Understanding and opening up to your desires

Once you understand that desire is dynamic, it can go from being an affliction to becoming your teacher

Pencil portrait of man and woman

I’d like to suggest a book by Mark Epstein, called Open to Desire. It’s written by a Buddhist psychotherapist who is a former student of Ram Dass. Obviously, the subject of the book is desire, and how Buddhism has a bit of a split personality regarding it.

Desire, like sex, is something people make themselves uncomfortable over. Many people are scared of their feelings—of what’s going on just under the surface. We tremble a bit—such is the power of our desire.

Epstein describes Buddhism’s ‘right hand path’ as the path of the ascetic—on this path, the solution to life’s drama is renunciation. This is the idea that desire leads to trouble, and the only way to avoid trouble is to repress it, fight it, ignore it, or meditate it to death.

Buddhism’s ‘left-hand path’ is Tantra—on this path, the things our bodies experience become the tools of awakening. Desire becomes the energy for action leading to transformation.

If you think about it, that’s how we actually use the word.

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A version of this article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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