Desire Is Empty
“There may be a moment in life when our compensatory activities, the accumulation of money, learning and objects, leaves us feeling deeply apathetic. This can motivate us towards the search for our real nature beyond appearances. We may find ourselves asking, ‘Why am I here? What is life? Who am I?’ Sooner or later any intelligent person asks these questions. The root of all desires is the one desire: to come home, to be at peace.”
– Jean Klein
Let's clear-up two things:
- Desire for food, shelter, health, are vital.
- Elimination of desire is neither beneficial nor plausible.
Our Inseparable Marriage With Desire
We are bound to desire our entire lives. Acknowledging this is one small step toward a radical insight. There is no denying this marriage, and there is no divorce. Like any relationship, it can cause tremendous suffering if one doesn't engage with it intelligently.
For any desire beyond fundamental survival, what are the answers to the following? For example, if I wish to pursue and obtain "X" - which can represent anything from eating ice cream to becoming a millionaire:
- What will X bring me?
- How long does the experience last?
...minutes? months? a lifetime?
- How much pain does it require?
- What are the downsides?
A Blunt Reality
If you ever feel like "everlasting happiness" is what you will get from "X", I’m sorry to say, you would be the first person in human history accomplish that 🙂. Be my guest… If you want to try. We all need to try in order to exhaust our ego and have an “oh, shit” moment.
Why This Feels “True”
Who are “you”? Are you the thinker of your thoughts? If a desire pops into your mind, where the hell did that come from? This is not a riddle. This is a separate truth, that the self is an illusion. You are not your thoughts! Desires and dreams are often just spirals of fantasy that never come to fruition! They actually succeed at frustrating the hell out of us in a goose chase. Further, thoughts and feelings about the past are equally unhelpful and haunting. We are screwed in two directions 🙂 Caught in a fantasy about the future, or regret about the past. Makes us want to hide in our smartphones, among other things.
Turning the Table
What if we simply accept this? If we own that we “are not our thoughts“. If instead, we stop attending to those thoughts – and recognize life is OK, right Already?
- Cultivate your awareness of suffering
- Systematically discover suffering in all aspects of life
- Example of recognizing the present moment
“The lack of fulfillment we feel is natural and normal. That’s true enlightenment. It’s ,when we feel [briefly] fulfilled, we are deluded. Most of what we are doing is distracting ourselves. We distract ourselves from the emptiness and meaningless of it all by working, creating a purpose, believing religious tenets, buying things, addictions, compulsions, and just about any activity we get ourselves involved in. Some argue that the majority of what we do is compulsive behavior to ignore the fact we are dying and alone. This isn’t even accounting for the way people attempt to avoid the situational pain they are experiencing.
You might be wondering why I am trying to depress you with all of this existential angst. Actually, I am not. I am trying to get you in touch with what is already there, but for beneficial reasons.
Instead of mindlessly watching television, mindfully enjoy your cup of coffee. Instead of engaging in the compulsive behavior, really converse with someone you care about. In other words, mindfully engage in your life, and in the distractions that make life enjoyable.”