A core concept in Buddhism is that desire is the root of suffering. I think that is a partial truth. I believe that desires can cause suffering when it comes from a superficial or ego-driven place, like the desire for fame and fortune. I also think that the desire to fill a void in some way leads to disappointment, such as buying designer duds to garner more respect, or having a child to feel less lonely.
But there are some really important forms of desire, and those are the desires that come from the heart/soul/spirit or whatever you want to call it. Within us, we all have the desire to realize our potential and pursue our purpose. These desires are our truth and should not be ignored. They feel different than our earthly desires because when we align with them, we don’t feel angst, we feel ease. I’m not saying that pursuing your purpose will be easy, but it should feel right, and when you choose that path, it will be fulfilling.
Earthly desires are a delusion. We crave them because we believe that once those desires are met, then we will be happy. But these desires, such as the desire for status, wealth, and recognition, are insatiable and will only lead to more desire. They are an ever-moving target, and the pursuit of them leads to pain, stress, and a distraction from our greatest desire, which is to realize our potential.
As an artist, I am often plagued with ego-driven desires. I crave validation for my work, and I want to be financially rewarded for it. I can get really in my head about how my art will be perceived, and whether people will like it, and if it is even good enough, and it spirals into self-doubt and fear. Then when I try to create with the intention to win acceptance, I feel completely blocked and out of alignment. When I create art with the intention to simply express my truth and inspire others to do the same, my creativity flows.
Desire is an innate part of being human and I don’t think the answer is to somehow eradicate it. But when we chase desires that are delusions, we end up getting caught. The key is to bring awareness to what drives our actions and choices so we can refocus ourselves when we get too distracted by the shiny gems of the world. At the end of the day, a gem is just a rock.