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Desiring is wanting what is not presently true,
or real. If it were true, or real, you wouldn’t
need to desire it. Inherent in desiring is a
feeling of lack—of something missing. Also
inherent in it is the feeling, or belief, that
if that were not lacking, you would be happy.
We long for what we don’t have because
we believe that having it will finally bring
us peace and happiness. We don’t realize
that the lack of peace and happiness we are
feeling is actually a result of desiring what
we don’t have. The desire is the cause
of our unhappiness, not the fact that the desire
When we examine this, this seems so obvious.
Desire is painful. We suffer because we believe
we are lacking something necessary for our happiness.
That is a very sad (and untrue!) story, but it
is essentially everyone’s story. Everyone
feels this way because the mind is programmed
to be unhappy with whatever is happening. No
matter what is happening, the mind comes up with
complaints about it or ways to improve on it.
That is its job. That is what it is programmed
to do, and it does it very well.
This situation is painful for two reasons:
It is painful to not have what you want, but
it is also painful to discover that there is
no end to wanting, even after you do get what
you want. What we really want is the peace that
comes from no longer wanting. We hope to experience
peace and happiness once and for all by getting
what we want. However, peace and happiness are
not achieved by getting but by loving
what is, just the way it is. We
are so afraid that if we love what is we will
never get what we want, when that has been the
secret to happiness all along!
Loving what is would seem to be the simplest
thing possible. It involves no effort, no struggle,
no longing, and no disappointment. But loving
what is goes against our programming, so it is
difficult. It requires vigilance to counteract
the egoic mind’s automatic rejection and
resistance to whatever is happening. To experience
the peace and happiness that exist in this moment,
it is necessary to stop listening to the egoic
mind, which undermines this peace and happiness
with complaints and judgments. These are the
tactics it uses to take us out of the present
and into its world of desires, hopes, and dreams.
It woos us with fantasies of a more perfect world,
a more perfect mate, a more perfect experience,
and a more perfect you, all of which are unreal
and will never be real.
Your fantasies, dreams, and desires don’t
create reality or even reflect reality accurately,
although they do affect your experience of
it. When you are focused on your desires,
dreams, and fantasies, you are not experiencing
this moment, and you are missing out on the
real richness, peace, and happiness that are
right here, right now.
The Nature of
Most of us assume that our dreams are meant
to be fulfilled. We believe that our dreams are
meaningful and have a purpose. They spur us to
take action, but is the goal—the dream—a
worthy one? We assume so, or why would we have
it? Like every other thought, we assume that
our dreams are true and meaningful. We believe
in our dreams, and they define us to some extent: “I
am someone who wants….” Our dreams
shape our choices and our actions. They shape
The problem with assuming that our dreams are
meaningful and that they will make us happy is
that dreams and the desires that make them up
are just thoughts, most of which come from the
egoic mind, which is not so wise about what will
make us happy. We assume that our dreams are
our personal prescription for happiness, and
that just isn’t so.
Dreams are just not that important. It
is an illusion that our dreams are meaningful.
Just because we have a dream doesn’t
mean it is meant to be fulfilled. Everyone
has dreams, and many people have similar ones.
They are part of our programming as humans
and not meaningful messages from “above.” They
are messages from the egoic mind, but that
is hardly a worthy guide for our lives.
This doesn’t mean there are no true
dreams that do have meaning for us; however,
these don’t come in the form of specific
images. Essence, our deeper self, releases
impulses to create something in the world,
but the specifics of how it will look are not
given ahead of time by essence—or even
known. Any specific image you have is generated
by the mind, as it attempts to foretell and
affect what will happen. The mind doesn’t
like uncertainty, so it makes up a complete
image and pretends that that is how it will
be—or should be. This image may have
little to do with what essence intends, and
it has the potential of sidetracking or shaping
the end result, but essence allows this. Thus,
the manifestation of every dream is usually
a co-creation between the egoic mind and essence.
