On Desire Falling Away

Each time I would come back to the United States, from spending time in India, I would try very hard to hold onto my high.

I would live in the country in a very remote place and just make infrequent journeys out into the world. Despite this, I found that I was still vulnerable to the seductions of the world and I had to accept the responsibility that they weren’t doing it to me, I was doing it to me.

I saw the conflict in my own being, that I wanted to be free and yet I didn’t want to give up my desires. There is a line from a Christian Abbott who said, “I would like to be like the desert fathers [those are renunciates] but I don’t want to be what I want just yet.”

What does it mean, the issue of giving up desires? It actually doesn’t mean that the desires end.

The desires still arise because they are part of the incarnation. They are the nature of karma. What changes is the identification of the awareness with the desire or the identification of the awareness with the emotional states. When you are accustomed to and habituated to intense emotional reactions to this and that, the spiritual awakening which involves letting go of that is a mixed blessing.

There is a period which is a very dark period, when you feel that you are losing the world but you are not gaining the spirit at the deepest level. St. John of the Cross refers to it as “the dark night of the soul”. At the more superficial level, the experience is one of the feeling of sadness as the worldly desires fall away. Things that gave you so much pleasure start to be empty to you. But you’ve built your whole life around wanting them, and it is hard to accept the fact that everything you did up to that point is no longer relevant.

If you have spent your whole life becoming somebody and having something, and then with awakening you turn around and you start the journey in the other direction of becoming nothing, becoming nobody and having nothing. It would seem to make the whole first part of life meaningless or some sort of error. But it’s important to see that this sequence is a necessary sequence, that when one takes incarnation in an evolutionary moment when one is going to awaken, you still have to become somebody and become grounded on earth before you can do the spiritual work.  

Part of the experience of living richly has been identification with the desires and emotions, with the passions of life, with the hatreds and the joys, with what I call the “mellow drama” of life. Each of us has an intense drama going on around ourselves. Will we, won’t we, can we, can’t we, should we, shouldn’t we? And with awakening one begins to see the way one has been trapped in one’s story line. But it doesn’t mean the story ends. The Ram Dass story is alive and well. The only question is, who’s living it?

Am I Ram Dass or am I just, “I am.” 

-Ram Dass

Photo via Flickr

1 thought on “On Desire Falling Away”

  1. This article is exactly what I needed to hear. I’m at a point in my path where I feel the desire of certain interests & activities dwindling. Every time I realize my attachment is weakening, I feel a tiny amount of fear. Even though I want to desolve my attachment, something in me, be it habitual or addiction, clings on to things I have identified as. I’ve always like the imagery of shedding attachments the way a snake sheds its skin.

    Right now I feel like a snake that has shed its skin but has chosen to carry the skin in his mouth. I’ve read this article twice today and will probably come back to it again and again each time I get to this point on the path.


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