Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

The Practice of Desire

--by Gangaji (Dec 01, 2008)

Someone once shared with me this very simple yet profound discovery, "If I practice desire, I suffer." What could be simpler? This essential teaching arose from his own direct experience. (...)

You may have very sophisticated justifications as to why it is is perfectly okay to act on a desire -- this time, one more time, for the last time -- and in the middle of these justifications, you can stop. If you don't give yourself an exit, a kind of crucifixion occurs where an inner resolve arises and says, "Even if it kills me, I am not going to move in this moment." Not moving offers the possibility of discovering the peace of surrender, resurrection, redemption. With that discovery, the bondage of desire or addictive habit is naturally weakened. It is possible in this moment to totally cut the addiction; at the very least the link is weakened. Then the next time the impulse arises, you know you have a choice. (...)

Even though you may know intellectually that it will lead you down the same old path, you may never have fully and consciously acknowledged your attachment to it. There is energy in that infatuation. The pure force of your desire may subject you to cellular shaking. Be willing to experience the whole of that force and not go numb or disassociate. (...)

Acting out a desire takes some effort. It take imagining and thinking about what you want or what you have lost. It takes comparing the present moment with some idealized moment of the past or the future. It takes attempting to either grasp at something or to avoid something. It is a practice. Is it your practice?

What are you spending your lifetime practicing? If you are practicing desire, you are suffering. If you are suffering, see for yourself if you are practicing desire.

- by Gangaji from "The Diamond in Your Pocket"

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Previous Reflections:

On Dec 2, 2008 Jean-louis Paul wrote:
Practice love, respect, peace, honesty,

On Dec 2, 2008 Martin Dariyo wrote:
Desire is the driving force of life. We must be friendly with the desire. It will lead to go further. But the real force is in my inner self. There I have to face myself. In accomodating the desire I have to reflect to the real force within so that I can drive the desire, not necessarily driven by the desire.

On Dec 2, 2008 supun wrote:
I think the perfect counter to the statement, "If you are practicing desire, you are suffering." is Khalil Gibran's "On Passion and Reason". It's about being at peace when you realize that we rest in reason and move in passion.

That being said. The thought that came to me is that desire isn't what causes suffering. It's when we keep our selves unconciously engaged in patterns that end up landing us in a wall or building a wall. Desire unquenched can drive us away from choice.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was "If it don't flow, let it go". You can use it in your daily routine, in relationships, music, art, invention, etc.

The most important idea I took from this thought is that we shouldn't forget that we'll always have a choice in resting whatever drive desire brings us. is there a difference in the desire of impulse as opposed to the desire of wanting? "you know you have a choice"

A great practice of desire is to dance with her and observe letting her go and watching her come come back?

On Dec 4, 2008 Nirali Shah wrote:
As much as I connect with this quote, I also find it incomplete in my view. Because after realizing that there is a desire, the idea is not to "manage" it. Also, not let any guilt come in the picture. But simply to watch who is it that has the desire.

On Dec 7, 2008 Dr. avnish wrote:
We have got certainly many desires according to infection and association. But when we agree to give up all these desire... Desire must be there. If there is no desire, then you are a dead stone. Desire must be there. Any living being, he must have desires. Otherwise how he is living? He is dead stone. So desire must be there. But is should be proper desire. The proper desire is... Because we are part and parcel of God, so our desire should be how to meet Him again and work with Him conjointly. That should be the only desire. we should have positive desires , we should replace our negative desires with positive ones.
When you stick to this one desire, that "I shall serve god" then you are free from all desires; otherwise not. Otherwise it is impossible. Then desires will drag you to different types of body. Then your suffering will increase. Then we have to come to the body of a pig. Because nature's law is very strict. According to your desire, he will give you body. So you desire to serve god You will get a body like god, That's all.
There is no question of desirelessness. Why? We cannot be desireless... That is not possible. Change the... Purify the desire. Purify the desire.

On Dec 8, 2008 Patsy wrote:
When you have a desire you have decided for yourself what should be the outcome of a given situation. You have become an ego-driven being intent on aquiring, discarding, or achieving something.
Desire can be very powerful. It can be more important than other people. It can be more important than other living things. It can be more important than the future, the past or even the health and survival of your very body, mind and emotions.
We all have these feelings. They start young. They continue until death takes us back.
The only peace in the face of strong desire is the continual acceptance of our ignorance, our inadequacy, our very limited point of view in the vastness of the cosmos.
I must admit every day of my life "I am not God and you are. I want what you want for me. I totally accept whatever that is, please try to get through to my dim animal brain what that is and help me to work for it."
Don't ever kid yourself that there is no harm in "flowing" with the ego-winds that blow across your mind. A smart ego-driven person can rationalize any behavior. Only one who can admit they are not so smart can have a chance of avoiding great pain and regret.

On Dec 26, 2008 sharon wrote:
Did you mean addiction?

On Jul 25, 2018 Joseph wrote:

  I've been contemplating and meditating on this important passage  for years.

It represents one of the most profound insights in The Diamond in Your Pocket (to me, one of the great spiritual classics of our time, especially in its audio version, read by the author.)
However, much as I admire and resonate with her insight, I am convinced that Gangaji does not go far enough, and has not succeeded in clearly articulating what is meant by the practice of desire. There is a tremendous amount of confusion around this, on several levels. One level of this confusion (evidenced in some posts here) is not so hard to clear up: Some you seem to think that she is saying the equivalent of "If I give in to a desire, I suffer," or even "If I have too much desire, I suffer." No, it does not mean that. She makes that clear in other passages, not quoted here, where she says that 1) simple, non-neurotic desires pose no problem; and she also implies that there is a hierarchy (hier-archy = "sacred order") of Desire, so that 2) if the Desire for Truth/Freedom/Awakening is truly allowed to take its place, then this Desire will swallow up all other desires. No, "desire" itself is not the problem. The problem is in the practice of desire. And the confusion originates in that word: "practice". What does it mean, in this context?
Instead of trying to explain what Gangaji herself does not succeed in explaining, I propose that we ask ourselves the following questions — without being in a hurry to find the answers.
When Gangaji speaks of practice here, does she mean it as in the common usage: "I practice the piano so I will become a good player" ? Or does she mean it in in the sense of "I practice medicine (or law)" ? These two meanings not at all the same. In the first meaning, the practice is future-oriented. In the second, time and futurity are not necessarily implied. Perhaps it is the first one that causes suffering? In other words, if I act out a desire simply and wholeheartedly, as an action in the present moment, without any images and fantasies of future gratification (or resistance, or guilt, or scheming...), then that desire is not the cause of the suffering she is talking about. However, as soon as I bring futurity into it, and then entertain thoughts about the impending pleasure (or thwarting) of the desire, then it immediately becomes what she calls "the practice of desire"...