How to Harness the Pull of Desire
Have you ever been jolted awake by a sudden desire? It could be for a sexy barista, a new career path, or the idea to leave everything behind and wander the world. If you’re focused on personal development or spiritual growth you might have shrugged this feeling off or pushed it aside. After all, you don’t need anything — everything you need is within you already, right? You should be grateful for what you have. Yes, and…
We’re human! Our desire is a primal urge that has kept our species alive and evolving. We wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning if we didn’t desire to take a shower, start on our creative project, or make love to our partner. We can use our desire as a motivating force. It not only drives us to create works of art, embark on an adventure, or start a relationship — it’s the fire that fuels our life with passion. Without desire, we would be dormant. And let’s face it, really bored. Moreover, when we harness the power of desire, it leads us to self-actualization.
Desire wakes us up from the trance-like state we often find ourselves in and points us to where we need to go.
In the beginning, there was Shiva and Shakti. Shiva was pure consciousness and awareness. You can imagine Shiva sitting in meditation, impervious to messy emotions. His mind is open and clear like a vast sky. Then along comes Shakti, the goddess. She starts to dance, swinging her hips from side to side. Shiva starts to feel the stirrings of desire (and really, who doesn’t feel this way when a goddess starts to dance?). Without Shakti, Shiva was dormant. Without Shiva, Shakti was wild and uncontrollable. Shakti gave Shiva the power to act. Shiva gave Shakti a container in which to create. Desire brought them together to create the world as we know it.
Or we can look at Gaia. Gaia is the Greek mother goddess of it all. She created and sustained all of life. In fact, the goddess didn’t even need a partner to create life. She gave birth to the mountains, rivers, the sea, and all living beings. She was the sole creator of much of our planet. Though at one point, she began to feel the stirrings of desire. Her longing inspired her to birth Uranus, the god of the heavens, to fulfill this need to couple. Together, they bore the Titans.
Now, think of a time when you were operating on autopilot. You knew things could be better in your life, but you didn’t have the motivation to make the changes needed. Or maybe you were just scared. That makes sense. You’ve likely been conditioned to leave good enough alone. There’s safety in the status quo — but there’s no growth.
Then, Cupid (the Roman god of love), or maybe it was Kama (the Hindu god of erotic love and pleasure), came along. One of these deities shot you with their arrow, inciting desire, and before you knew it — everything changed. You felt a longing, a pull towards someone or something. You had direction. (Side note: Isn’t it interesting how different traditions and myths have a similar set of characters? That’s because, despite our differences in geography or religions, we share a common humanity. In this case, we see that we all experience the pull of desire.)
Desire was here when we got here, and it will be here when we leave. Rather than suppress it (that sounds terribly unhealthy), we can use it as a guide to show us how to fully experience our lives and progress on our journey towards self-actualization. Desire wakes us up from the trance-like state we often find ourselves in and points us to where we need to go.
We act based on what we want — not what we don’t want.
Desire has woke me up from a state of inertia and ennui many times. I left my troubled marriage because I desired to be with another man. I should have ended my marriage earlier, but I didn’t have the motivation to act. I was dormant. Desire gave me the power I needed to make some tough decisions. Even though my new relationship was not long-lived, I was always grateful it acted as a catalyst for me to move forward.
Of course, desire doesn’t have to be directed towards a person. I also left my cushy corporate job because I desired to spend more time writing and learning about Ayurveda and mythology. Many friends and family members thought this was a questionable decision. However, it has led to writing a book (it will be published in April btw!) and creating courses and workshops that I’m thrilled to share. I also stopped drinking alcohol because I desired to feel healthy, radiant, and awake. Notice, I didn’t stop because I didn’t want to feel tired and bloated or because I didn’t want to increase my breast cancer risk (though those were factors). But ultimately, we act based on what we want — not what we don’t want (remember this when crafting goals).
Our desire gives us clues as to what we need to become whole.
Of course, you might ask me, “I desire to have several pints of ice cream before bed,” or “I desire to have careless unprotected sex with strangers. Should I follow those desires?” Of course not. But those aren’t your heart’s desires — if anything, those are pacifiers or distractions that will prevent you from getting what you truly want. You need to cultivate the discernment to know the difference between desire and distraction. But I am confident that if you get still and silent, you’ll see the difference.
Joseph Campbell, author, educator, and mythologist, has often encouraged people to follow their bliss. He has said:
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
Desire is like a compass letting us know where we need to go. Sometimes we lose touch with what we desire if we’ve been operating on autopilot for a long time. This could manifest as an unfulfilling relationship or an uninspiring job. We might not even remember what makes our souls sing. Or perhaps you’ve been taught to suppress your desires because they weren’t ladylike or you didn’t want to appear greedy. And, of course, we’re consistently told that we should be happy with what we have. Yes, we should be grateful for what we have, and we should be aware of what we desire. Not because we need to accumulate more, but because desire feeds our soul.
Look inside to see what is calling to you instead of looking outwards to see what is available.
The word “desire” is derived from the phrase de sidere, which means “from the stars.” We long for things that are separate from us. I would posit that our desire gives us clues as to what we need to become whole. Our desire tells us what we need to become self-actualized humans.
In Women Who Run With the Wolves, a classic text on the resurrection of the feminine spirit, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes:
When we are connected to the instinctual self, to the soul of the feminine which is natural and wild, then instead of looking over whatever happens to be on display, we say to ourselves, “What am I hungry for?” Without looking outwardly, we venture and ask, “What do I long for? What do I wish for now?”
Often, we don’t even consider what we truly desire. Instead, we look at what’s set out before us, and we choose one of the options — the job, the partner, the restaurant. Let’s look inside to see what is calling to us instead of looking outwards to see what is available.
Connect with Your Desires
Spend some time contemplating what you truly desire. Do you want to write? Do you enjoy cooking? Do you long for companionship? Do you feel a call to travel? Are you pursuing your passions? Why or why not?
Practice honoring your desires. The next time you’re considering what to eat, don’t look at others to answer the question for you. Really consider: “What do I feel like eating right now? What would taste good to me?” We often outsource our desires in an attempt to be agreeable or easy-going. Still, if we do that long enough, we start to lose touch with them all together.
Desire is about looking inward, trusting your intuition, and following your passions. Don’t get caught chasing what society tells you to want. That won’t awaken your fire — it will suffocate it. And don’t get distracted with things that would feel good right now but won’t once they are over. A colleague once said to me when I was considering leaving my job: “Make sure you’re not running away from something, always run towards something.” I love that advice. Run towards your bliss.
I wish you much growth, inspiration, and joy on your journey.
To continue the conversation, meet me in my private Facebook Group, Goddess Wisdom for Modern Women.