On one end of the spectrum, we see lack a of desire manifest as apathy or lethargy. If you look at many eastern religions, they praise liberation-from-desire for its power to alleviate suffering. And to a certain extent, it does.
Try this experiment: exhale all your air out of your lungs and don’t take another breath. See how long you can remain there — you will find that the overwhelming physical desire to breathe grips you stronger than any mental or emotional desire you have ever had. This kind of desire is a secondary desire, meaning, it lives within our subconscious and is not as consciously obvious as a primary desire to, say, go to Disney Land.
Our collective beliefs about the importance of secondary desires (to provide us with a sense of self-worth and belonging) is a tricky trap that so many young adults fall into (I know that I did). The abuse their bodies and minds in many different ways, in search for fame or power or physical intimacy. Drugs and alcohol become an escape for a life of not living up to expectations. In our saturated, desire-full culture, we have nearly forgotten the practice of desirelessness entirely. It is desire that creates the cycles of addition. It is desire that leaves us believing we are unworthy unless we have more.
A remedy to this epidemic? Meditation.
Practicing the stoic art of negative visualization can be so powerful in quelling our strong, societal desires. When we look at all the extremes of our fears — fear of loss, poverty, abandonment, disease, deformity, public shame, death — we embrace the mystery of existence and can breathe easier in knowing that not one of us has it all figured out. We are all on the same train, destination unknown. Our fears are the skeletons in our closets that subconsciously rule our waking life, and thought desire, we work feverishly to avoid these potential outcomes. We actively attempt to forget all that we see as ugly or scary. Our false medicine is “belief” — the adult fairytales that help our sequestered reality make sense. Instead of trusting our direct experience, we create beliefs that make up our own story of reality. This mode of being doesn’t work on many levels, still so many are willings to sign up and pay the penance and the tithings.
We don’t need to believe in a blue sky, we just experience it as blue. Similarly, we don’t need to believe in a bearded white male God, we can simply experience God as whatever we see. There is another doorway — the path less-traveled, of actively letting go of our attachments, especially to the beliefs we hold most dear.
So yes, desirelessness — or what may better be called non-attachment — is true medicine! However, like all medicine, it must be use appropriately and in moderation. We, as humans, must use desire. Meaning, we must create purpose. If we didn’t, on a fundamental level, we wouldn’t be taking our next breath.
Here is a classic example of someone who, through sheer desire, stumbles upon non-attachment. Let’s call this someone Mrs. Billionaire. So, Mrs. Billionaire wanted to create something, and she stopped at nothing to see her vision manifest. Her purpose consumed every waking hour, and through years of struggle and much good fortune, tremendous wealth became her reality. Mrs. Billionaire then found herself in the peculiar situation of having literally everything she desired at her beck and call. Therefore, she started to learn that things were disposable, and nothing to worry much about. That luxury car, that mansion, that personal jet… they all simply became toys that could be replaced. Her wealth brought her into a new non-attachment to it all.
If you’re wondering why I’m painting this image, it’s to prove one very important point: life eventually finds equilibrium between desire and desirelessness.
The balance and equanimity that we all seek never comes from one direction, it comes from a minimum of two. The mentally and physically sound homeless man most definitely does not have the same stresses as a householder juggling 21st century living. However, they are both forgoing joy and lessons, for as we acquire and experience the fruits of life, we have equal opportunity to practice and integrate liberation. In this way, we can remain homeless and single despite our life in a home with a partner. Sounds contradictory, but embracing this paradox is magic.
Desirelessness is the one thing that cannot be desired, it is a simple state of being. Becoming a celibate monk in a monastery won’t guarantee liberation — it can happen there, but it can also happen anywhere for anyone with any life situation. Desirelessness comes through deep remembrance of who we truly, intuitively are. It comes through a surrender into the core of our being — into the very spirit of our creative energy. See this, and remember.
You have always been perfect, fulfilled, and complete, without the need for desire. New experiences and expressions manifest as flowers blossoming. And just as gracefully as their beauty and fragrance arises, it again falls back into the Earth.