Desire is a confusing idea. We’re taught that desire is what leads us astray, that it makes us materialistic and unsatisfied with our lot. To be free from desire implies that we’ve achieved a state of moral and/or spiritual perfection – plus deep inner peace. On the other hand, a lack of desire might mean we’re complacent, lacking ambition, or dimwitted. After all, the reputation of every revered historical figure was rooted in strong desire – to set slaves free, to achieve peace, to get women the right to vote – and it changed the world for the better.
We’re also taught that we deserve to have and enjoy desirable things. And everyone knows that it’s important to be desirable to whomever we might want to attract or impress. Marketers have long reminded us that we’ll be undesirable to a prospective lover, boss, or college admissions officer if we have dandruff on our shirt, ring around the collar, or yellow teeth.
Clearly there’s no single correct answer to the question of whether desire is good or bad. It all depends on what’s behind that desire and how we relate to it.
A tidbit I appreciate from the work of Neale Donald Walsch is the notion that our desires tend to be “sponsored” by either love or fear. Fear-based desire is exceedingly common. It’s part of why capitalism is such a massive force in the world. Because of fear, we desire security and protection, and we’re often motivated to pursue them at the expense of growth and healing. Moved by fear of inadequacy, we might desire a flashy car or a trophy partner – whatever we perceive as signaling our prowess to others. Gripped by fear of death we desire whatever we believe will tether us to life.
Love-sponsored desire is very different. Most importantly, the quality of the energy behind it is different. If you met two people intent on changing the world, one driven by love-sponsored desire, the other by fear-sponsored desire, you couldn’t assume that the fear-driven one wants to change it in bad ways. Or that the love-driven one is going to be more effective. But if you got to know these people, you’d feel the difference and it would be written all over how they relate to life.
Which would you prefer to be driven by? Regardless of your answer (I’m going to take a wild guess and say, “love-sponsored desire”) it’s worthwhile to discern your motivations. If you discover that you’re following a course that’s dictated by fear-sponsored thoughts and desires, there’s an opportunity for liberation – from both the fear and the lifeforce-draining remedies you’re pursuing. If your desires are sponsored by fear, you’ll find that when you challenge them your mind gets defensive. And if you ask, “What if I relinquish this desire?” the response is, “Something bad will happen.”
This isn’t the case with love-sponsored desires. There’s no feeling of, “I have to do this or else!” It’s more like, “My Highest Self is calling me to do this,” and you can feel that it’s coming from love. That said, there may occasionally be cases when some form of harm is occurring and you feel moved by love to help – like getting involved to stop human trafficking or animal abuse. But the difference is, your heart will feel open.
Whereas fear-sponsored desire is rooted in one’s own subconscious thoughts, love-sponsored desire is transpersonal. That is, both its source and its scope are beyond the personality.
It’s similar to concept of iccha shakti as defined in the ancient philosophy of Nondual Shaiva Tantra (NST). A Sanskit term, iccha shakti is used commonly to mean willpower or life drive, but the NST definition is more specific. In the words of author Christopher Wallis, it’s “a precognitive creative urge toward self-expression. It is the impulse behind the manifestation of a universe and behind all artistic expression that is done for its own sake.” Like the idea of love-sponsored desire, to be an expression of iccha shakti means to be moved not by the will of the personality but by divine will that seeks expression through us.
Wallis continues: “The more we access our real innate nature, the more we can draw on the unfailing power of the divine Will. The Will seeks self-expression for no reason other than the joy inherent in the act of self-expression. If you are tapping into iccha shakti in your pursuits in life, be they dancing or computer repair, you will have a vast reservoir of energy to draw on. This is because when you are pursuing an activity as a form of self-expression, it replenishes you instead of draining you.” And I would say the same goes for being led by love-sponsored desire.
I encourage you to ask yourself some questions. At any time you feel strongly moved, you can ask, “Is this a fear-sponsored or love-sponsored thought / feeling / action?” You can also ask, “What is love sponsoring in my life?” or “Where does love want to take me?” Does your work feel connected to iccha shakti? If not, can you change how you relate to it and let love and iccha shakti be sponsors? I always enjoy hearing how these articles land with you.