I propose that as humans we are unaware of the strength of desire and the insatiable appetite for "more" which persistently propels us toward someone or something "out there." This month we examine all the ways we seek, long for, obsess, yearn, and crave that which we do not see in this present moment. There are many practices to assist us with awareness of desire, including this month's featured 5-minute Try-It.
Even when we tend to our most gross-level desires, the subtle levels arise, calling us, driving us further in intense indescribable desire. For example, when we are hungry, we satisfy our gross level desire - which is very evident - with food and water. Subtle desires may be present simultaneously but are not recognized. So, at other times, we seek objects and experiences arising from subtle level desire that are unfamiliar or unknown. Have you ever been in a situation where you could not find a "good reason" for the pursuit? Our minds are designed to move in three possible directions: toward something (desire), away from something (aversion), or spaced out (ignorance). We'll leave aversion and ignorance to another article. In our modern culture, desire, and in particular material abundance, seems to be the most pervasive.
Let's trim our desire focus to material goods. Material goods are objects of desire - otherwise, they would not be available for our purchase. Material goods compete with other material goods for consumption. Billions of dollars are directed toward advertising to provoke us in spending our money on the object - something inside gets triggered indicating that we desire this object. It's not hard to understand, but it gets many of us into trouble.
Before continuing I want to emphasize that I am not taking a stand one way or another regarding objects, stuff of desire, or material goods. Material objects are not good or bad; they simply are a part of the sacred world. Yes, I do have an opinion and personal practices that reflect my intention regarding stuff. My interest in sharing my own experience this month is to inspire you to do your own investigation around the subject of your desire, and in particular, where you spend money catalyzed by desire.
A Need, A Want, A Rush
I mentioned earlier gross and subtle levels of desire. In fact, there is a lot going on in our body/mind around desire. When we are in the practice of allocating money for a purchase, desire is happening. These desires can be categorized as a need, a want or a rush. For all of us, each of these categories will fall on a continuum, meaning a want for one person may be a need for another. A need is an object that you require to live - to survive sufficiently in your present lifestyle. For some this would be food, clothing and shelter. For others, perhaps something more. A want is an object that you simply want in your life for a particular reason beyond survival. Happiness, convenience, indulgence, might be an aspect of satisfying a want. These are objects that may or may not impact your life significantly. Finally, we satisfy a rush. A rush is an adrenaline infusion from acting on desire as a mask for some other reason. It is spending in a way that mirrors addictive patterns. When moving away from something, say fear, confusion, or doubt, we will often fiercely move toward something else as a way to block that felt emotional experience.
Gaining access to our desire responses greatly assists us in our spending patterns and increasing our awareness about how we allocate our resources. This awareness is important if we are interested in mind-full allocation of money. The most reliable place to access this truth is in our bodies. Each desire has a unique felt sense that can be identified when we pay attention to the sensations in our bodies.
Let's begin with the desire of a rush, the adrenaline hit we have all experienced in a fear response (fight, freeze, flee or faint). Adrenaline affects our body by pulsing dopamine throughout our system, acting as a natural pain killer, muscle strengthener, sense heightener, and increasing energy and breathing. Adrenaline is addictive, by far more addictive than other well-known favorites like tobacco, alcohol or food.
Spending as a rush is a hit of adrenaline. The body is on alert and for a period this keen power feels pretty good. However, over the long term, the stress (cortisol) that accompanies repeated hits from the fear response is taxing to the body system. The opportunity in this situation is to become intimately familiar with your pattern and to build a new awareness muscle regarding the need to spend. Hint: access your body signals for clues of fear, anger or sadness; allow those feelings to be the portal for further discovery and shifting the rush desire.
When investigating the desire of needs and wants, get familiar with the differences in your body sensations and movements. For me, when I satisfy a need, I feel a sense of power, self-care and independence. My body is fluid and rooted. In high school, I had a part-time job that required me to drive. I was responsible for maintaining the gas in my car. I needed to put gas in the car in order for me to "survive" (to maintain my job). When I filled the car with fuel, I had a sense of independence and accomplishment - as if I knew that I could survive. At these times my body sensations and movements are very grounded, slow paced and centered in the belly. My spine is vertical and lifted.
The desire of a want may seem similar to a need in some cases because there is a difference. A want brings forth a well of gratitude and generosity; there is a deep knowing that only those with good fortune enjoy the desires of want in this human form. In this space, I feel joy, warmth and lighthearted sensations in my chest and heart area. The same grounded sense from satisfying a need is still present and my lifted spine and open chest express appreciation.
The result of this practice (observing and embracing need, want and rush desires), over weeks, months and even years: is money wisdom and compassion. Desire for material goods has softened significantly. And seeing others who require material goods has allowed me to be more understanding and compassionate. Get curious about desire. Investigate your way of desire and the opening for growth in needs, wants and rushes.
Seeing and sensing the movement of desire,