We often have an uneasy relationship to 'desire' as a species. We have a tendency to fall into one of two extremes when it comes to how we relate to it. We either take the puritanical view, that we usually ascribe to and experience from various forms of organised religion or we rebel against this dogma by enslaving ourselves to our own hedonism, endlessly chasing and attempting to satiate every arising desire.
Either way we view desire as a problem that needs to be solved. As is often the case, viewing something as a problem makes it a problem, even if there were no problem to begin with.
Either it's a problem because we view it as ultimately wrong, sinful or selfish or it's a problem because it feels like a kind of unsatisfactoriness that demands to be alleviated only by external means. When we take the puritantical approach, we fall into the camp of extreme asceticism, attempting to deny the very desire itself, ostensibly until it 'goes away'. To me this runs the risk of denying much of our experience itself and therefore reality. We begin to repress and castigate ourselves, implicitly or explicitly. In this approach, judgement is woven into the very fabric of how we relate to the desire whether we like it or not.
On the other side of the coin, the dilemma is created because we have unwittingly fallen victim to our own limited dualistic perspective. We see ourselves as the subject, suffering from the sickness of desire, and the object of desire represents the cure. As I said earlier this more modern approach errs in the direction of hedonism as every satiated desire is immediately replaced with yet another desire.
But there is another way we can relate to the desire. Instead of attempting to make it, slash wait for it, to go away or compulsively lust after it, we can simply be with the desire itself. Be with the very feeling of the body itself as it longs for whatever it longs for. We can gently unhook our attention from the object of desire and place it upon the very feeling of longing itself. What John Welwood called ‘Holy Longing’. From this place we can start to open to the inherent sense of lack we often feel, that is really fueling our search for salvation. We can give this feeling of incompleteness, imperfection, unlove, and fragmentation space to be without trying to fix it with something outside.
Once we are able to open to this 'longing' itself, we often begin to notice aspects of the very qualities we were looking for, embedded within our experience. Allowing the longing for love, acceptance and open-heartedness can reveal that these qualities were already here all along. We just thought we needed something else to give us permission to open up to them. But the love and worthiness we seek is not something, someone or something else can ever give us. We can only be reminded it is already within us. It is the very essence of awareness. This awareness that underpins everything is already holding us and all our experience unconditionally and without preference. It is already a capacity that we have, because it's here all the time, we just don't realise it.
What we really want at the end of the day is to be able to open ourselves up fully and feel held, accepted and loved. But our very fear of not getting this is what prevents us from ever letting down our guard long enough to truly let it in. The unconditional love, acceptance, respect and validation that we seek, can be articulated simply as the desire to feel that ‘we are perfect and lovable just the way we are’. But this reassurance is already here and available whenever we are willing to truly open to it. It’s not something to be attained, but something to be remembered. It is the opening to the longing for this love itself that does the trick. For if you didn’t already love yourself deep down, why would you be trying to alleviate the pain and suffering you experience in life. Why would you be seeking as much joy, safety and security in your life as possible. Why would you even be listening to this?