Is Desire Good or Bad?
a/k/a Zen and the Art of Manifestation Maintenance
I just watched a moving holiday video from a charity I support (which will remain nameless). It was gripping, emotional, and absolutely filled with negative memes. While I love that charity and what they are trying to accomplish, I can’t promote that video because it’s so riddled with subliminal programming about lack and limitation.
Asceticism tells us the secret to happiness is reducing our desires. And I’ve written often about the hypocritical and damaging programming of many organized religions on the subjects of money and material things. I have a Buddhist text I’m reading right now, and one of the aphorisms in it reads, “How bitter life is when we have desires! Our demands on others will bring us endless misery.”
Just take a minute and really process that statement. The Marxist-Leninist connotations of this are simply mind-blowing. (And if you believe Communism is actually prosperous for the masses, you’re reading the wrong blog.) A little later in the text (written by a highly-esteemed Buddhist nun) it says, “If we can reduce our desires, there is nothing really worth getting upset about.”
Well that’s true. Of course it would also mean there is nothing really worth getting passionate about either. My take on all this: Sometimes it’s good to get upset and some things are worth getting upset about – just as some things deserve getting passionate about them.
My self-imposed sabbatical has been liberating and illuminating for me is so many ways. And a perfect environment to study the role of money and material things in happiness and meaning.
It is frequently said that the first step on the path to Buddhism is to lesson our desires and be content with what we have. And I believe any philosophy of gratitude for what you possess will certainly take you closer to prosperity. Unless you carry it to extreme and believe that happiness comes from a linear path of downgrading your desires. The journey down that path usually leads only to mediocrity.
You will see a similar arc in service to others: To willingly undergo hardship or sacrifice for the sake of helping others is love and compassion in action. To do it all the time is dysfunctional – and likely the symptom of larger, unaddressed worthiness issues.
Please. Have compassion and be generous. And make sure you include yourself in that. Because if I have learned anything after studying prosperity for 25 years, it is this:
The single biggest threat to your success you will ever face, is thinking small.
As I reflect on my life (thus far), I’ve experienced many things that have brought me great happiness. Simple sunsets, walks on the beach or gazing at the stars can bring you peace, harmony and joy. So can the joy of firing up a sports car engine, being front row at an amazing concert, or watching one of those sunsets from the balcony of an ocean front suite in Tahiti or Fiji. Think big and don’t just limit yourself to the free things, or forsake all the material things.
There is much to be said for discontent and dissatisfaction…
When properly channeled those emotions drive us to have more, do more and especially, become more.
The sabbatical is right for me because I reached a place in my life where I was beginning to feel my things owned me, instead of the other way around. That’s why I felt the need to uproot, start with a blank canvas and begin writing a new chapter in my life.
But make no mistake: I’m certainly not living as an ascetic. I’m building a new home, surrounding myself with beautiful works of art, and collecting many new and exquisite things. But those things don’t define me or own me; they simply bring more joy, harmony and prosperity into my life.
The holiday season is not about Black Friday sales, buying HD televisions, and going into debt. I hope you celebrate it in a style and custom that brings yet more abundance into your life. Spend some time with family and friends who bring joy into your life. Support Toys for Tots or similar charities that provide help to the less fortunate. Make a call, send an email, or pay a personal visit to someone who needs it. Think who you know who might be “orphaned” this time of year and invite them to a gathering.
In addition, please give yourself permission to celebrate the material things that enhance the lives of you and yours…
As you look towards the New Year, kick start your ambition, set some big goals, and develop more desires. If those desires are congruent with your purpose in life, they will take you closer to prosperity, not further away from it.
A person with a generous heart lives a blessed life and celebrates every day as a holiday. And a person with a dream in their heart is striving for something more, and thus truly living each day as a holiday as well.
And that is my holiday wish for you!
Randy Gage is the author of nine international bestsellers, including, Why You’re DUMB, SICK & BROKE, and How to Get SMART, HEALTHY and RICH! When he’s not fighting the forces of evil, or locked in his lonely writer’s garret, you’ll probably find him playing third base on a softball field somewhere.