Disentangling Desire

“I’m not available for that”, he said. We were sitting in his car outside my apartment, talking about desire. What I wanted, and what he wanted (or in this case didn’t). We’d been dating for a few months, and I could feel the longing in me growing – for deeper, more intimate, more revealing sex, honesty, and connection. Of course, that evening, the truth he shared was what I knew all along. 

The next day I was talking to an old friend. She reminded me of something I’ve been known to say in classes. “It’s ok to feel the longing. Allow yourself to feel it fully.”

Oh yes, old friend desire.

As contradictory as it seems, this willingness to feel desire, to disentangle it from its object and experience its essence without an intermediary, is the path out of obsession, craving, and wanting without having. It’s a practice of fine needlework – thread by thread seeing the ties that attach desire to a person or object, and tracing them back to their source as raw sensation and power within.

Now, this isn’t about making the things we desire wrong. Or denying the reality of wanting something or someone in particular. It’s about becoming intimate with desire in its most potent and unconditioned form, and in that growing our capacity to work with it consciously, mindfully.

“Why am I drawn to this person?”, I asked myself. “What do I enjoy about him? What do I like in the connection between us?” I sat with those questions and allowed the answers to reveal themselves. I kept what was revealed — the qualities, experiences and feelings I loved. I felt the pulsing aliveness of them inside of my body. Then, like separating wheat from the chaff, I slowly released “him” from the picture. He was an intermediary between me and this feeling; the feeling was mine, he was not. And as he was less and less the focus, I could sit with the immediacy of it. It’s a sensational intimacy to be that close to pure desire. It just may be the reason we place unavailable people and things between us and it, to soften the intensity.

To practice in this way cultivates our capacity to be with intense sensation, and to maintain awareness as we do. It’s a living meditation that shows us we don’t need to shy away from desire (or any challenging emotion); we can be free in feeling it fully, in all its forms.