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| | Pleasures vs. addictions - an andrewgubb.com article
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Buddha is famous for telling people to give up desire in order to be happy. Eckhart Tolle spreads the same message nowadays. But is it really as simple as that? As a spiritual seeker I fell for a while in the trap of thinking so. "All I need to do," I said mentally, "is stop. Stop desiring. Stop thinking. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Why aren't I stopping? STOP!" |
Maybe it is that simple... for some people. It obviously wasn't for me. I understand that Tolle has an interest in not creating complications for the egoic mind to latch onto. But for the sake of people who might be making the same mistake as I have made, I should point out that there is good desire and bad desire.
A better word for bad desire might be craving. It is more like a fear of lack. We desire in this way because we feel that the object of our desire will cure our fundamental hurt: that hole in our soul which, if only we looked at directly, we'd realise never actually existed. The more we crave, the more we reinforce the mental error that causes fear to arise, and the more we suffer, and the more we cause others to suffer. Someone who is dominated by this sort of desire and actively chooses to intensify it in order to motivate themselves is called a darkworker, or more colloquially, evil.
The other sort of desire on the other hand, might be better described as the drive to expression of the true human nature. There is such thing as sexual craving for instance, and there is such thing as a loving expression of the sexual nature. Sexual craving can be boiled down to a mark on the bedpost. Sexual expression involves mutual affection and joy at being alive. Then there is craving for junk food, and there is desire for foods that make you feel lighter, healthier, and more energetic for hours afterwards.
This sort of love-based desire, the desire to be true to oneself, flows outwards from a place of peace, a foundation of basic fulfilment regardless of life situation. It requires a person to believe that they are ultimately safe -- that even death is finally acceptable. That doesn't mean that they are exactly indifferent to such things. They might cry if they were told they were going to die, and laugh for joy if it turned out that that was a mistake. But whatever happens, such a person is capable of accepting the present moment as it is. Someone whose desires spring predominantly from their true nature and who seeks to shed more and more of their unnaturalness is called a lightworker.
To put it into different words, a darkworker is defined by dissatisfaction and actually wants to increase their dissatisfaction. They WANT to be unhappy. Why? Because unhappiness is a fuel which can be used to achieve the objects that the darkworker craves. Unhappiness therefore is supposed to save them from unhappiness, though I don’t think they see it that clearly. If they do, they feel powerless to change it.
A lightworker just wants to live, be happy, and express themselves. The foundation for their life is acceptance of reality at its most basic level, but that doesn't mean they sit around doing nothing. They can be incredibly driven. They are often called "love-based", but love doesn't exactly define them. By removing all fear and making peace with life, they express the true human nature, which is a channel for love into the world.
Steve Pavlina introduced me to these concepts (though I'd like to point out he didn't invent them). Unlike Steve, I'm not going to give much consideration to darkworking as a sensible choice. I have one belief which I consider to be self-evident and which I make no attempt to prove: that the point of life is to be happy. Happiness is what I seek and is the subject of this website. If you want to learn how to be unhappy, you'll need to go elsewhere.
However, it’s important to realise that we have a part of ourselves that seems to want to be unhappy or at least wants what is bad for us. There are even forces that consciously seek to spread unhappiness in the same way an environmentalist would attempt to spread awareness about the plight of the sperm whale. The world is as it is, atrocities and all, because that is how people have desired it to be. This desire for suffering does not benefit the person from whom it comes; it exists to be outgrown.
Most people agree that money can’t buy you happiness. Most people have heard of unhappy millionaires and happy beggars. Five years ago, I wondered why, if this is accepted wisdom, even cliché, everyone continued to follow the standard life pattern; and so, on the assumption that everyone else was doing it wrong, I started to place all my energy into finding the source of happiness. This finally led me to spirituality and the concept of “giving up desire”.
But there is desire and desire. To put it in clearer words, then, to be happy, we must give up the desires that stem from unhappiness, which may include the desire to be happy. We must stop following unhappiness, stop believing in unhappiness, and just let it be there. Smile at it. Unhappiness naturally wants to die, but it survives so long as you validate it by taking it seriously.
The desires that are expressions of our true nature all work in our best interests and in the best interests of the greater body of humanity – yes, even the desires for sex and survival, when they are in balance.
Do you really want to be happy?
If we have both drives in us then the spiritual search represents the drive to be happy becoming stronger than the drive to be unhappy, and thereby becoming the direction in which the person moves.
A misconception is that the decision to be happy is supposed to instantly make you happy. It doesn’t. What it does do is begin to dissolve the structures which the drive to unhappiness has created. The more love energy that comes into the world, the more darkness is dissolved. In any moment you have the free will to use your power to move towards the light or away from the light. Free will is not, however, the power to instantly be there.
Darkness never gets what it ultimately wants. It survives because it fools people into thinking that it might work otherwise. Its quality is addiction. In an addiction all pleasure is paid for with pain. In the light, all things are pleasure – even sadness is beautiful.
I’m not sure about “enlightenment”, but I believe that happiness is to a certain extent found in the outside world… or at least, the outside world can help you reach it, which is a subtle difference. Good exercise, good diet, loving relationships, and a sense of meaningful contribution all help to bring consistent joy. However, these factors all tend to improve naturally as you improve your level of consciousness. For instance, in my times of happiness I’ve found myself spontaneously running about, dancing, and enjoying exercise. I stopped exercising when I descended into depression. I spontaneously spent time in good company when I was happy, and stopped when I was in my darkness. I imagined sometimes that I was unable to make loving connections. Actually, what was happening was I didn’t want them – I was too attached to my suffering.
Most problems are quite easy to solve; they exist because of an internal need for lack. That’s not to say they are irrelevant. The outside world is a reflection of the inner world. I believe that improving your outer life is important for your happiness, but real success can only be found if it is in tandem with an inner evolution – specifically an increasing ability to accept feeling unashamedly good and an understanding of the processes that brought problems into your life in the first place. Otherwise you will find that you improve one thing, maybe, but you then manifest something else to give you an excuse to be unhappy, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
The outer world exists for a reason. I think if you do anything with love, it will lead you where you need to go. I believe we are meant to be human – fully human, utterly, unapologetically human. Pleasure is our nature telling us when something is good for us, and as such it leads to better health, success and happiness. But if you find yourself running after a mirage, then your desires are probably nothing but addictions, and are serving something that is not your true nature.
Last edited by Andrew Gubb; 01-30-2009 at 09:14 PM.