Although many believe that holding an idea
in your mind long enough and strongly enough
will cause it to manifest, this simply isn’t
true. If this were true, then many more people
would have exactly what they wanted and imagined.
We all know that getting what we want isn’t
as easy as that, and even when we do get what
we want, it doesn’t look exactly like we
imagined. It is impossible for anyone to imagine
something exactly as it will be, and yet many
feel they have failed because they haven’t
been able to manifest what they have imagined.
The mind comes to some very irrational conclusions
at times, and the idea that you can get what
you want by holding the thought of it in your
mind is not only irrational but contrary to all
evidence. Nevertheless, the egoic mind clings
to this belief because it wants this to be true
because this would give it some sense of control
in a world where the ego, in fact, has very little.
Rather than delivering the desired result, this
strategy brings suffering because it is ineffective
and people tend to blame themselves when it fails.
However, if they looked around, they would see
that no one else is succeeding with this strategy
either. But the ego doesn’t encourage such
a rational approach because it doesn’t
want the falseness of this cherished belief exposed.
The ego wants you to believe that it can get
you what you want. It wants you to believe that
it is a worthy and trustworthy ally so that you
will continue to turn to it. If you didn’t
believe in the egoic mind’s ability to
guide and assist you, it would be out of a job,
and it wants to exist in its current capacity,
even though it fails miserably at bringing you
Dreams Are Not Meaningful
The belief that our desires and dreams are
meaningful is a core assumption we rarely question.
We can’t become free from the domination
of the egoic mind without questioning this core
assumption because desires and dreams are key
thoughts, which keep us tied to the egoic mind
and keep us busy with plans for getting what
we want. They also generate a majority of our
feelings: When our desires and dreams are getting
met, we are happy and confident; when they aren’t,
we are unhappy, sad, angry, ashamed, and fearful.
We don’t like it when we are not getting
what we want because this results in feelings
we don’t like. In particular, we feel powerless
and afraid. We feel that if our desires and dreams
are meaningful, then we should be able to attain
them. If we aren’t able to, we feel we
have failed at something important. We feel as
if our life is going wrong—or worse: We
are afraid we will never have the life we want,
and that will mean we are doomed to unhappiness,
failure, and shame—forever.
We take our desires and dreams very personally.
This assumption that they are meaningful implies
that they are personally meaningful, that they
are specially made for us. If we aren’t
able to attain them (preferably immediately),
we feel ashamed, as if we failed at a mission
we were given. We feel betrayed by life and by
ourselves. We thought we were powerful enough
to make life happen our way, and now we see we
aren’t. That is a blow to the ego, which
assumes that it is that powerful. This humbles
us, which is a good thing because it shows us
the truth: We are not the one in control of our
destiny. We co-create alongside something else
that is shaping our life.
It can take many experiences of the failure
of our dreams before we begin to catch on that
maybe our dreams are not true. Maybe other
things are more important than them. Maybe
the dashing of our dreams and what is learned
from that is more valuable than the fulfillment
of any dream.
Having our dreams dashed forces us to see that
life goes on, and it goes on as it always has:
unpredictably and in a way that is beyond our
control. Having dreams and desires gives us a
story line, a sense of destiny, while life is
never that clear. We don’t really know
where our lives are going, but having desires
and dreams gives us a script, so we think we
know: The plan is to fulfill our desires. This
plan, however, was created by the ego, and it
doesn’t really know what life intends for
us. It doesn’t know essence’s plan
or even that there is a plan beyond its desires.
It is convinced its desires and dreams are what
life is all about, and we believe it.
Having desires and dreams gives the ego something
to do. It gives our life structure. What will
I do today? I’ll go after what I want.
End of story. No need for further questioning.
They also keep us focused on the mental world,
where plans are made for getting what we want
and fantasies are created, which drive those
plans forward. All this mental activity keeps
our attention off the deeper questions and gives
us a pseudo reason for being. It would be one
thing if this strategy brought us happiness,
but its lack of success at doing this eventually
causes us to question the value of our desires.
