The Great Spiritual Conundrum. Attain What You Desire OR Surrender to What Is - Teal Swan Articles - Teal Swan Jump to content

The Great Spiritual Conundrum. Attain What You Desire OR Surrender to What Is


Lately, a great many people have been asking me about the seemingly juxtaposed concept of happiness being a result of the achievement of what you desire and happiness being the result of completely surrendering to what is. I would venture to say that this is the current great spiritual conundrum of our time. The spiritual field is littered with teachers that teach that happiness is about one or the other. As you can imagine, this leads to tormenting levels of confusion.

There are teachers who teach that desire is the root of suffering. And that the way to become happy is to realize this and to remove yourself from the cycle of dissatisfaction and desire, so that you are in total surrender and nonresistance to what is. And there are teachers who teach that desire is the root of personal expansion. And that the way to become happy is to consciously use your desire to bring about what you want, knowing that what you want will always be evolving.

Most people look at concepts like this and automatically assume that one of these camps must be right and the other must be wrong. We are quick to join one camp or the other. And also, to flip from one camp to the other, when we decide that the camp we were originally aligned with, didn’t bring us to happiness. This is especially easy to do with this conundrum because both camps contain truths that are self-evident for all of us. And it seems, we can also argue against both camps with evidence that is also clear to all of us. For example, all of us know the pain of not feeling like we can get what we desire. And all of us know that once we attain what we desire, we aren’t satisfied, we always want more. On the other hand, all of us can easily imagine the dangers of failing to step into the empowment of making decisions and taking actions that make our own life what we want it to be; and instead, simply passively, apathetically and unnecessarily surrendering to things being as they are, no matter how terrible. All of us know that you can’t stop desiring; after all, even the desire to not have a desire is a desire. So, what should we do?

What we need to do is to see the reality that both of these concepts and practices have an important place within the picture of our lives. And both can in fact be complimentary and compatible to one another.

Let me explain, most of us on earth operate from the perspective that “if I get what I want, I’m happy”. And “If I don’t get what I want, I’m not happy”. We have decided that things have to unfold how we want them to, in order to be ok. And this creates a serious attachment to and identification with what we want. But it isn’t easy to get what we want. In fact, incase you haven’t noticed, it does not happen often. Reality (what happens in the world) doesn’t often match what we want. And in a consensus reality, we don’t have control over everything that happens. The probability of every moment of your life perfectly matching what you want all the time is so zero. 

Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, desire will never end. Even when you get exactly what you want, like a million dollars or the perfect partner, that’s ok for a hot minute and then you want more or you want something else. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, desire was designed to be that way. Desire is what brings things forth from the sea of potential into a state of being. There’s nothing wrong with you that it is that way. The reality for all beings is that the more you get something, the less you want it. Because contrary to appreciation, wanting implies the lack of something, not the having of it. 

Many people hold the belief that in a state of enlightenment, there is no desire. This is not true. When you are dis-identified with the ego, but still physically manifested, desires still occur. Just like emotions occur and sensations occur and thoughts occur. You are not without thoughts or emotions or desires. You are not without an ego. Instead, you are in a conscious relationship with your ego. It is no longer the foundation of your sense of identity. And so, you are in a relationship with the longing nature of the ego. But you experience desires less like they ARE you or like they must be acted on. And more like they are occurring Infront of you. You are witnessing them arise and choosing consciously what to do with them or not. You are not attached to your desires as they arise.

What does all this mean? It means that your happiness cannot and should not ever be based off of reality perfectly matching what you want.  And it can’t and shouldn’t be based off of getting what you want. Working on the outside to get what is external to you, to change into what you want is a constant work in progress and will never not be a constant work in progress. Happiness that is based off of getting what you want, or on the outside world perfectly matching what you want, is conditional as hell. And it’s a complete set up for misery.

Also, on top of this, problems will never, ever stop coming. Problems are the elixir of life… That statement is a koan in and of itself by the way and when you figure it out, you know you’ve arrived. But short of that much more transcendental meaning, problems are the very soil of growth and improvement. We are in complete resistance to what is and to reality when we think that there shouldn’t be problems, or that we can ever, and I mean ever, get to a place where there are no more.

And there is another layer to this… Each one of your preferences and desires comes from unwanted experiences that you had or are having. Your desires happened as an automatic result of the influences of other things. Other people. External circumstances. Ideas you had. Other places. etc. This makes your desire highly deterministic, until you step out of this deterministic aspect of desire with your free will. What you want is a reaction that arises within you, that you don’t even have think about. You didn’t choose it or decide it.

