Think of something you desire. Something that you really want. Something that would mean that you have finally made it that you are living the life – your dream life. You died and went to heaven!
When you think about that desire what does it feel like in your body? Call an image to mind or a short mental video of that dream life to mind as if you were a film maker making a trailer. Highlight the best bits and run the trailer through to completion. Is the ideal partner there with you in the ideal relationship? Are you in the ideal place, in the ideal home? Are you doing the ideal work that you always dreamed of? The work that pays you so well that money is simply not an issue. Are you highly esteemed by one and all?
If you examine the experience you will see that there are two parts to it. There is the desire part that lives out there in the future that feels wonderful and is all you ever wanted. And there is the longing that says – I don’t have it now and I need it – that is never going happen – get real – it’s too late for me anyway – I missed the opportunity – I am not good enough – I can’t have what I want – and so on. You have a particular narrative of why you don’t have (and can probably never have) that dream life, which is very personal to you. It is what you deeply believe is inadequate about you. It is an essential part of your ego. In fact it keeps your ego in place. Keeps it alive.
Have you ever wondered why many of those who seemingly have made it – celebrities, film stars, billionaires, really spectacularly mess things up? The more money and fame they have the more they seem to mess things up? That is because the desire/longing mechanism within the ego is never ever satisfied with what it has. It always wants more. It always says well now that I have married the person I thought was my dream partner, I need a lover as well or I realise I need a divorce! It says now that I have bought the top of the range Mercedes I realise it is just not me and I am bored with the colour. Whatever the dream is when you get it or get something close to it the ego says – well that’s not quite what I had in mind. It is not quite perfect, there is something not quite right.
Interestingly, the ego keeps on believing and striving for the dream. It never gives up (or almost never). So there is a forward striving part and a backward hopeless part. It is the human equivalent of perpetual motion. The striving, the hoping, the keep going, the battling on part of the ego that believes in the dream; and the hopeless, it’s never going to work out part. Sometimes after what seems to the ego like being knocked back time and time again, depression kicks in. The dream is still there but the striving for it comes to an end.
So what is to be done about it? Some would say that you have to stop desiring. That by cultivating an attitude of non-attachment that you can end the ego desire mechanism. You probably can and I am sure there are those who succeed but at what cost? Life on this planet is about experience. It is about experiencing joy and happiness. So suppressing desire, covering everything beautiful in a veil so as to prevent desire is surely not what life is about? Forcing the mind and the emotions into a dull state that no longer feels the thrill of desire cannot be the right solution.
Another method is to meditate on the reality of what you desire. So you take the image of your tall, dark, handsome hero and you keep looking deeper and deeper until you see just flesh and bone and then you look deeper and you see cell tissue and on and on until you see the vacuum at the centre of all matter. Now your handsome dream partner is just so much empty space. But seriously, what is the point of that! There has to be a better way than turning life into drab, dreary, lack lustre realism.
Fortunately there is a way. You can have your cake and eat it. Going back to the desire mechanism again, we said it is in two parts; the forward looking desire part that feels good; and the longing, the attachment, the part that says I don’t have it and I must have it, that feels bad. The secret is not to try and get rid of the pleasurable desiring part, such an effort is unnatural and against the laws of nature. Neither is it to force yourself somehow to not be attached, which would also be unnatural. The answer is much simpler and requires no forcing – and the answer is regular meditation. If you are disappointed by that answer it is your ego – your ego does not know what meditation is.
The process of meditation, the experience of it, has you realise that you are not the grasping ego. In deep meditation you find that you are not a person at all in the sense of “me and mine” – my history, my family, my life, my desires. The realisation gradually gets stronger the more you meditate. So that after some time you begin to see that the story of me, the story of my life is just that – a story. As you become more familiar with the experience pure being, the grasping, needing to possess ego loses its grip. It ceases to seem like reality. After some time it even seems funny that we were so deluded by an obvious trick of the mind. And so gradually little by little we return to our natural state of being where taking delight in the present puts us in a permanent state of inner peace and joy – even when we meet a difficult situation the state of inner being stays peaceful and joyful.
By this gradual realisation process the longing part of the desire mechanism fades away. We take pleasure in what we have in the present. We take pleasure in imagining the future – our desire is no less potent but we no longer need it – no longer must have it – no longer feel miserable if we don’t have it. This is true equanimity. This is true non-attachment to desire. No need to cultivate fake moods, dullness and unnatural suppression of life.