Desire Is Power

May 3, 2023

Everyone experiences resistance in spiritual practice. What keeps us going is desire. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

There's a lot of emphasis on really trying to be one pointed in your effort to be concentrated on wanting to find out who you are. I was wondering, how could somebody like me try to have that? It comes up a lot in words of Anandamayi Ma or the Matri Vani.

Well, I think she's being a little ironic.


Because she's saying be one pointed on your desire to find out what's really happening here, your desire to wake up. And most people say be one pointed on your mantra, be one pointed on your deity, or be one pointed on your guru, or be one pointed on something like that, or on a symbol that you're meditating on.

But she's saying be one pointed on your desire. So I think there's a little bit of irony there or a little bit of play on cultural concepts that she's talking about there.

First of all, she's in a culture where often desire is really denigrated and something spoken about in more mainstream Hinduism, something that you should get rid of. And one pointedness is really very different from what she's talking about.

So I think that she's playing off of that. Desire, of course, you could not be one pointed in desire in the same way that you would be one pointed on some technique that you've learned.

Because desire is the mightiest force in all of existence. So one pointedness and desire would mean being completely swept away by that, not paying attention to anything that was not contributing to the process of waking up, and that desire would become all consuming.

If you were really one pointed on it, you would lose all choice in whether to go along or not with it. So there's a a deep word play or deep concept play going on there, I think. And the way that you can be one pointed on desire is by having the courage to feel what it is that you really want, to feel it.

Now, most of us are not able to be totally consumed by our desire to wake up. That's just not going to happen.

But we can be more aligned with it than we are now. Because right now, what happens is we feel this desire to know more about reality and the Self and what's really going on here. Most of us are bound by a lot of karma and that karma shows up in many different ways.

One of the ways that it shows up is through our feeling that we have to be more conventional, that it would be too dangerous, too scary, that we might stand to lose too much if we put too much into our spiritual life. What would other people think? What would happen to our job? What about this? What about the other?

Most people, when they ask this kind of a question about being more aligned with their desire to wake up and they throw up a lot of objections to it, sort of go out to some extreme where they imagine themselves losing their house, losing their family, and these kind of fantasies about what's going to happen to you if you just do an hour a day spiritual practice.

It's really just a way of evading it. It really is just disaster defense. A disaster could happen, so I'm not going to do it. When really, it's just that you don't want to. Your desire is just not strong enough.

So what we can do is continue to practice every day, look and feel in our heart of hearts what it is we actually want, and try to align ourselves with what we want in this moment.

To whatever degree we're able to want to wake up in this moment, we should be true to that. We should have the courage to follow that.

So, for instance, if we wake up in the morning and we really have a desire to get out of bed and go do some sadhana, but the person we're lying next to says, Oh, no, I don't really like it when you get out of bed so early. It makes me feel rejected and abandoned. And then all of a sudden we're just caught in this net of karma of our responses to something like that.

So it takes courage to then say, Well, I understand you feel that way, but that's not what's really happening. And I love you, but I'm going to go do some practice. Or I'm going to find somebody who supports my practice.

So there are things that we can do in an ordinary sense to begin working with those binding karmas that prevent us from even embodying or being aligned with the desire we already have.

And if we can do that, that's a very powerful statement, a very powerful commitment. If we can just embody the desire we already have, which isn't going to be perfect, it's not going to be one pointed. So we're just messy, right? And we're mixed. And we have a lot of competing things happening in us. That's why we're doing spiritual practice.

If we were really one pointed on the desire to wake up, we'd be woken instantly. And none of this would be necessary.

So, align yourself with what you've got right now. Look at how you're not being true to your desire right now. Have the courage to reshape your life according to how you want to engage in spiritual life right now.

And if you do that, then slowly, as you go along, continuing to do that, your desire will increase. There's this idea that Ma talks about sometimes too, called a non-returner, someone who isn't going to vacillate anymore about their spiritual life. And that's when you get in that river of desire, and it just starts to carry you along.

And then it's not so much of an effort, although you still realize that there are times when you're going to fight against that river anyway, just because that's the human condition. But we shouldn't expect perfection of ourselves. We shouldn't expect that we're never going to have resistance.

But what we do need to do is push ourselves a little bit over the edge of where we think we can go. We have to be a little bit more courageous than we think we can be. And we have to be a little more tolerant or resilient about discomfort or pushback we get.

Discomfort internally generated because of concepts we have about stuff and other people— pushback other people are giving us. We have to have a little bit more courage to rearrange our lives to actually meet our desire. So we can do all those things, and they're all very practical.

They're all very practical. They're self affirming. They build confidence, those small... Well, some of those steps aren't so small, but that's as much as you can do right now. Something that happens because we live in such a Titan culture is that when people think of doing something, they only think of doing it big. And then that's such a deterrent.

That seems so overwhelming and so unaccomplishable because we always want to be the best at something before we've even started, or we want to be full-on, or we want other people to think we're full-on, or we want the Teacher to think we're full-on or something like that.

I don't even think I'm full-on, so you know [laughs]. I know most of the other really dedicated practitioners also know that they're not full on.

I think the further along you get, the more you know that you have no idea how far along you are and you haven't arrived. I think any practitioner who's really sincere knows that already.

So no one's expecting that of you. But what I would hope is that people would have more courage to arrange your lives, to be expressive spiritually the way you want to be right now. And then you could go on from there.

But if you're constantly fighting your own desire because you're afraid of someone else's response, or you're just afraid of being weird, some people are afraid of the most minor things, really minor ways they might upset other people, or minor changes to their schedule. So look at that.

