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Rehabilitation of a Yogi: The Joy of Not Gettin It

My question this week: is it possible to experience joy in not getting what you want?  Or, to turn the sword of inquisition around, how can I personally have joy in my life while not getting what I want? 

And what would happen if I got “it”, the “it that I want”?  Well, I would feel thrilled, vindicated, ecstatic, powerful, strong, invincible.  Cool!  And then what?  I’d probably move on to wanting something else in short order (or at least to fearing losing it).  There is always something better, cuter, shinier, more pleasant, more meaningful right around the corner.  This is what we are dealing with in the human realm.  It’s what Shakyamuni Buddha so astutely pointed out twenty six hundred years ago, the prevalence of desire. 

If only I had an iPhone 4… if only I had a romantic partner… if only I had children…  if only I had a fulfilling job… if only I had more money, more time and more peace in my life.  And more sex.  And more love.

If only I was an astronaut / a fireman / a movie star / a yoga teacher / a famous athlete… then what?  Well, then I would be happy, satisfied, content.  If I had “it” then I would feel all those beautiful feelings and none of the miserable ones, and I would finally write that novel / screenplay / business plan, build that cabin in the woods, dedicate myself to spiritual practice, and attain enlightenment.  Yea! 

But I don’t have “it” so… I’m off the hook!  I’m free to be me just as I am, with all my messy uncomfortable irritating emotions, with all my embarrassing jealousy, envy and fear.  Sitting with unfulfilled desire can be illuminating.

Can desire ever be fulfilled?  I don’t think so.  The nature of desire is that which is not fulfilled.  Getting to know the experience of desire, the ouchiness in the center of the chest, the crinkling of the forehead, the tension in the shoulders, the insistent tug in the belly… well, it’s certainly been verrrry interesting.

I’ve been playing with letting go of the storyline (ooh, this is the ONE thing that I need for my life to be perfect) and just dropping into the actual feeling of longing.  It’s so totally human. And it feels completely familiar.  I see that while the current situation is what’s bringing up this tidal wave the object of my desire is (almost) irrelevant.  Desire just is.  And I’m human so I feel it.  Not getting the thing, the experience, the “it” that I want is actually opening me up to the reality of this very tender, very sad,  very poignant, very much alive condition. 

And joy?  Yeah, I’m still working on that one.  Maybe there’s joy in allowing whatever is to be as it is, even when that includes frowning, seething, sobbing, cringing and screaming.

Getting really cozy with desire I get to connect with the root of my craving.  It’s not exactly fun times, but it's not ho-hum either. 

When I wanted to get a lotus tattoo I remember the feeling as sparkling and monumental in size.  And having my lotus tattoo, well, it just feels normal.  The desire to get it is gone because now I have it on my back.  And if I’m being honest with myself I have to admit that the experience of having it does not live up to my expectations.  

Isn't that actually the nature of desire?  Its energy and power convince us that having “it”, possessing the object of a particular want, will make us feel good, happy, fulfilled, perfect.  But looking at the reality of our experience demonstrates quite clearly that no matter the object the possession of said object does NOT bring about ultimate fulfillment.  Owning that Camaro (or that Lotus) does not make us infallible at the game of romance.  Squeezing the sweetheart and holding her tight does not forever quench our longing for affection.  Having a beautiful wedding cake, on a sunny day and marrying the studly guy in the tux does not create an eternity of happily ever after.  We are human.  And so we always want more.

In meditation we learn to meet each moment as it is, whether it be a moment of suffering or a moment of enlightenment.  We train in not forcing the present to be anything other than what it is.  If tears come up, we cry.  If joy comes up, we laugh.  And sometimes vice versa.

As desire comes up, as it has for me these past few weeks, I take it as a reminder.  “Hey, check it out!  I’m alive!  And I am human.  So I feel desire.”  And I don’t have to do anything about it but let it be, and watch.  Inevitably desire arises, abides, and dissolves like the seasons, the day and night, the clouds in the sky, like waves lapping on the shore.

Rehabilitation of a Yogi is the story of one woman seeking to find contentment with reality and embrace self care.

Contact me with questions.  Thank you for your comments!

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Thank you for this post

Despite my intellectualization of things, I struggle with the desire for "it" as a fix-all quite frequently, lapsing into fantasy about things I don't have, a life I don't live, all the while missing out on the beauty and joy of the present moment.

Meditation helps, of course, training the mind to be present and allow thoughts and feelings to arise and pass without judgement. But ironically, the "it" that I want most of all these days is freedom from suffering.

I wonder if that, too, would be disappointing...

I agree and especially like...

I really like how you say: 

"Can desire ever be fulfilled?  I don’t think so.  The nature of desire is that which is not fulfilled.  Getting to know the experience of desire, the ouchiness in the center of the chest, the crinkling of the forehead, the tension in the shoulders, the insistent tug in the belly… well, it’s certainly been verrrry interesting."

I hadn't thought about it that way, but now that you have, I'm going to have to look at it.  I especially like how you are looking at what makes up your concept of 'desire.'

Your initial questions are not something that I resonate with, because I think they rely too heavily on the idea of 'joy.'  I'd be interested to hear what you think about the idea that joy can be observed in the same way you observe desire.  It is very rare for people in our country to attack joy the same way we attack fear, but I think the analysis is just as relevent, and poses no threat to the relief of suffering.  In fact, in seeing joy for what it is, people would, ironically, suffer a little less in the general vicinity of it.

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