What It Means To Follow Desire, Even The Smallest One
by Sean Eret Nov 18, 2015
A few weeks ago I began researching desire. I can’t take credit for the idea; I heard it in a webinar with Marcus Ratnathicam. He said to do three attainable desires every day for a week. And the desires were to be ones that I normally would not do because I had made some excuse to not do them. But I think I ran with the idea he proposed. First off, it’s been more than a week. Second, I not only did these three desires, I wrote them down and wrote about them.
As of this writing I have 13 pages of observations on the nature of desire. At first I didn’t have any intention of doing anything with this, but as the days went on I realized that I’d gain valuable insights into desire’s nature. And then it became research. Here are a couple of these insights:
First, despite what you may have heard in Buddhism, desire does not cause suffering, at least not when the desire is small and simple. For example, on the first day I wanted ice cream. I hadn’t had ice cream for a while, and I’d been craving it for about a week. But I always came up with an excuse not to eat ice cream. “I’m too busy.” “It’s a silly desire.” “It’s not worth it.” So that day, I got ice cream. I could literally feel myself get happier; dopamine rushed into my system as that desire was being fulfilled. So how can desire cause suffering, then? I think we as a society focus on really Big Desires that take years to complete. Get that University degree. Work toward that promotion. Find that partner. But once that Desire is finally attained, the dopamine shot isn’t that much greater than after eating the ice cream. Sure, you may take a day to celebrate your graduation, promotion, or wedding. But then what? On to your next Big Desire. And you’re left with a little anger and resentment that that last desire didn’t make your life perfect.
Second insight: your desire is personal. What I mean by that is: your desire is your desire and only your desire. This is where a lot of hang-ups occur, because we think our desire and society’s desire are the same. And we get fucked up when they’re different, and we’re not in approval of that desire, and the perceived majority and collective consciousness of the world is also not in approval of that desire.
For example, a gay man living in a conservative household may get really fucked up because he cannot express his desire for other men. We who practice OM each know this to some degree. OM is not yet one of society’s desires. When we found out about Orgasmic Meditation, our personal desire was going against a lot of social conditioning that told us it was wrong. That conditioning is still there. As I write these words there’s a part of me that’s nervous that some potential future employer will see this blog and be offended. On the other hand, as I am doing this research, I’m finding how happy I become when I follow my desire. I wouldn’t want to work for that hypothetical employer anyway.
This research is ongoing, and these aren’t the only insights I’ve had. One Big Desire I have is to write a book. Maybe it’ll be about desire. But in the meantime, I’m focusing on the little desires. That’s where the joy is.