One must not lose desires. They are mighty stimulants to creativeness, to love, and to long life.
Alexander A. Bogomoletz (Soviet-Ukrainian scientist)
As the above quote indicates, desires are a hugely important driving force. However, like fire, if not managed, they can easily consume our lives. The Buddhists’ claim that they are source of all suffering may be an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that being plagued by one’s own desires is inimical to being content. We will examine here how we can nurture our desires without letting them get out of control.
Thinking about desires
How you relate to your desires may be a good first step in gaining some control over them. For this purpose, the following questions may help: Do you follow or disregard your desires without question, or do you reflect on them first? Do you feel that you are more in charge of them than they are in charge of you? You can also consider how your immediate desires affect other aspects of yourself and your life. Does the fulfilment of your desires make you do something that goes against your values and beliefs? Would you like to change anything in relation to your desires?
Awareness of desires
Awareness of your desires is the first step in being more in charge in this respect. Rather than trying to block, hide or push desires aside, this requires bringing them to the surface and admitting to yourself (if not necessarily to others) that you have them. In other words, you have to be honest with yourself. This does not mean giving importance to every fleeting whim (they could just be insubstantial internal ‘provocations’). Generally though, it is better to acknowledge your desires even if you are not pleased with them. Reoccurring or intense desires will not go away if you try to suppress or ignore them. Once they are out in open, you can do something about them. But before we focus on what can be done, we need first to distinguish between two types of desires.