Niki Saccareccia is a teacher at Wanderlust Hollywood. Come practice, listen, taste, learn, and gather with us at our new center.
It is 2015, and “desire” is still a dirty word. It’s associated with addiction, habit, and indulgence. To be desirous is to effectively be out of conscious control. When many of us are trying to lead enlightened lives, what could be worse?
Desire breeds suffering; we’ve appropriated this traditional Eastern adage in an American culture of materialism and entrepreneurial spirit. As yogis in the West, how can we relate to our desire in order to keep the peace?
I recently befriended an 86-year-old woman, whom I call “Grandma.” She and her family were exiled from Iran when she was a young child; her father inadvertently rallied an anti-government movement to the reigning monarchy. She went on to lead an eclectic, impassioned life as an activist in the Women’s Liberation Movement. She also marched behind Martin Luther King Jr., and put herself through university in the 1950s behind the back of her misogynistic husband. She mothered one child, adopted another, became a widow, and lost a son. She moved across the country at 83 after nearly dying from a broken hip. She went back to college last year because she wanted to learn more about math. She wrote an award-winning novel about her life, and is an international role model for Middle Eastern women who dream of political freedom.
We often lunch together.
When I tell Grandma about my ambitious side projects and personal dreams, she encourages me—often telling me not to settle. Seeing in me the spark of spirit that has lived long in her for nearly a century, she explains that desires must be fulfilled before peace can enter us. She tells me to do this while I am still young.
Ambition is the spirit of youth. Our greatest wisdom teachers across cultures remind us to embody the sweetness of youth, the childlike mind that is at once joyful and filled with hope. Having the want for something more, or different, or better than our current situation is not altogether a rejection of the present. To have desire is to tap this wellspring of childlike spirit.
We feel in our bodies how conscious action is made manifest by the intention we set at the beginning of a yoga practice. These desires are sometimes lofty: conquering a posture we once envied in the practice of our mat neighbor. These desires are sometimes minute: getting to class early enough to grab our favorite spot in the room. Remaining mindful about the spirit of our desire and exerting our intention to manifest what was born in the heart of creativity, is a testimony to the “shakti spirit” of yoga’s folklore. It is the creative life force put into action.
Our lives pass quickly, and growing old is not meant for the weak nor pessimistic. Like all great spiritual leaders remind us, regret and fear will tear us apart. The school of psychology agrees: To suppress or dismiss our desires is to create stress. Desires left unfulfilled, or worse, ignored, will rustle and stir us. To postpone desire is to exert a caliber of civility that siphons out the very spirit of it.
So, what if we just enjoy the desiring?
Grandma tells me that if death were to come to her tomorrow, she would be ready. Aging has confirmed that her life’s choices align with her spirit: bold, unapologetic, and eclectic. As she comes into the last chapter of her life, I am hardly in my first. In our contrasting point of views, we agree that living well requires the confidence to act out our personal will.
As long as we house desire, the itinerant spirit of youth will define us. This inspired itch to create our lives will continue on until it is expressed. Just as our practice ends with corpse pose, living out our ambitions can fulfill and empty us, until we are truly ready to settle down for good.
Once we have tried for all that we want to make in this life, once we have accomplished our desires, then we can rest without regret. Then we can rest without worry. Then peace may enter us and invite us into the wise space of stillness.
Photo via iStock
Niki Saccareccia (E-500) is an author and Clinical Behavior Therapist. Niki’s insight into personal transformation is a unique and rare blend of methods from Western Psychology and Eastern Wisdom Traditions. Her approach is practical and concise, blending the best elements of alignment and mindfulness teachings into her classes. For more about Niki, visit www.lightinsideyoga.com.