As you realize innocence you enter a new life, or a new life grows out of the old. You will see that life follows an inner law and that in everything that matters you are divinely guided. You will know you never had to get rid of all desires, preferences, or thoughts. You only had strip the coarser illusions from them. Desire is originally innocent but it gets corrupted by fear and grasping, so that we cannot receive anything real. When desire becomes demand, you may receive something but it will not be true and real. Most of all we demand love from others. They may seem to comply if they are afraid of the anger behind our demand, but we will not receive love through our demand. Love only comes to those who are nonviolent, who are unwilling to indulge the old emotional violence within them.
Desire, free of violence, is only joy that wants to share itself. All desires are the desire for reality, to communicate or share in presence. Desire is originally a river that flows toward the ocean of union. The problem is when the river gets blocked or sidetracked, forgetting its true aim. In the ocean of spirit all natural desires find their right proportion and are fulfilled. How these are fulfilled will surprise and delight you. You will feel your life flowing in a deep current of joy instead of splashing in the shallow puddles of contrived pleasures.
To purify the stream of desire you have to work with the energy of longing and the frustration of desire in yourself. Never block your desire. Never pretend it is not there. Instead admit that it is enormous. You have seen those films where an ambitious person confesses, “I want the whole world.” That is how our desire really is. Not that we want to own the world, but what we want is total, absolute fulfillment. We want complete pleasure and ecstasy.
In childhood our desire begins as selfish, blind want for nourishment and enjoyment without much conscious concern for the other. We soon learn that, beyond the satisfaction of our physical needs, in order for our happiness to be complete then others must be included and considered. In this way our temporary shell of selfishness is gradually broken open by the social nature of life. Our desire gets channeled more and more toward cooperative and constructive activities.
To play the best games, we need playmates. To enjoy laughter we need another to share the hilarity of the moment. To weigh the full import of our thoughts and feelings we need someone to hear, understand, and reflect them back to us. In relationship there is a balance of giving and receiving. We learn to receive pleasure from giving and to give pleasure by receiving. If someone refuses to take then your pleasure of giving is blocked. And if you refuse to receive love and affection then the other’s pleasure is blocked along with the flow of spiritual energy that underlies it. This applies to all relationships and encounters, however trivial they appear.
So you have to become a vessel that can receive and give in the right way. This mainly plays out in the tasks of adult life as Freud named them: to love and to work. In the balance of giving and receiving our love and work become play; play which includes both exertion and rest. We are in the play and rhythm of life, which must alternate between action and inaction, thought and the absence of thought, community and solitude.
One who has realized life as play has taken his or her existence seriously enough to act on desires but intelligently so, letting them lead the way through and past the surface goal. A man initially wants a woman to sleep with, but with receptivity he allows himself to be led to a deeper experience of communication, perhaps the creation of a life together and all the growth this entails. And so his desire eventually reveals the spiritual communion and growth he initially sought in a body.
It leads him beyond the body, but if he refused to follow his body at all, attempting to make himself a saint, then he becomes a coward who is not only afraid of women, sex, and rejection but afraid of life. There is no way to leap from being a coward to a saint in one bound—one must at least become human first, through the courageous life of action and desire tempered by increasing wisdom.
Those who have not gone through the fires of their desire cannot find great peace; they will only find a small and static island of peace defended by repression. To earn peace you need to have come absolutely alive. You cannot have repression in your system. You have to have insisted on speaking and living in truth with others and not to settle for the great lie of appearances—the lie of the lifeless marriage, the dishonest friendships, or the hidden agony of living just to please others. As the ancients said, if you cannot find good spiritual company in your land, then you must go into the desert. The desert offers us a metaphor. What will you find in the desert? Fire. Heat. You will be alone, but the heat will help you dry up all the dampness in your soul and set your heart on fire with new life. If you live a water-logged, compromised, and emotionally stale life then you can never know fire and the great, clear space of peace that fire leaves when its work is done. This is why I have said that if you want peace, you must go by way of passion. Passion is the drive of the great intelligence to fulfill itself in the human experience.
No external thing or person can completely fulfill this, so even as you achieve a pleasurable life situation with a balance of giving and receiving, you are still left with a profound longing. This is where passion turns inward, toward the infinite intelligence of spirit within, to discover vastness. By seeing through the idea of yourself as an object that can gain happiness from another object, you awaken as the life force of presence itself. You go from being a small vessel to an all-embracing and all-giving vessel. You start to resonate with awakened presence, which people feel as an energetic balm or nectar emanating from you. This empty awakeness is a vital, flowing peace in which passion is constantly fulfilling itself in relation with the whole that is life.
Thus to think that we can or should cut off all desires from the start is a tragic error. It is the same as concluding that if certain negative thoughts cause suffering then freedom must mean not to have any thoughts. Our task is not to banish thoughts and desires but to enlighten them.
Ask yourself, do I suffer because I desire, or do I suffer because my desire and the vision behind my desires is not great enough, not powerful enough to lift me out of smallness and separateness? You may indeed have some anxious, misguided desires fueled by fear and lack. Go to their root. Gradually these can be converted to one great desire for love and truth that uplifts your life and the lives of others.
There is only one power in existence, and that is spirit. So you have to watch what you attempt to throw away or change in yourself. Hafiz said, “Spare the world your ideas of good until you know that all is good.” It may be that your nagging, selfish desire or bad habit holds a great message within it. It is a vessel, albeit an inadequate vessel, for the urge to be happy and whole, to be nakedly revealed to yourself and others. That would be peace and that would be power. When you want to awaken, you are going to need a great power, a great passion for truth and for life. How can you possibly receive the revelation of wholeness if you attempt to stifle your desire for happiness? You cannot get to the root of your being by cutting off your branches. You have to grow both upward into the world and downward into the unmanifest. This is the way of enlightening your desire for happiness.