Desire and the Mind, Part 1

The content of the mind always gets used for a purpose, hence the term ‘desire.’  

There are two important things to consider regarding mentally based desires: …Referring to desire as ‘mentally based’ implies that there may be some other type of desire that is not mentally based and is either not an obstacle to samadhi [equanimity, fulfillment] or gets evolved out of existence. The idea of abandoning desire in order to achieve union with the Divine has an unfortunate tendency to bring up guilt or a sense of failure or unworthiness, which in turn becomes yet another obstacle. Most people who are conscious and self-honest probably know that they haven’t managed to overthrow these desires. In fact, the more conscious a person becomes, the more self-aware and self-honest, the more obvious it becomes that these desires, patterns, programs, and conditionings, have been running their lives. It seems almost impossible to overcome them—they’re the devil incarnate…

A desire is a want. There are only two kinds: the ones you know you have and the ones you don’t know you have. Desires have ‘programmed’ foundations that are almost impossible to unearth; they run on automatic pilot. I gave up long ago on trying to make them go away. We can consciously choose to acquiesce to a desire or not, so the first step is to know when one is operating. The second step is to make a conscious choice to give in to it or not.

I don’t mean to suggest that not giving in to a desire will make it go away. It won’t. Some people believe that indulging desires fulfills them and makes them ineffectual. I am inclined to think this approach reinforces them rather than dissipates them. It’s probably more important to know what’s going on and not let these desires be the cause of the way you live your life.  That would be letting your desires run things, in which case your life is really a result of your programming.

If you want to become more conscious of your hidden desires and what is orchestrating your life, start by just noticing what motivates your actions.  You’ll get better and better at this with time and practice. But don’t judge yourself—you didn’t put those desires there, and you don’t have to bow down to them.

Early in life, we engaged in mental activity, consciously and unconsciously, in order to survive and to avoid pain. A desire as fundamental as the body’s desire to survive influenced the development of patterns in the neural pathways of the body and brain very early on. Other events associated with survival created more and more complex patterns. Such patternings had a purpose at one time but became obsolete when the body grew to adulthood. Even so, they continue to become activated by circumstances to which they have developed an automatic response, and we feel compelled to continue acting accordingly.

Because most of this goes on without our being aware of it, it is very difficult to develop an ability to discriminate between the reactivity caused by these patterns and valid intuition, pure emotion, or logical reason in current circumstances. Most beliefs are based on these conditioned patternings.  In fact, the patterns themselves could be called ‘beliefs’; they are the beliefs of the body and the brain.

Mental activity is the result of desire. The mind is automatically used, activated, in trying to figure things out in order to get things to be the way we, or these patterns, want them to be—to fulfill desires, in other words. It is for this reason, not because desire is inherently evil, that the ancient Perfect Ones have said that it is necessary to abandon desire in order to attain liberation. They wanted us to achieve this and were trying to tell us how to reach it. I do not believe that they meant that we could just decide to give up having desires and they would obediently go away. The writings that have come down to us from these Perfect Ones have a way of going straight to the point and leaving us to work out everything in between.

During earlier times, there were oral traditions associated with teaching lineages to make things clearer.  It was through these oral teachings that the ‘in betweens’ got filled in. Nowadays, teachers, preachers and gurus have become suspect, and many people are afraid to take a chance on one of these people, so they try to boot-strap their own way. When we rely exclusively on written texts, or even personal experience, without the aid of a teacher from a lineage with an oral tradition, we may not get all the information and guidance we need. After all, the purpose of a teaching lineage is to protect and preserve correct teachings about Truth, not to control people or start religions.

From Living the Mysteries, Copyright ©1999.

Durga Ma

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