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Are Your Desires Helping You Get What You Want?

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So many people extol the power of intention these days, you'd think it's a foolproof way to fulfill your desires. Yet, the fact of the matter is most of us don't fulfill our intentions. Let's look at why and, more importantly, at how to reduce the resistance that so often keeps us from achieving our intentions/goals.

Essentially, there are two types of resistance to fulfilling any intention: internal and external. In this post, we'll look at internal resistance, since it is often all that it takes to keep us from fulfilling even those worthwhile desires that we really, really want. Sarah's story is the perfect illustration of how:

Sarah was a creative and vibrant woman with a successful career that afforded her time to pursue the things she loved -- her art and travel. Although she was generally happy, she also felt that something was missing: Sarah longed for an intimate relationship. She had not been in one for years and she was seeking my guidance in the hope of freeing herself from a long string of unfulfilling relationships.

It is no small thing to attract, let alone remain in, a nurturing, intimate relationship. Few things are as wonderful as sharing your heart and entrusting your life to another. However, if, like Sarah, you grew up in a less than ideal family with an alcoholic and verbally abusive father, it's also true that few things are as challenging.

For years, she had been seeing a therapist, as well as consulting with me annually to update her personal yoga and meditation practice -- both of which she felt were helping her move toward overcoming her patterns and in the process, realizing an improved relationship with herself, and possibly her dream of a loving, intimate relationship.

At our previous meeting, a year earlier, all her work seemed to have paid off. She seemed to have outgrown her conflicts about being in a relationship. That day, Sarah had seemed truly ready to have love in her life, ready for the relationship she had long desired.

One year later, as she walked into our meeting, I was confident that she would tell me that she was in love or, if not, that she would still be feeling very good about herself and enjoying her life. However, I immediately noticed that Sarah was not as carefree as the last time I'd seen her. I asked what had happened in the interim. She just sighed, dismissively offering, "Oh, I've had a date or two with a couple of different people, but that's about it." We both fell silent.

I was at a loss about what to say or how to comfort her. I waited and then finally asked, "Sarah, why do you think you're not in a relationship?" Without missing a beat, she said, "Oh, you know... the fear thing." Her tone was nonchalant, but underneath it was sadness and a profound sense of resignation about spending the rest of her life alone. That was the moment I realized why Sarah was alone.

On the one hand, Sarah wanted to be in love, to feel nurtured and cared for. That was her conscious desire. She had long ago created an intention to be in love and to have intimacy. But that day, it was obvious: She had a contrary desire -- a deepest driving desire -- that was, indeed, keeping her from fulfilling her wish for a relationship.

The concept of "deepest driving desire" is found in an ancient yogic scripture: "You are your deepest driving desire. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. You are your deepest driving desire."

According to this teaching, Sarah was not in a relationship because her deepest desire was to not be in one. She had exactly what she really wanted.

What Sarah wanted more than anything else was something that even the best relationships cannot guarantee -- absolute emotional security. Thus, her deepest driving desire, was to not be in a relationship and since this was the desire to which she was most committed, it was the one determining her fate.

After some discussion, Sarah agreed she had a contrary desire. I asked her to put it into words. It didn't take her long. "At all costs, I want to avoid being hurt by someone I love."

Given her desire to love and be loved, this may not sound rational, but rarely is resisting something we want rational -- and that's just the point. That's why it's so critical that anyone wanting to fulfill an intention should first look to see if they have any potential desires that may conflict with their resolution or intention.

Sarah had identified what the yogic tradition calls a vikalpa, a "mental construct." Specifically, these are the rules, beliefs, or perceptions that split or separate us from our highest self and from the destiny that our highest self would have us fulfill.

It is important to note that the work of uncovering a vikalpa is not just another approach to labeling or identifying yourself as a particular type (e.g., an adult child of an alcoholic). Nor is it a psychoanalytic approach, although of course psychotherapy can be very beneficial. However, none of us live our lives based on a label. For instance, that is why some people who have been labeled as having "low self-esteem" go on to become extremely successful and powerful, while others never do. According to the ancient teachings, we live our life based on our deepest driving desires and those desires -- not our circumstantial or even psychological background -- determines our destiny.

Anyone with an intention they wish to fulfill may or may not have a vikalpa that directly conflicts with that intention, but most of us do, which thus makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill our heartfelt desires.

In my book, The Four Desires I detail and walk you through a step-by-step process to uncover your deepest driving desire, precisely because doing so empowers you to much more effectively achieve the things you truly want.

Where do vikalpas come from? Chances are that they have been around since your childhood or even before... At some point in your life (or previous life), they may have helped you survive or deal with challenging circumstances. An ancient Vedic tale illustrates this point, how a solution from the past can later become a source of confinement and limitation.

One day a man leaves a small rural village to forage. As he walks into the woods, a powerful storm quickly descends. With each passing minute, the storm gets more intense and eventually becomes violent. With the storm raging, the man's only hope of not being blown away is to huddle behind a tree and grab hold of the trunk. The storm continues to rage all night.

The villagers awake the next morning to find that their village has been almost completely destroyed, but they are relieved that there's been no loss of life. The children begin to play amongst the ruins. As their attention turns to how they will rebuild their village, someone realizes that the man is missing. As they begin their search, they hear someone in the distance yelling for help. A group of men go out to see if it's the missing villager. As they get closer, the cries for help get louder. Eventually the men stop in their tracks and start to laugh. What they see is the man who got lost in the storm the previous night still holding onto the tree. The storm long gone, he is yelling, "Help me! Help me! The tree won't let go!"

A vikalpa is often the destructive legacy of continuing to hold onto our "tree" long after the storms of our life have passed. In Sarah's case, the longing we all have for intimacy and love gave way to the desire to protect herself from real intimacy. Long after she left home and had ceased to need to keep potential partners at a distance, she was still holding onto that old desire. The good news is that once Sarah recognized that a desire rooted in her past was shaping her future, she was able to change her deepest driving desire. In the process, she wound up achieving the intimacy for which she longed.

We all have a deepest driving desire. This is true, whether you have consciously chosen one or not. The point is that it is vital that we do the work to ensure that our deepest driving desire is consistent with and will support the intentions and dreams we wish to fulfill.

Excerpt adapted from The Four Desires by Rod Stryker. Copyright © 2011 by Rod Stryker. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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