Sharpening the tool of desire

Fire of desireIn the last post, we began to explore the requirements for Radical Beauty. Discovering authentic desire was the first one. If you struggled through the last ritual, take heart! It took me years to figure out what I wanted. It had to be delicately fished  out of the tangled mess of “planted” desires.

Recently, somebody asked me to describe how I came to choose medicine as a career choice. I had to laugh. In the past, I could’ve listed all the “correct” reasons: wanting to serve, love of the science and so on. These reasons are still very applicable, of course. When it comes down to it however, my desire to go to medical school was planted. My family made strong, repeated suggestions early on. It “stuck.” I adopted my family’s desire as my own and went through the rigmarole. Do I like what I do? No. I love what I do. I can’t think of any other way my life could have turned out. That doesn’t change the fact that my desire to be a doctor was not mine.

The “borrowing” of desire from family, peers and popular culture pervaded every area of my life. Eventually, borrowed desires became burdensome. As soon as one was fulfilled, there was another goal to be achieved. Nothing was overt. Nobody forced me to do anything. It was more like a TV commercial. You know the ones that send subliminal messages that you need the particular product in order to not be a loser? I was sucked in. I absorbed and internalized the American dream (and a few others) as the thing to want. I began to sag when I saw that this chain of desire was never going to end.

One morning nearly twelve years ago, I woke up early as usual. As the coffee brewed, I began to put away clean dishes from the night before. Opening the utensil drawer, my eyes fell upon the block of kitchen knives. I casually wondered what it would be like to die. I wasn’t suicidal or even depressed. The thought was one of genuine curiosity. As the thought faded, a vibrant vision arose. It was the trajectory of my life on the path of habitual seeking. I saw myself as an externally successful but deeply weary and unfulfilled middle-aged woman. As my awareness returned to the kitchen, I noticed that several minutes had passed and my hand was frozen in midair, still clutching a utensil. I sat down, shaking with gratitude. Now I knew! What I was really seeking was the end of seeking. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with gathering, achieving or acquiring. My spiritual path had begun.

My dear friend Tanya is a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and owns a martial arts school. She states quite simply that in order to succeed, you need both devotion and dedication. It’s true. A magical thing happens when we become aligned with our authentic desire. As soon as it is uncovered, this desire begins to command the heart and the head. It expresses as devotion through the heart and as dedication through the head. Devotion + dedication ignite the fire of vision. Secondary and borrowed desires that don’t serve the vision are cast in the fire and burn away. For some of us, this might mean a total overhaul of life, work and relationships. For the rest of us, nothing may appear different externally. In every case however, authentic vision will utilize everything it can to manifest as meaningful action. Tanya exemplifies living a life aligned with authentic desire and vision.

Radical Beauty Ritual:

  • Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about 30 minutes. Keep your journal close by.
  • Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Fast forward to the end of your life. It is your last day here. Feel into this. How have you lived your life? Whose dream have you lived? Does it feel like you have fulfilled your unique destiny? Open your eyes and write it down.
  • Close your eyes again. Take another deep breath. Return to your last day of life. Is there still a longing? Zoom in on it. What is the longing for? What are you wishing you had done? Open your eyes and write it down.
  • Close your eyes again. Take another deep breath. Now it is your final hour. Are you fulfilled? Have your deepest longings been fulfilled? Are you at peace? Are you fearless about what awaits you? Do you feel that you have unfinished business? What is it? Open your eyes and write it down.
  • Close your eyes again. Bring your awareness to your body and the room. Lie down and rest for as long as you need.
  • Sit back up and read your notes. Look at what you longed for on the last day of your life. Does it resonate?
  • Spend the next week reflecting on what you learned about yourself. Have you identified your authentic desire?
  • Write down what your life would look like if your longing was fulfilled. Now you have your vision. Clarify and refine the vision. Take your time with this.

Notes:

  • Take at least ten minutes for each step. Do not hurry through this ritual. Relax and allow things to bubble up naturally. Be open, receptive, patient and humble in your attitude to the process.
  • This profound meditation can be highly disorienting. If you have an anxiety disorder, severe depression or other psychological issues, please don’t do it. If this ritual brings up uncontrollable fear or anxiety, abandon it and rest. Instead of returning to this, continue a daily practice of sitting still and journaling your thoughts as in the last ritual. There will be other suitable rituals down the road.
  • If you are unable to gain insights the first time, it is perfectly fine. Practice again (only if you’re not affected emotionally by the ritual) when you feel like it and as many times as you need to.

Most of all, enjoy the process! Become curious about what you will find. Delight in the progress you make! If you do try it, I’d love to hear about your experience.