From the Power of Ambition to the Power of Desire

by Bez Maxwell  Feb 16, 2016
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I woke up this morning way after my usual alarm. I’m up in Seattle on business, away from my sunny California, and perhaps it was the darker morning, the perpetually drizzling rain, or the cozy feeling that permeates all the coffee shops and funky apartments of this town.

Whatever the reason, I found myself ambling through my morning in a soft haze that I could only describe as “lazy.”

Lazy is not a word I normally use to describe myself, ever. I am notoriously ambitious and driven — so driven, in fact, that in my 20s I basically didn’t sleep (waste of my time!), I own three businesses and have two children, and often get more done in 5 minutes than some of my friends do in a week.

So when I woke up feeling this strange lethargy, I panicked.

What was going on? Where was my drive? Normally, I jump out of bed and leap into action on all the wonderful projects I’m going to push ahead today, eager to accomplish. But this morning... it was as if that usually overflowing well of type-A achievement was simply empty. I couldn’t find the juice.

I’ve been practicing Orgasmic Meditation for almost 4 years regularly. As you can imagine, someone with high ambition might approach the OM practice in the same manner as they approach all other things in life — with a sort of manic fervor and ferocious desire to “win” at it. Once I learned to OM, I started OMing every single day, multiple times a day, and have done so for the vast majority of the last 4 years.

For a practice rooted in surrender and letting go, of course there really is no way to “win” at it, which was part of why I loved it.

I began to feel things I previously hadn’t had access to, like getting out of my head during sex so that I started to really enjoy it, and feeling valuable even when I was doing “nothing” besides getting stroked. The practice also stumped me and brought up as many questions as it did solutions. How do I “let go” harder? As a woman, I have always had a deep, innate desire to surrender. But how do I “surrender” my way to getting things done? I found OM confounding, as much as I found it deeply nourishing and eye-opening. So I kept doing it, started teaching it, and eventually devoted my life to uncovering all of its secrets — if I could be lucky enough to hear them.

This morning, after my initial sense of panic at my lack of immediate forward movement, I sat on the couch and simply felt the sensations that were occurring in my body. The unfamiliar slowness along my skin. The sort of fog in my head that I’ve heard others talk about but have never had much sympathy for. The general low-key nature of my thoughts. I just sat there and felt it all.

I am a staunch believer in the idea that this universe is a friendly universe. I adhere passionately to the Rumi quote, “Live your life as if it’s rigged in your favor.” So whenever something uncomfortable is happening, I always ask myself, “How is this thing, which seems bad or against me, actually in service of me? How is this actually really, really good?”

I asked myself that. And then I listened.

What I heard was this: ambition is a certain kind of fuel, and it can get you far. That drive to accomplish great things and have impact is incredibly motivating and can indeed inspire great things to happen. And there’s an even more potent, powerful fuel source available to you. And that is the power and propulsion of desire.

Still sitting on the couch, I let this new information settle.

I felt into the difference between desire and ambition, and what that was like for me.

Ambition, it turns out, lives outside of my body, a bit ahead of it, as something to reach for. My ambition is not finger-tip grazing ahead of me, it’s across the park ahead of me. A mile away but still in sight. This keeps the game superficially hot and interesting — like chase or tag. But like tag and chase, unless the target keeps moving it's not a very long game... attainment isn't really a part of tag, otherwise the game is over. Having my sites set so far out ahead of me also means the locus of the power that comes from ambition is outside of my body. The source of the motivation is actually external. I conceded, in my silent monologue on the couch this morning, that being motivated by something outside of myself would ultimately have limiting returns because it wasn’t actually MINE.

Desire, however, is inborn. My ambitions may have been put into place by a variety of factors: my upbringing, my personality, my values, many of them inherited. But my desire... that is purely mine. I know it’s purely mine because it’s beyond my control.

It comes from the deepest place in my body, from the blackness at the very center of me, and rises into shape and form much outside of my control. It’s as if every time I feel a desire, I am also discovering it for myself. Not in the sense that someone else gave me the idea, but more like desire comes from the pit of my subconscious and as such, pops into conscious view once ready to take form — even though the desire came from inside of me.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to actively change your desire, to want something that you really don’t, or alter what you truly and undeniably want. I have tried and it doesn't work.

Desire isn’t something we can wrench into the shape of our choosing. It’s not based on what’s convenient or typical or expected. It doesn't care what your mother thinks or what your family has done for generations. Desire is yours and yours alone.

You might be thinking: what’s the difference?

Ambition is desire. “I want to net $100K in my business this month. I want to lose 10 pounds. I want 10,000 subscribers to my blog. I want these things, those are desires.”

And while that's true, there’s a qualitative difference that really matters.

Nicole Daedone, the founder of OneTaste, said, “How you get where you’re going determines what you get once you get there.” Ambition is very goal-focused. Using the fuel of ambition or competition, I might reach my goal of $100K — and then promptly keel over and die of exhaustion afterwards. Ambition doesn’t focus on the how of the journey at all — just that the goal will be reached.

Desire, however, is all about how it feels along the way. My desire might say, “I want to experience wealth.” The first step is to examine what wealth feels like. How will I know once I get there if I don’t know what it feels like to be wealthy?! Because I know a lot of people who are technically wealthy and feel impoverished, and lots of broke-ass people who feels much happier than is commensurate with their circumstances.

Desire has us focus on what it feels like right now, and then start doing more of what elicits that feeling and less of what shrinks it. Where will my desire lead me? I’m not sure. And today, I willingly follow it. Where will yours lead you? Will you stop right now and take a moment to listen?

(Photo Credit: Unknown)