To be spiritual do you somehow need to abstain from having desires?
Is that what the Buddha meant with the teaching that desire is the cause of all suffering?
Not exactly. It is our attachment to the desire that causes us to suffer.
So what does that mean in real life? We have all kinds of desires and honoring them is a way of that we can be spiritually and emotionally honest– which is always a good place to start.
We are always wanting something: a tasty meal, a parking space, a chance to express our creativity, some good loving, local produce we can access easily and afford, a clean home, enough money to travel (or simply pay the bills), a happy life.
Our desire is part of what makes us human.
And not only are they not bad, desires are road signs to the soul. When we honor our deepest nudges they can lead us home.
But where most of us get tripped up is trying to control (or be attached to) to a certain idea for how we are going to get these desires met. Or we worry that desires are selfish.
Yet your desires often connect you to a place from which you can meaningfully serve.
A case study: I love leading heart-centered and creative community ceremonies. When I left my gig as pastor of an emerging church I wasn’t really sure how I would be able to honor that desire. Then people started asking me to do weddings. Not stuffy weddings– the invitations have come from lovely and creative people who want interactive ceremonies– like Elaine and Robby who had friends write quotes on river rocks and create a heart around them and their children. This is where they stood for their vows– and afterwards they collected the stones to display all through their home in clear vases as a reminder of the support of family and friends. Beautiful!
So I’m not sure exactly how it works… but I see evidence from my own life that desires held lightly are often gifted back to me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.
But how to tune into your deeper desires?
Here are a few key ingredients for incorporating desire into your spiritual toolbox:
1) Integrate desire into your daily/weekly meditation practice
You can do this anywhere and anytime. If you have a regular sitting meditation try it at the beginning of your session. And if a daily silent meditation is a laughable idea right now… just make space for this in the car, while taking a bath or walking to get the mail.
Take a few breaths and bring your attention to your heart center. Ask yourself , “what do I really want? What is my heart’s desire?” Don’t force an answer. Don’t try to answer at all. Instead, simply wait a few moments and listen. Be authentic. Stay receptive. The desires will arise in their own time now that you have opened the questions within yourself.
(from Week 7 of Soul-Centered by Sarah McLean. )
2) Make sure your receiving gates are open
I learned this lesson from my midwife shortly after our first child was born. She said in our culture we are so focused on self-sufficiency that we miss out of the pleasure of giving and receiving. Yet babies bring out the best in friends and family and inspire a generosity and desire to serve. So she encouraged Richie and me to step over and through that raw vulnerability we felt in the wake of Coleman’s birth and to actually let people spoil us. In fact, she said, you do the people in your life a service when you let them love on you. good advice.
So make sure you are open to receiving your desires– which are often fulfilled in unexpected ways through life-giving relationships.
3) Remember that living into desires is an organic rather than linear process
Desire fulfillment unfolds moment by moment in real time. So the next time you feel that tickle of intuition to lean into a new relationship, or to say no to an opportunity that makes total sense in your head but not your heart, or to push publish on your first blog post even though you feel nervous—honor the nudge.
Spiritual nudges are how we are lead mysteriously into alignment– into a space where we find that the life we desire and the life we are actually living are one. And while life is always unfolding and desires shifting and inviting us into new areas of growth– this space of alignment is a wonderful place to stand.
It is where peace of mind and deep joy most easily find us and fill us.
What desires are bubbling up for you this summer?
I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
PS. Are you getting strong clues from your body or spirit that things are out of whack but not sure where to get started? Do you feel like you need support mapping and living into your desires? (and getting that pesky inner critic out of the way)? Please reach out to learn more about my coaching services or set up a complementary conversation. xo
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