If life isn’t about desire-fulfillment,
then what is it about?
The ego has no answer for this, but essence
does. Essence’s answer, however, doesn’t
come in words. Its answer is released in the
moment, as essence moves us forward toward more
meaningful activities, ones that don’t
necessarily fulfill our desires and dreams but
fulfill us on deeper levels.
You will never be free of having desires,
but you can be free from the need to have your
desires met. We suffer not because we have
desires but because we feel we have to have
them met . It is possible to have as many
desires as you have always had but not suffer
over them. We suffer over them because we believe
they are essential to our happiness. This belief
is actually what causes our suffering.
For most, the solution to the suffering caused
by desiring what you don’t have is trying
to get it. Consequently, many spend their lives
going after what they want, which is what they
believe they need to be happy. But there is another
solution to this problem of desiring what you
don’t have, and that is to see it for what
it is: Desire is just the thought “I want….” Can
a thought cause suffering? Yes, if you agree
with it. Who is this I that wants?
When you see that the I is the ego
and not who you really are, it puts wanting in
perspective. Wanting is forever coming out
of the ego. If you give your attention to it,
you will be chasing one desire after another. The
ego is in the business of manufacturing desires.
There is no real rhyme or reason to what it desires;
it wants one thing and then another. Often, it
wants opposite things (e.g. “I want a relationship
and I want to be independent”). It wants
whatever it thinks of or whatever it sees. It
is easy to see the ego at work in small children
in stores: “I want that. I want that. I
want that!” People are designed to want.
It is automatic and not meaningful.
Once you are able to separate yourself from
this I and see how undiscriminating,
random, and constant the ego’s wanting
is, you gain some distance from your desires,
and there is freedom in that. You can be more
objective about them. They no longer seem like
they belong to you, and that makes them less
compelling. What makes the “I want” so
compelling is that it is happening inside you,
so you identify with it and believe you do want
that—and need that to be happy.
Once you have some distance from this I, you
are free to choose whether to listen to it or
not. You are more able to evaluate the desire
and come to a conclusion about it yourself. Sometimes
desires are worth listening to, or at least harmless.
The desire for some ice cream, for instance,
or for some other pleasure, can bring enjoyment
if it is not indulged in too often.
Giving Your Attention to Essence
It is exhausting to be wanting so constantly
and so strongly. If you give a lot of attention
to the ego’s wanting, it increases, and
so does your suffering. By giving the ego’s
wanting less attention, you decrease your suffering.
Then, it is possible to give your attention to
something more rewarding: essence. When
your attention is being given to the ego’s
wanting, it is not being given to something more
fulfilling and true. Shifting your attention
from the ego’s wanting to essence not only
lessens your suffering but increases your peace,
contentment, joy, and happiness. That is a good
The peace, joy, happiness, and contentment
of essence are right here, right now, but we
overlook them because we pay attention to the
loud and noisy mind and its demands: “I
want!” They get our attention not only
because they are so loud in comparison to essence,
but because they are so insistent and full of
fear. The ego tells a story that makes its desires
feel urgent and important: “You may not
survive, and you certainly won’t be happy
unless….” The fear that is stirred
up fuels action, but it is painful to have this
as a motivator.
Copyright © 2007
Excerpted from Anatomy of Desire: How to
Be Happy Even When You Don’t Get What
You Want by Gina Lake.
Gina Lake has a Masters
degree in Counseling Psychology and over twenty
years experience supporting people in their spiritual
growth. She is also the author of several other
books on spirituality, including: Radical
Happiness, Living Your Destiny, Return to Essence,
Getting Free, and Choosing
Gina is available for
astrological and channeled phone consultations
that support spiritual awakening. For more information
about her consultations, to read book excerpts,
to listen to satsang talks online, to sign up
for a free newsletter, or to download Radiance:
Experiencing Divine Presence for
free, visit http://www.radicalhappiness.com.
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