Don't worry too much about being one pointed all the way. Just be a little more supportive of your own desire.

When we have this desire to have a desire, this idea, I want to be someone who... It's not that I want to do this, it's I want to want to do this. Is that outer layer from fear, the idea that you're distancing yourself from your own desire?

No, it's just self-image. You want to be seen as a person who wants something that you think is admirable, or you think will gain approval. There's many people, they want to be a writer, or they want to be an artist, or they want to be doing practice.

If someone comes to me and says, I really want to be doing something, but I'm not doing it. I'm like, That's an oxymoron. You can't really want to do something and not do it. It just doesn't work that way.

Desire is Shakti. It is so powerful. And if your desire is strong enough, you will make a way. You will actually just make a way. When desire reaches that tipping point where it's not going to be denied, where every concept you have is not stronger than it, you will find a way to do whatever it is that you want to do.

I don't know why people are so discomfort phobic, at least in this time and place, but people have gone to such extreme lengths to have the lives that they want to have. And we won't even tell our boss that we want to start a half hour later so we can do spiritual practice.

We're so afraid of upsetting somebody's apple cart or upsetting our financial stability or something like that. But you just need to read more stories about practitioners to understand how far people have gone to get teachings, to do practice. It's really inspiring and it gives you courage to know that.

But again, you don't have to be someone else's version of heroic. It's just heroic enough to confront your own fears and be responsible to your desire as it is right now.

And it also brings modesty. If we have some fantasy about what a great practitioner we would be if we really wanted to be that, that's such an ego defense. It's so immodest. It's much more modest to just say, I don't really want to do this.

Or Ma's, one of her very principle disciples, Gurupriya Devi, did not want to do seated practice. She only wanted to do seva. She only wanted to serve Ma. Ma made her do sadhana, but Gurupriya Devi did it kicking and screaming all the way.

Everyone has their own path, and some people's path is not to do spiritual practice in this life. It's just more modest to be where you are and do what it is that you want to do.

Wanting to do practice doesn't mean that you feel that you want to do it every day. People who do a lot of practice also experience great resistance. But the thing that keeps us going in spite of the resistance is desire.

It's so funny, I just thought of that thing where someone came to the door of the Varanasi ashram, Ma's ashram, and Ma was there. She was alive and talked to her and said, I'm thinking of renouncing. Do you think I should renounce, meaning join the ashram?

And she says, What are you talking about renounce? No one in this ashram has renounced. It's all you people out there who have renounced.

Can you talk about the desire for anything as the desire for the one thing? And why it's helpful to know that? Can knowing that redirect us?

Well, if you just think about the feeling of desire or wanting something, there aren't different flavors of that. It's like saltiness. You could find salt in seaweed. You could find salt in a rock crystal. You could find salt in any number of things, but it's always salt.

It's the same with desire. You can find it when you're on the way to buy a doughnut. You can find it when you're flipping through Tinder. You can find it when you're pining for God. But it's all the same thing.

And it's just a matter of how much wisdom someone has about what they are actually experiencing a desire for and what will actually bring them satisfaction.

So what does everyone want?

Everyone wants to feel connected to the sweetness of life. Everyone wants to be relieved of loneliness. That's what everybody wants. And our desire leads us to a lot of very, very temporary solutions to that feeling.

So we're all desiring an end to loneliness, a feeling of intimacy and connection, and hooked up to that main line of sweetness. That's why we eat so much sweet food, literally. Why don't we crave other kinds of food?

So basically, our mistaken perception is that getting X will solve our basic problem of loneliness, separation, and lack of sweetness. And so every time we get X, we discover anew that that wasn't it. That's always what happens, inevitably.

And eventually, someone, somewhere in some lifetime, discovers that there's a way to be permanently relieved of loneliness and a feeling of disconnection. And that way is to be immersed in living presence.

Someone eventually discovers that. But it's all the same. So the best thing for you to know is that what you're seeking is not going to resolve that fundamental feeling of I'm separate. It's just not.

So obviously in less permanent solutions to that, there's enjoyment, right? We wouldn't do it unless it was enjoyable. We don't get up at 10 o'clock at night and go out in search of something that tastes really terrible. We don't think, I'm going to get involved with a really bad lover. I really want that [laughs].

So we are finding sweetness in our temporary solutions. We are finding some measure of cessation of loneliness, maybe, but maybe not. But eventually we recognize that all of that is very temporary and very partial.

And if we're lucky in this lifetime, we get a taste that reminds us that there actually is a solution to this conundrum, that we already are totally immersed in presence, full of the sweetness of God, but we don't know it. That's our ridiculous condition. So eventually we do figure that out.

And when we start to get even small tastes of that, then even when we're going for the doughnut, we're still like, Okay, I know this doughnut really is not the thing, but I'm going to go get it one more time.

So it just happens like that incrementally.

I was supposed to go to Kerala for this workshop, and I'm not completely healed, but I have this desire to plunge into, like, just go to Kerala anyways. But then a part of me is like, maybe you should just sit. You were talking about desire and it's trying to figure out what the right thing to do is and trying to discern and be mature but also like...

Don't figure it out. Right now, just don't figure it out. Figuring it out is not feeling your desire. Figuring it out is mind. Just go in your heart space right now and ask the question, should I go or not? And what's the answer?


Don't go then. That's it. No figuring required.


Are you going to satisfy mind or are you going to satisfy heart? Who are you the servant of?

Heart! Heart! Heart! Heart! Heart! All the way! All the way! All the way!

Go heart! Go heart!

This whole trip has been following the heart and the result's been A plus.



Photo by Timon Studler


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.