• 11.04.2016

DESIRE by Smitha Jayakumar

Have you ever observed the power of desire?
If we pause to think for a moment we can immediately see how our every action is driven by desire. The way we like our coffee, the color and choice of clothes we wear, what we ate today, the car we own or the one we want to buy, whether we want to travel business class or economy… everything has its root in desire of one form or another.
The feeling of desire is like our friend and well wisher, heralding greater wealth, more things or experiences that we already enjoy or everything that we don’t yet have.  It’s a force that lends hand to creation – from the momentum needed for individual growth, challenge what we know, to seek something better for ourselves – to the progress of our species.

Have you also noticed how the feeling of desire is endless? How is it that its drive is so powerful?

That’s because it evokes within us a keen sense of pleasure – pleasure sometimes simply in anticipation – in merely thinking or imagining our object of desire, or in imagining a better tomorrow.  We are suckers for this feeling of pleasure because it makes us come alive and because it seems to closely resonate with joy or happiness – and we all have this very deep seeking to be happy.

However the fulfillment of one desire after the other, though it brings pleasure, rarely satisfies this seeking.  Well, thousands of us are witness to this experience.  Ask some of the wealthiest, most successful, or even the most famous people in the world, in fact why others, let’s look at ourselves.  The fact is the pleasure that comes with fulfillment of desire is fleeting, it stays for some time and disappears leaving us yearning for more, again and again.
So what is happiness then? Happiness is different from pleasure. It’s a cocktail of emotions, that’s why we call it a ‘state of being’– a mixture of pleasure, peace, fulfillment, contentment.  No - Happiness does not mean you never feel sad or angry, rather it is our ability to embrace that too.  It is also resilience – your ability to bounce back.  It is a state of positivity of mind.
A couple of months ago there was a video that went viral on Facebook.  It showed a street vendor in India.  A customer offers him a 60$ note for a plate of food that barely costs 10cents, and invites him to keep the change.  The vendor is surprised and a few minutes later he walks over to the customer and gives him back the money, saying ‘I am happy with the 10 cents that you need to give me, no more’. The rest of the video shows the other man comforting and soothing the vendor in pity, saying it’s okay you can take that money and enjoy it without qualms.

The video prompted some thinking in me.  Do I pity that street vendor or do I feel happy for him?  I felt the latter.  In fact I felt almost proud of him.  Here was a man who seems to have harnessed the power of desire effectively, in learning to say no or learning to say enough and still be contented, positive.

Again and again people like this simple man remind us being happy is not about acquisition or fulfillment of desire. This man represents a set of people who are wise.  They are wise because they have a bigger picture of life and an understanding of what really makes us happy. To put it simply, they see that happiness is a state of mind that depends on multiple pillars – it is connected to our desires being met but it is also about having fulfilling relationships and our ability to pay attention to the simple experiences of everyday life and feel connected. It is also about how good we feel about ourselves and living without conflict, a clear conscience. It’s learning to let go and going with the flow of life.  It is the wisdom and awareness to see that all things are interconnected – that my happiness is connected with all this and the others in my life too and not exclusive of it.

The people who see this big picture learn to harness the energy of desire, they know when to let it free, they know how to reign it in as and when they see there is something more or equally important to value. They have learned to say enough, sometimes, even an emphatic ‘No’.  They know more is not necessarily better.

Dear everyone – we live in a world where most governments, big and small, and most corporations and systems, big and small, subscribe to this philosophy of more is better. It is advertised to us again and again as the sure way to happiness.  We are enticed and we get tempted as that natural thread of desire is pulled again and again. We need to remember, more may make a difference but only up to a certain point.  What is that point?  It is different for each one of us at different times in our life.  That is why it is important to see the bigger picture in our life context.  Living can become simpler and less complex this way.  Happiness can be felt more easily. Life need not be an endless pursuit of desire – sometimes it can be as simple as saying, ‘it’s enough’, and in that moment we find what we are seeking.
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