Discovering the Heart’s Desire

“If we can bear to face our longing instead of finding endless ways to keep satisfying it and trying to escape it, it begins to show us a glimpse of what lies behind the scenes.”  ~ Peter Kingsley

I’ve been thinking about desire lately. The great mystics would call it ‘longing’ as Peter does in the above quote. After musing on it awhile, I realize that desire is the making and undoing of a soul. A soul is established by a narrative or a story; one that is made, remade, unfolded, slathered and shared and hidden.

Something crystallized for me the other night while talking with a friend. I explained to her that a lot of my life has been a journey to understand the difference between a deep, soul desire and an elusive, passing craving. Her eyes lit up and she quickly dove into her practice of Sufism to emerge with its core teachings. She said, “Lindsay, you just named the central practice of Sufism. That’s what it’s all about.” She explained that there was a heart-center called ‘kalb‘ and it has a deep desire in this world. There are ‘nafs‘ (or ego-based beliefs and habits) that distract us from connecting with the heart-centered desire. When the ‘nafs‘ congeal into a force affecting the person in their life, it appears as ‘satan;’ a negative (read: not evil!) aspect of that person. ‘Satans’ appear as a negative aspect in that person’s life only to harmonize something that is neglected, so that the person can reconnect with their heart center.

First of all, this has me thinking of the gross over-exaggeration of ‘Satan’ in the Christian culture. ‘Satan’ (pronounced ‘say-taahn‘) in Sufism mostly relates to our own self-deception; short-circuiting our ability to connect with divinity and our heart-center. Satan has nothing to do with a polarity of good and evil. To take that further, it doesn’t have to do with something outside of ourselves either. Rather, it has to do with a part of ourselves that is negative (and a part of ourselves that is being reflected back to us in the external world). Negative does not mean evil. It still is vital to our understanding of who we are. It only gives us information to work with to continue to fold back the layers to connect with our heart.

To me, ‘satan’ is similar to the yogic and Buddhist concept of kleshas. Kleshas are also egoisms and obstacles to realizing a ‘Self’ (which I would relate to the Sufi notion of heart-center).

So — ha ha! — across lands and ages, we each have our path and our journey to connect with this heart-center, our soul desire. What gets in the way? Cravings. Well, they get in the way and they also teach us a whole bunch. If we experience a craving and give in to its pull and engage with it — we will surely learn something. Then, we can decide how we feel after that experience. Are we more or less connected to our desire?

The more that I muse on this, the more I realize that cravings have been a blessing and curse. They have buried me under my own haste and impulse and they have shined and polished me clean to reach a deeper layer of my desire.

Cravings can turn into addictions. Some of us learn faster than others. Some people’s physical and energetic systems are more sensitive to the aftermath of an experience or situation and can adapt more quickly. Some systems have been numbed and can’t feel the aftermath, therefore there is no need to change because no warning signs are felt. What if someone can’t tell they are not connected with their desire or their heart-center because they have been desensitized by some life trauma(s)?

This is why I feel a practice that encourages ‘sensitization’ is essential…especially in this day and age where so many of our senses have been cauterized. I remember watching a TED talk by anthropologist Wade Davis. He spoke about a particular tribal community whose hunters could distinguish which animal was nearby by smelling its urine within a 20 yard radius. Talk about being sensitized!!! However, being ‘sensitized’ or ‘sensitive’ in most modern cultures is not necessarily a valued way of being.

If we cultivate sensitivity to ourselves, our bodies, our heart, and each other — then we can get information a lot quicker and respond a lot better. Cravings, satans, and kleshas can be witnessed and given awareness without taking us too far from our heart-center and our soul desire. Sensitivity allows us to walk our life journey with more clarity and agility. And there are so many practices that we can access to cultivate this — movement, breath-work, and meditation to name a few.

In this day and age when our social training is rooted in being desensitized, I feel that there is much suffering. Without sensitivity, we cannot experience grace and navigate the nuances of life. Being born into a life of disconnection has become too normal. I look at how we create wars in ourselves and with others for no reason. On a larger scale, I see this in America and other nations as well. Pema sums it up well:

“[I]f the way that we protect ourselves is strong, then suffering is really strong too.” ~ Pema Chödrön

So, getting back to desire… If we are numb, it will be hard to connect with our deep heart desire. If we are numb, we cannot learn from and integrate the teachings of our cravings. I feel they only get bigger and turn into addictions. However, eventually we will feel the affect of a craving whose aftermath has been ignored.If we have the tools to be with sensitivity…to experience the opening and the closing of our hearts…the discomfort of all of this…then we can tap into a deeper layer of our hearts and navigate our lives with more grace.There are a lot of amazing programs out there that use mindfulness (don’t think brain, think of the body-heart-all-one kind of mind) practices to cultivate sensitivity in a lot of contexts. Schools, prisons, hospitals, and corporations are now using these techniques to encourage people to be more connected with themselves (and therefore, their heart-center).

Just imagine a world where we’ve reconnected with our senses, our sensitivity and have greater access to our heart-center and our deep, soul desire.  Imagine schools, homes, outdoor and indoor churches and gatherings, and other community care providers all practicing in a way to cultivate sensitivity and grace.  Imagine…

4 thoughts on “Discovering the Heart’s Desire

  1. Thank You Lindyhop for this digest. You’re gifted with grace to cross these oceans of thought & practice with ease. I’ve arrived at a similar understanding for appreciating and owning our evil, embracing it and treating it with some attention & equanimity.

  2. Thanks Sudeep — really good to hear from you! Yes, the wholesome, non-dual approach across traditions speaks a lot of wisdom…

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