I recently took the challenge of freeing myself from desires. You know, like you read on those ‘quotes of the day’ things. In the process of doing so, I felt I was starting to fade; like the life force that kept me alive was slowly disappearing. I felt sluggish, tired and was ill all the time.
Analysing my own experience I came to understand that not only a life with no desires is not worth living but also that desires are not as evil as I thought they were.
All this comes from the misconception that desires are bad. When I was thinking of desires, I was thinking of things like lust, power, wealth, fame and ego as they take such a big part of what we see all around us. But those desires have clustered our minds and we have lost sight of the other desires, which as I discovered are essential to a healthy life.
In that sense, I was able to differentiate between two types of desires that I distinguished as ‘NOBLE DESIRES’ and ‘GRATIFICATION DESIRES’.
I used the term gratification desires as I found that all those desires relate to one thing; the gratification of our senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and intellect.
I think of thought or intellect as one of the body senses. And as much as we have lost ourselves in the whirlwind of pleasing the other senses, we have also lost ourselves in pleasing this one. We thrive on pumping our ego based on illusions of what we are, a rich man, an intellectual, a yogi, a good Christian or a Buddhist. By taking pride in those things and by defining ourselves by them we end up detaching ourselves from the greater meaning of life and the subtlety that none of this really matters. We compare ourselves to others and feel pride when looking down on others and shame when looking up at others.
We have lost track of what it means to perceive the physical world and have instead merged with it. Every day of our lives is dedicated to pleasuring and feeding those desires without realizing that they are illusions. Just like when you walk towards a mirage in the desert, the closer you get the further away it goes. Like a drug, it creates a hole in our hearts and the more we indulge into it the deeper the hole becomes and the more feeding it needs. A bigger house, more power, more deviant, more sugar; it is everything that drives our lives today.
Noble desires are in my opinion about fulfillment or feeling content. Let’s get it right; fulfillment here is about the happiness as a result of developing one’s potential. It is about being happy at every stage of development towards what you want to achieve. This is different to success, which is focused only the attainment of an aim.
Noble desires are not the type that are rewarded or for which a reward is sought. They are mere joys of a journey that has neither yesterday nor tomorrow. We do it for the love of doing it. It is pure devotion and is absent of thought.
Such desires are natural and essential to the growth and wellbeing of a person. It is what intrinsically makes you feel good without trying. It revolves around family, relationships with others, intellectual growth, work, passions, spirituality etc.
You can desire to fulfill one or many if not all of those desires and those desires are the purest. One would want to be the best he can be at his job or want to be a great father. Being a great father cannot be measured nor has it an endpoint that is reached where you can say I have succeeded; instead, it is a day-to-day feeling of fulfillment in each and every step.
The subtle difference
Example 1: Working towards ‘good looking body’ vs ‘ healthy body’
Having a good looking body is based on perception and often comparative and outward-looking whereas maintaining a healthy body is a noble desire in your life of well being and good health.
A good-looking body will derive from keeping in good health; it is the fruit of the noble desire but not a desire in itself. Another way of seeing it is a sportsman maintaining a good physical condition in his aim to fulfill his passion, and as a side effect, he will have a good-looking body.
Working on having a good-looking body in itself is chasing an illusion. It is based on a perception that is ever changing and can never be attained, especially when done to seek attraction from others. The side effects of that are many, from injuries, having an excessively high protein diet or just depression from never reaching that goal.
Example 2: Devoted to your job vs working for money, status, fame
Going to work with a passion for your job has become something really rare. It is, in essence, the fulfillment of a noble desire of satisfaction in your career, whereas focusing on the pay that you get is merely the chase of a materialistic life that has no end.
One will say that we all need to work and make more money as we need to pay for more things. But this relates to a need that is not justified and driven by an outside manipulation. Instead of having the job that you enjoy doing you would rather do something you don’t like as it pays better and will allow you to purchase materialistic things that will make you feel better in an instant but will never satisfy you thus the vicious circle goes on and on.
The desire for bigger and better now has become the main illusion of our society and is constantly fed to us by big corporations. We compare ourselves to others and feel gratification based on those criteria. To have more money, a bigger house, a nicer car or a bigger watch. It is purely based on an outward-looking point of view and can only bring dissatisfaction and misery.
As one focuses on the noble desire of career fulfillment and gives himself fully to it, he has no care in the world of a bigger house or smarter phone, he is happy and fully satisfied. He has no need to compare as he is truly happy. Only unhappy and dissatisfied people compare themselves to others; when you know happiness you have no need to look anywhere else than within.
Don’t forget that being paid for doing something you love is priceless and that it is the field where you will most likely succeed. Don’t give in to what society wants you to do, buy or become… be your own ruler and be free.
How to stay on track
Make a list of the things you want to achieve in work, life, family, and passion. Whenever you feel like doing something, check whether it goes towards those goals. This will keep you away from impulsive desires.
When you want something, analyze where it comes from. Is it something that will bring greater value to my life and goals?
Take away the gratification desires and replace them with joy. One is future looking and one is present. One is a destination and one is the footstep. Take away the desire to succeed and replace by the joy of action. Remove the desire for money and replace by the joy of performing a task. Take away the desire of looking good and replace by feeling good.
Gratification desires are often impulsive by nature. Driven by your hormones, or senses. It’s like you suddenly find yourself a hostage of your own mind. To push away those impulses you must first spot them and look at them straight on. Take the decision other whether you will give in to those futile desires or you can focus your time, energy and life to something noble.
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