Everyone has desire, whether it's for enlightenment, espresso or Facebook likes. Given this, it seems natural that we go toward what we want and avoid what we don't want. Yet this automatic orientation causes tremendous dissatisfaction and loss of freedom. We become predators going after the next hit, wanting to possess and then rid ourselves of people, experiences and objects in an endless cycle -- with only little bursts of satisfaction.
To address this addictive circle, some have recommended blocking desire altogether, but that doesn't work unless we don't mind losing our juice for life.
The ancient yogis of Kashmir had a different approach. They didn't see desire as a problem at all. To them, it was life force -- the energy that fills the universe, propels us forward and makes us feel alive. The problem as they saw it wasn't with desire itself, but with how we make ourselves the source of it and then connect it to specific objects. In his book Desire, author Daniel Odier describes a simple perceptual practice that these yogis used to turn this habit on its head. By doing it regularly, you can train yourself to get tremendous satisfaction from things that you would usually overlook.
It works like this:
For a few minutes at a time, instead of being the one who does the desiring, imagine instead that everything desires you.
- Your morning coffee really wants you to taste it.
- The trees are yearning for you to notice the bright green of their leaves.
- The breeze wants you to enjoy it's soft touch on your cheek.
- Even the ground under your shoes is waiting for you to notice the lively sensation it creates as you walk.
Suddenly, the world lights up -- and so do you. When we feel wanted, it's natural to feel enlivened in response. Our desire takes its rightful place as the fire of presence and enjoyment of what is, instead of the burning need to get what's not here. Doing this practice, we will derive satisfaction from a whole variety of ordinary things that we normally overlook, since our attention won't be occupied with waiting for a specific object to please us. Now, there is no need to wait, because everything we encounter has satisfaction built into it. With desire spread out all over the world, its joy and enlivening quality is no longer confined to one object that we may or may not get.
This little game can trick you into mindful presence, even as it helps wear down your usual relationship to desire. It is a simple, playful way to meditate as you go about your daily life. Try it for short little bursts -- and rather than thinking of it as a task, let the enjoyment that comes be the fuel that naturally makes you want to do it more and more.
I invite your thoughts and comments, and would be especially interested to hear about your experience of trying the practice. Please also pay a visit to my website, flamingseed.com, for more tools and insights on thriving in challenging times. And check out these articles for other simple practices you can do in daily life: How to Use Writing as a Meditation Practice, and Recognizing That We are All Buddhas: The Path to Fearlessness.