One of the aims of yoga is freedom from the desires every human has. To find peace and equanimity within our daily actions, knowing that peace inwardly, even when others may perceive it as otherwise. As someone who has had many desires, and probably still has many, it is a freeing practice, though not without the resistance from within. I hear many who say they are free from all earthly desires, but then act in ways other than that. My thought is that when it happens, it is something I will know inwardly, there will be no need to share it with others. In the mean time, for each of us who struggles with less than enlightened thoughts, I wanted to share from my toolbox.
"Those who say it, know it not. Those who know it, say it not."
- Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath
I most certainly still have desires, I am not yet a saint and maybe spinning that wheel for many incarnations to come, who knows. For a long time though, wanting to achieve freedom from many of my thoughts, I would see the desires within me, and stuff them down, believing inwardly they were wrong, or that they would prevent me from achieving the liberation I sought. Even worse, at times, believing that I had transcended those very desires. Some of this may have stemmed from my religious upbringing, where I was informed I would be punished if I broke the rules. Yoga simply provides a method by which it is known one can achieve liberation. It does not make the sins ( which simply means mistakes ) a BAD thing, simply a choice that takes us away from the ultimate liberation we seek. It was a breath of fresh air when I first read that in Yogananda's work.
Stuffing those desires down though, making them bad, or at the very least fearing they would prevent me from achieving liberation, only forces them in to the shadow. A shadow which has played out for me in ways which were quite humiliating at times. The more we meditate, the more our shadow emerges in to our consciousness, and the better our opportunity to acknowledge the desire or habit beneath it, and attend to it in a gentle and compassionate way. A refusal to acknowledge, understand or love it now, will ultimately lead to it playing out in our life as some kind of drama or embarrassment.
"Unless the desire to be special disappears, you will never be special. Unless you relax into your ordinariness, you will never relax.”
Certainly I have discovered desires which are of the heart, which can provide transitory joy on the planet, and I love seeing them manifest for me. Then there are definitely those desires I have which have been harmful to my evolution, and the lives of others. It can shocking when we stumble upon those in our own being, but I am ever grateful to yoga and the support from my yoga master in ridding myself of them. The hatred, the self loathing, the need to punish myself, the desire for revenge, the need for approval, the greed, the jealousy. These have all emerged within my awareness over the years, and it would be so easy to project it on to others. But through studying yoga, I know that I will only progress in life by conquering them in me. Before yoga, I did not believe I had the strength to face them within myself.
“The peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.”
― The Bhagavad Gita
Whenever I sit with my own anger, I know a desire or a need is not being met. It is tempting to want to throw the anger at another person. "They made me angry because they did such and such" But that takes the focus off of me, and the need and desire I have. Not to mention it creates karmic patterns that will only make my journey more challenging. So instead, I need to be honest with myself and ask what desire or need I have. Sometimes that need can surface in moments, other times, it can take deeper questioning and more life experience to discover it. But it is never voiced and acknowledged, when I refuse to believe it is there, hoping I have already release it. Many times I find myself working through something I have already worked through, but I cannot judge it if I hope to master it.
Once I am aware of the desire, I am able to let it go and ask for support in releasing it. Once I am aware of the need, I can make it happen for myself, or ask for support with that. As long as I deny it, it can have power over me. Letting go of the desire does not mean that it does not happen for me, it means that I will not allow myself to suffer because of it. My life has become much more enjoyable, and much more peaceful as my meditation practice has deepened and I have set myself free from the prison of guilt and shame. They still make themselves known from time to time, but that is the beauty of my practice, it gives me the strength to conquer even the most painful ones.
Sometimes the meditations are an uphill paddle, with my monkey mind chattering away relentlessly, holding on to the belief it is in control of the bigger picture. Some days my mind is like a pond at dawn, undisturbed by even the sleeping swans. I truly look forward to that day when I have conquered the desires that leave me feeling imprisoned. Until that time, I will continue to listen inwardly to my intuition, and outwardly to the words of ones wiser than me, and commit to making the changes that will allow me to find greater peace, joy and love within.
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