Let’s look at desire on a more metaphysical level. When you desire something, that desire is the emotional indication that you have given birth to an improved idea.  That improved idea holds a frequency. And your non-physical point of perspective now matches that new frequency the minute you desire it. So now, there is a gap between the frequency your temporal self holds, and the frequency your non-psysical consciousness holds.  There is a vibrational gap between you and what you want.  If you think a thought that feels negative, it is because that thought has a vibration, which separates you further from your non-physical consciousness and therefore your desire. If you think a thought that feels positive, it is because that thought has a vibration, which is closer to the vibration of your non-physical consciousness and therefore your desire. So, there are two ways to close this gap between the you that you call by your name and your non-physical consciousness; between you and your desire.  The first is to think thoughts and take actions that line you up vibrationally with it. This is the practice of conscious creation or manifestation. And the second is to release resistance to and appreciate the now. This is the practice of letting go, surrendering and appreciating what is. If you do that, your non-physical self joins you where you are. There is no gap between you and your non-physical consciousness and therefore, negative emotion does not arise within you. Over the centuries, though no one has managed to rid themselves of desire, many have managed to develop a dynamic relationship with desire to such a degree that they were no longer suffering.  And many have managed to appreciate the now to such a degree that they were no longer suffering. Long story short, the two camps of spiritual practices, have found different ways to close the vibrational gap that is at the root of emotional pain and pleasure.

When a person experiences the unwanted, they tend to push that unwanted experience away when they experience it. They resist the experience. This blocks their energy. At the very same time, they develop a subconscious attachment to and identification with what the experience made them aware that they would prefer instead. Most people want what they want as a mechanism of attachment and avoidance. To get out of this deterministic pattern relative to desire, the first thing we must do is to step outside of it. This is a process of disidentification with what you desire. You observe the desire as it arises within you, the same as you would with an emotion that arises within you or a thought that arises within you. You become aware of what caused you to want what you want. You ask yourself, is this really what I want? And you choose to let that desire pass through you and let it go. Or, with your free will, you choose to align with it and think thoughts and take actions according to your intention to bring that desire into a manifested state. 

All this boils down to the fact that though we all experience happiness as a result of getting what we want (on the rare occasion that it actually happens) we cannot base our happiness on that, any more than we can blame our desire for causing our suffering. The bedrock of happiness is to release resistance to what is. While consciously dedicating our energy to manifesting the preferences or desires that arise within us, that we decide to manifest.

Now let’s go further so that you understand this even better. It’s not true that you can only be happy if certain circumstances happen. You are limiting yourself to the idea that things must be exactly how you want, in order to feel a certain way or in order to see the positive, or in order to be open, or in order to experience joy etc. Most people are limiting their happiness to the manifestation of their preferences and to the manifestation of their desires. 

Happiness is not about getting what you want, it’s about resolving any disturbance inside yourself, that is occurring because you are in resistance to what is happening. Let go of the idea that things have to be a certain way to enjoy your life. The more open you are to the unfolding of life, the happier you will be. How do you resolve your resistance to (or become ok with) what is happening? You change your perspective and attitude about everything that is happening, so as to no longer be in resistance to anything that is happening. That in fact, puts you in a state where your happiness is no longer conditional.

But you can’t just “let go”. Or “decide to not be in resistance” or “love what is”. You can’t just suppress it or bypass resistance. You have to learn how to do it. This is a practice of actively working with yourself to relax, release, resolve and help the resistance as it comes up within you. This means looking at things in a totally different way. Accepting what is. Changing the way you see things, so that you dissolve your resistance to those things. Resolving the unwanted experiences and traumas that are stored in the being that are causing resistance. Looking at things in a way that causes you to see the positive in things. Looking at things in a way where you can fall in love with what is. Meditating. Practicing disidentification. Consciously relaxing etc. 

Rather than upsetting yourself about things that are happening, actively do things that cause you to feel less resistant to what is and better about what is. Learn to welcome and work with the moments that are unfolding in front of you, rather than resisting them and fighting against them as if they shouldn’t be happening; because you don’t want them to happen. If this is your practice, when you become disturbed, you don’t try to figure out how to STOP it. You don’t try to STOP getting upset. Instead, you consciously work with each disturbance, so that the resistance to what is, is resolved within you.

