Closing the endless loop of desire
All of the life experiences play out on the bed of the nervous system, which is an extensive network of fine filamentous structures that reach every cell in the human body. It is a closed loop, with nerve fibers originating and terminating in the brain. The mind mirrors the health of the nervous system. Just by looking at the movements of the hands and feet when someone is seated, for example, we can infer whether the mind is calm or not. When the mind is very active, it seeks physical expression. When the mind is quiet, the body is also allowed rest.
Desires are significant triggers for the mind’s activity. They originate in the mind, and the footprint of the mind enlarges through desire. We are not entirely forthcoming with our desires, either to ourselves or to the world. There are many hidden desires we would like to pursue. There are others we try to suppress. Both the pursuit of desires and their suppression result in an expansion of the mind. Continuing with and realizing our aspirations may not always lead to contentment. Once we taste something we enjoy, we seek more of it. When desires are suppressed, they don’t just disappear. They linger in the conscious mind. Consciously or unconsciously we cover them up by amplifying other desires. Even though we may think we are pursuing more suitable and beneficial desires, the process of desiring does not change even though the object may be different. As long as the process of desiring remains, the mind has work to do, and its existence becomes justified.
Behind the scenes, the mind coordinates closely with the brain and the nervous system which are involved in the genesis of activity linked to a desire that is prevalent in the mind. Through the nervous system, the mind accumulates emotional wealth. This wealth is very tenuous and needs to be topped off regularly. At any given point in time, there are several open desires. More such unfulfilled desires, greater is the drain on our emotional wealth.
When a desire crops up in the mind, that energy is quickly transferred to the nervous system. Unless the sense organs bring in information which is then translated into an experience that matches the desire, we feel unfulfilled. Once a desire leaves the mind, it’s energy wanders through the nervous system until the expected experience nullifies it. This wandering energy related to desire is felt like a gross or subtle restlessness, which persists till the loop is closed through fruition of that desire. It would be simple if we had just one or a few desires. But that is not the case. There are thousands of open desires awaiting fulfillment. During our waking hours, their energies are continually moving through the nervous system. At night when we sleep, those energies ebb only to regain their restless movements through the nervous system when we wake up.
Once desires are fulfilled, there is momentary enjoyment of that experience. Desires and the work involved in bringing them to fruition are quickly forgotten. We can foster contentment by not forgetting the multitude of desires we have worked on in the past. When we gain in contentment, it becomes easier to look at the futility of the endless pursuit of desires. We trade valuable time, which never comes back to us, in the chase of momentary pleasures.
Desires are a fundamental part of our being, generating happiness when they are fulfilled, and varying degrees of misery until they are sated. Our focus generally is on the end product of desire which is happiness. This focus on the result generates a lot of activity in the senses and nervous system. Open desires awaiting fulfillment feed the arm of the nervous system that is responsible for the fear response. Once the loop of any desire is closed, it strengthens the arm of the nervous system responsible for relaxation, as evidenced by the sense of quiet relief once a desire is sated and the nervous fear when it remains open.
The role of desire isn’t just to propagate the mind and make life more interesting. The human instrument has taken millions of years of change and improvement to get to its present state. With such an extensive investment of time into R & D, existence would not waste the human instrument by giving us desires that burn time for no great cause. There is a little used and overlooked purpose of desire, a bridge which takes us from one plane of consciousness to another, going from the gross sensory perceptions to the subtle extrasensory realm. Whether we know it or not, we are all seeking a transit from the gross to the subtle. The quest for happiness is evidence. Happiness is a deep-seated feeling that transcends desire. Fulfilling desires can lead to joy, albeit temporary, but there is a form of joy that remains forever which we cannot obtain through desire. Whether we realize it or not, each one is in search of that through his or her way.
In ordinary waking consciousness, our awareness is on the plane of the senses which are quite adept at perceiving the material world. We are accustomed to a transactional awareness that uses desire as a currency. It is hard to imagine a world without monetary currency. Similarly, it is hard to imagine a state of awareness where there is no influence of desire. When desires become the instrument for experiencing pleasure, they keep us trapped in the material world. But the same energy of desire can be pointed away from the material realm to a more subtle plane that the senses cannot reach. For desires to function as a bridge to a more subtle field of consciousness, we must first delink desire with happiness or misery. It is we who link desire with joy or sadness.
The orientation of desire determines where our awareness ultimately travels, downwards towards the earthly realm or upwards towards the spiritual. Up or down does not indicate superiority or inferiority respectively, it is merely the direction awareness takes. If one is happy with the cycle of desire and its fruition and is fulfilled by those experiences, there is nothing wrong with it. However, time is not an asset that lasts forever. At some point, each of us will run out of time. Hence the urgency to gain access to the universe of the subtle before we cross the bridge of life.
We can explore the relative direction of awareness, up (spiritual) or down (material) with regards to the states of matter and the five elements (solids, liquids, fire, air, and space). This comparison may help with the understanding of the orientation of awareness downward towards the world and upwards to the spiritual.
In the physical world we live in, the arrangement of the five elements (solids, liquids, fire, air, and space) demonstrate a stepwise progression from the gross to the subtle. We stand on solid ground. Solid matter forms the base and the foundation upon which the world exists. The solid nature of our skeletal system supports the rest of the body. We perceive solid matter through sight, touch, taste, smell, and we hear the movement. Even the expression, “solid evidence” refers to incontrovertible proof. Perception of solid matter is proof of the gross plane of existence.
Pure water is the quintessential liquid element which is more subtle than solid matter. We can perceive water through sight, touch, and we can hear water flowing. Pure water has no taste or smell. Then comes the fire element. We can see and touch fire, but we cannot taste or hear it; fire does not have a scent, we smell whatever fire burns. Then comes the air element. We can listen to the wind when it is blowing, and we feel its presence as it touches our skin. We can see space, but it cannot be tasted, smelled, heard or touched.
We can infer, from this arrangement of the five elements, that going from the gross to the subtle, the senses are less able to perceive these elements. When awareness points in the direction of the world, satisfaction from the fulfillment of desires is maximum when all five senses can be involved. Hence we seek to fructify our desires through material possessions which are solid, static and can easily be perceived. When awareness turns towards the spiritual, the senses can become distracting. The senses cannot perceive the essence of spirituality which is oneness.
In our material existence, we look for a return on any investment we may make in the form of holding money in a bank, buying property and other assets. We look for both short and long term gain. However, we overlook the most significant investment we make, and that how we use our time. The pursuit of desires eats away at the time we have, and what we get in return in the form of momentary pleasures does not equate to our investment in the form of time. Knowing the value of time will significantly aid in quickly closing the loop of desires, not through suppression but benign neglect. The pull of desires will wither and leave our nervous system, which can then relax. As the nerves relax, the mind calms, and we can allow beneficial loop can continue while we work on permanently freeing our awareness from entrapment within the mind.