I wish that we all have a genie who would at our command fulfil all our desires. We all have a nice house, good health, caring family and friends and we should be able to spend time on our passion. We all have lots of money through which we can purchase anything that we want. We all visit tourist places in the world. Our kids go to the best school and they keep us happy all the time. We have servants so that we don’t have to work. We have a swimming pool and gym in our own house. We have all the latest gadgets for our entertainment. Did I miss anything out of your bucket list?
I am sure I might have missed a whole lot of things which you think would make you happy. We all have many desires and we work day and night to fulfil them. I am doing it myself. I personally see it as growth. Sometimes I also feel bad for those who are not working to fulfil their desires. I have achieved many goals in life and have fulfilled many desires and yet I have never felt satisfied. One desire is over and another pops up. It feels like there is a factory of desires in our mind which never stop producing. It is true that we will never be able to fulfil all our desires and to think we can, will only bring misery to us. Let’s accept that we don’t have a genie but we have something else that can help us.
The practice of Non-attachment is a must on the path of Yoga. I believe that it is quite useful for people who are not on the path of spirituality as well. After all, what we desire is happiness. Study shows that the top reasons behind sadness are related to unfulfilled desires. We can see two opposite ways here. In a first way, we continue to try to pursue our desires and try till we are dead. In a second way, we can identify what are the real needs of life and only work towards that and feel content when we achieve them. We can overcome remaining desires with the practice of non-attachment.
Non-attachment is the exercise of discrimination. We gradually gain control of the painful thought waves forcing us to run after desires. Discrimination helps us identify what is right and what is wrong based on the knowledge we possess. The process involves asking questions to ourselves: “Why do I really desire that object? What permanent advantage or satisfaction will I get from possessing it? In what way would its possession help me towards the greater knowledge and freedom?” This exercise in no way should turn into procrastination but should work towards utilizing our resources to achieve the highest in life.
The practice of non-attachment will be possible with a calm mind. Our non-attachment is put to test when the mind is suddenly swept by a huge wave of anger or lust or greed. We all have experienced this when a certain desire overpowers us and the only thing we think is how to fulfil it. We hardly question if I am moving towards my ultimate goal or I am moving away. We can overcome this only by a determined effort of will power which will remind us that this is transient and superficial. Our real nature is not these emotions but that of freedom.
Non-attachment may come slowly. But we can feel the freedom and peace in its earliest stages. It should never be practised as austerity or self-torture. You might realize that this will give meaning to our daily routine. As we progress towards the self-mastery, we realize that we are not sacrificing or renouncing anything that we really need or want. We are only freeing ourself from imaginary needs and desires.
The Highest Goal
With the practice of non-attachment, we need to be focused on our highest goal in life. If I talk in terms of spirituality, then it would be realizing the self. However, if you are not on that path, you can decide your own goal which helps you in living a purposeful and meaningful life. It definitely cannot be to enjoy the small pleasures of life. Instead, it should be the one which will get you to the ultimate bliss, permanent happiness. If you are an atheist, then you can keep your goal to serve humanity. You can also desire to be a loving human being.
The idea is that we increase our awareness of what is temporary and what is everlasting. Isn’t it wise to spend our life and energy to achieve something permanent, something that will give us the ultimate bliss? All these small pleasures that we achieve while fulfilling our desires are merely tiny parts of that permanent happiness. I prefer a balanced way. I have kept my goals or desires which once satisfy will help me in achieving my highest goal. This allows me to get rid of many non-essential desires. We may not fulfil all our desires but we can keep the ones that will help us find true freedom and peace.