Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Desperation

Today I'm going to write a post about desperation. The theme of desperation has come up more and more in my meditation sessions and I want to share some views because I think they're universally applicable.

If you know about Buddhism, you've probably heard that "desire is the root of suffering." A lot of people write about what this really means. Are you supposed to be totally desire-less, in some kind of nihilistic stupor? Are you supposed to not care about anything? What about others? What about yourself? How can you have desire not to have desire? It's tricky.

Some of my favorite Eastern philosophers have translated the word to mean "thirst" or "clinging," but think of it as desperation. Desperation isn't the same as desire. Desperation has a sense of urgency attached to it. I must get this--this thing, this person's approval, this question resolved, this confusion abated--now. This desperation always leads to two things, panic and seriousness, which in turn rob people of the feeling that things will be okay, their connection to themselves, and their ability to connect to others. The stuff we all ultimately consider important in life begins to disappear.

The antidote is of course patience and honesty, confronting the feeling of desperation and challenging it by not following it, by withdrawing from it, which is to say, no longer being in a rush to change things to suit our preference. Letting things be, desperation included, and not being desperate to change them.

It doesn't matter if you don't know what it's all supposed to look like. I often find myself apprehensive about letting go of the drive to change things. Where will I go from there? Will I ever recover? Is this the right path? Will I harm myself psychologically? I don't always know, but I go for it anyway and I realize after that all those doubts were just the desperation talking, not me.

Now you know what enlightenment tastes like.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

a desire not to have desire is unfeasible rather than tricky.

Edahn said...

Yeah. But the point was, you don't need to. You can have a desire to rid yourself of desperation. There's no contradiction there, assuming you define desire as a lighter form of desperation.