! But! But! you say. I know. Whatever you may think and feel about your desire, it can be a pesky, persistent thing. Let go though you might, there it is again. Like an adorable, aggravating puppy. So my goal, at present, is to keep the focusing, motivating force of my desire alive and leaping in my heart, while accepting that this is all I am entitled to. Wish me luck.