I was reading an excellent essay by Eknath Easwaran in the Blue Mountain Journal, titled “Will and Desire.” He begins:
“Desire is the key to life, because desire is power. The deeper the desire, the more power it contains.”
The Upanishads say:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your deep, driving desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
Ah, but we are filled with such conflicting desires! And the strongest-willed among us, those who might become dedicated changemakers, leaders, visionaries, and doers, may also be those who are driven to fulfill desires that do not further a better world. What do industrial tycoons and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? Powerful wills to achieve their passionate desires.
As Easwaran’s excellent article explored, our desires are manifold and our will to manifest them a double-edged sword. He quotes the Bhagavad Gita: “The will is our only enemy; the will is our only friend.” As someone who has been accused of being strong-willed since I was a little child, I know this well. My strong will made me a challenging child to raise because I was endlessly attached to my desires and often inflexible. Yet, my strong will also became my great ally in achieving my goals and living according to my principles.
Making MOGO (most good) choices in our lives requires a strong will. Inevitably we will have conflicting desires. We may desire a certain food or product that is produced inhumanely or unsustainably. We may desire certain pleasures that have negative effects upon other species, other people, and the environment. We may also deeply desire a life of integrity and purpose and the unfolding of a peaceful, restored, and compassionate world. These desires may compete, and this is where we must harness our will.
Recognizing the range and breadth of our desires allows us to focus on those that are aligned with our values and pursue these with tenacious wills while acknowledging, but not indulging, those desires that don’t ultimately serve our greatest goals and the world we hope to create.
This is no easy task. But the very struggle can be rewarding, because when we wrestle with our desires and direct our will consciously, we create more freedom in our lives – freedom from the incessant pursuit of pleasure; freedom to create the lives we want most; freedom from advertising, peer and societal pressures; freedom to choose with wisdom and compassion.
What is your greatest desire? Your most fervent hope? Harness your will towards this end.
For a humane world,
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