But doing this doesn’t mean that preferences or desires don’t arise within you or that you don’t do anything to bring about the manifestation of those desires… Still, while being in a state of nonresistance to what is, preferences and desires will arise within you. In other words, you can be in a state of nonresistance to what is, while still preferring peace in the world. You can still appreciate salt, while wanting something sweet in a given moment. It’s not that you can no longer recognize positive and negative or the negative inherent in positive or the positive inherent in negative. It does not condemn you to inertia. It’s not that by becoming ok with something, your desire vanishes. It’s also not that by becoming ok with something, that you suddenly accomplish nothing and change nothing in your life. Instead, your desires are not in control of you. Instead, the lack of resistance, causes you to take actions in the direction of what you want, without YOU not being ok. Without YOU being in pain. Essentially, when you do something, you don’t do something because YOU’RE not “ok” or because what is, is not ok.

Desire was never the problem. Desire never caused pain. It’s what we add to desire that causes us pain. What makes desire painful is thoughts like these: I can’t have what I desire.  I don’t deserve to have what I want.  I’m not good enough until I get this thing that I desire. If I don’t get what I want, I’ll never be happy. What causes pain is continuing to focus on what you don’t have or don’t like or don’t want after you have already given birth to the idea of what you do want. And most especially, what causes pain is the idea that you cannot feel good unless you get what you want or unless the things that happen perfectly match your preferences. 

People need to develop a much more dynamic relationship with desire. We need to engage with desire in a much more conscious way, rather than making preferences or desires the enemy. See desire as something that arises within you, against the backdrop of witness consciousness. Just like an emotion or a thought. See your attachment to the desire being your only way to be ok, as well as your resistance to what you don’t desire, as being the cause of your pain. See desire as what drives expansion. See that it will ever evolve and ever move forward and never stop. See that you will never get everything you could ever want, so that you never want more. See that you will always be in a place of dissatisfaction if your satisfaction is dependent on getting what you want or if it is dependent on the things that happen perfectly matching your preferences. But see the there is great joy to be found in the process of consciously bringing about what you desire. Happiness can be found in that process.

As you evolve, life unfolds, including your desires. You make decisions and take actions in the direction of what you want, but you can do so without that energy of suffering. Without pushing what is away or running away from what is. You came to participate in that process of expansion consciously. And accepting all of this, will make you even more effective at it… At seeing the right way, at making the right decisions, at taking the right actions, and at making positive changes. What changes, is that those preferences and choices come from a different place inside of you… A more objective place. 

I’m going to say this again, resolving your resistance to what is, does not zap away preference or desire. It does not inherently make you complacent or lazy or inactive or passive. You will have so much energy available to you in that state of nonresistance, that contrary to contemporary fears, you MUST direct it to something. You will still engage with what is. You will still make decisions. You will still take actions. In fact, you will have more energy to change things for the positive in your life and in the world. You will be compelled to serve and give to others. You will be much more of a conscious manifester. 

You are a co-creator here. You create the life around you. Your thoughts and decisions and actions bring about an effect. And at the same time, others are creating. And you have an ego that tells you that you are separate from them. This means you will experience things that happen as independent of you… As if you do not create the world around you. And so, the truth is both. You are creating what is and you are also experiencing what is, as it happens independently from the you that you call by your name. The more you go into resistance about those things that seem to happen independently of you, the worse off you will feel in life and the less effective you are at the process of conscious creation. There is value in both attracting and creating what is and also in surrendering to the experience of whatever is. Just like there is beauty and purpose for the ego. And also for transcendence of the ego.

You can learn to enjoy what is (surrender to and appreciation of what is), just like you can learn to enjoy putting your energy and decisions and actions into bringing about something (conscious manifestation of what you prefer). You will find that when your preferences and manifestations are no longer the result of trying to make the world something else, so that YOU can feel comfortable, your whole existence changes. Your preferences and desires either may or may not change. But they will absolutely come less from a place of determinism, and more from a place of free will/choice. You’re still going to be doing many of the things that everyone else is doing (hence the Buddhist concept of before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water). But for a different reason. And what manifests in our lives or within human society, or in the world, becomes very different as a result.

You don’t have to somehow rid yourself of desires in order to let go of resistance to anything that is. You can practice being in a state of nonresistance and even fall in love with what is, while also loving desire and practicing the conscious choice to manifest or bring about the desires that arise within you too. They are not actually an inherent contradiction.

So, now it’s your turn… Look at and work to release your resistance to this very concept!







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