8 Ways to Cultivate A Relationship to Desire

coon lake

A desire of mine is to spend more time in the wilderness & I did this past weekend!

Desire as a theme has threaded its way through my life forever for the simple reason it’s one of my central life challenges – to know and cultivate what I want, without grasping and without denying.

To declare “I want this” whether this is… a lamb chop, to build mastery in a subject, to pick lettuce mindfully in the garden, to walk in the deep green woods instead of meditating, to lie in bed on a workday & read, to run inside and hug Bob just because.

To choose & then plunge all ten toes in, building focus and remaining steadfast in that choice.

To burn with the fire of desire and build a container for that fire, without dodging away into Shadow Comforts and Time Monsters (for me email!)

Lately, I’ve been down in the mouth about what a challenge desire is for me. I feel I have made little progress, and my life is being frittered away instead of doing what I truly want. Then this morning journaling, I had the loving thought that life challenges are aptly named because they are life longMy relationship to desire may be “learning me” for as long as I’m breathing. To want it to be different is a waste of energy & keeps me from knowing my desires.

What’s one of your life challenges? Can you have a smidgen of mercy for its shape and form in your life right now?

Here’s what else keeps me stuck around knowing what I want and taking action on it – I sincerely hope these insights will be of use to you.

  1. Thinking that knowing what you want means it will just happen – poof! Magic. Knowing is crucial; you gain a rush of energy when you claim what you want, and you have to keep claiming it over and over again. I knew I wanted to be with Bob and we had to work to make our relationship happen. When you fall in love at 45, it’s complicated. Then there was my own chasm of fear of being loved that I had to choose to walk away from. I kept choosing Bob, choosing love. Desire fuels commitment but doesn’t replace it. Does that resonate?
  2. Believing that knowing one desire makes it easier to say no to others. Clarity is stunningly beautiful and you still have to grieve being a human who can create / connect / build / love only so many ideas / projects/ people / causes in your life time. Skipping the grieving has kept me stuck in not choosing & cut me off from being intimate with new desires. How about you?
  3. Being petulant in your desires. “I want that so I shall have it!” I blush to admit I do this – often (Bob is nodding his head). Mature desire means knowing that wanting and getting aren’t the same thing, and that compromises and patience grease desire’s flywheel. How can you cultivate patience? (Do tell!)
  4. Confusing giving expression to a desire with its outcome. My greatest and most consistent heart’s desire is always, always to create – anything! all the time! – and yet because my creations rarely come out the way I envision, it’s easy for me to conclude my desires are misleading or not meant to be (I think this is where we get stuck looking for our life purpose as if knowing would make every desire work perfectly). To create is for me an unquenchable desire that has nothing to do with the outcome. (That’s why I’m co-creating the Creative Joy Retreat with Marianne Elliott and Tracey Clark, to make space for that heart’s desire to be tended for anyone who wants to join us. No outcomes! Lots of play!) What is your heart’s desire no matter what the outcome?
  5. Of course, it’s lovely to want your projects to be effective, to reach lots of people, and that is a separate desire. Which means learning to discern desires and choose between them. Which ones are most likely to bear the fruit of making you a good living, relieving poverty in your city or inspiring children to love movement?  This discernment takes time and requires hard choices. See grieving. Is it hard for you to choose? It is for me!
  6. Desire does not take kindly to being bullied or hurried. It goes into hiding. It is not your cheerful best friend (thanks Barb for being mine!) who puts up with you no matter what. When I run roughshod over desire because I am habituated to ticking things off the Mighty To-Do List, it goes silent and I suffer a huge loss of vitality.  What happens to you?
  7. Desire is not mood. Mood is fleeting, ever changing, affected by what you ate yesterday and your last attack of thoughts. Desire lives underneath mood. It burns and burbles there, waiting to be tended, to be listened to, to be attuned to. To do so might require shifting your mood through noticing your thoughts without believing them, drinking a cool glass of water, getting up from the desk and feeling life all around you, dancing, calling a friend who can listen to you vent for 5 minutes – in other words choosing “What do I want?” vs. “What am I in the mood for?” (I learned this from my friend Michael Neill.)
  8. Desire springs from your Buddha nature, your Christ heart, your innate well-being, the unstainable goodness that is you at your core. It helps you remember and know that being alive is the prize. Choosing life in your unique way by listening to your desires means you win the lottery a thousand times a day. How delicious is that?!

P.S. I have lots more to say about desire and I will here & at the Creative Joy Retreat – we will listen to it closely and together create a safe, strong container to do so. I’ll also touch on this in my writing workshop with the truly desire-filled Laurie Wagner (plus craft and time to write!) AND everyone coming to Taos this year, expect much desire to fuel your writing.



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Aubrey R - July 11, 2013

This is a great topic to chew on; thanks for addressing it. I’ve been lamenting lately how hard it seems to have what I really desire (quiet, solitude, travel) during this phase of my life (stay at home mom in the summertime. hello.) and also how I’m supposed to deny so many desires to accomplish weight loss. Acknowledging and finding space for my desires, somehow, feels key, and yet there are some truths that have to be faced, too.

    jenniferlouden - July 12, 2013

    Yes making space for desires that conflict is challenging! Patience and grieving, and holding both helps. You are engaged with it, that’s what matters!

Sara Macias - July 11, 2013

Hi Jen,
I just wanted to respond instead of thinking so much about my response. This post really resonated with me. Hope. Desire fuels hope. A hope of mine is to someday own a home–at least I think it is. Today it is to be a geologist. And I’m trying to husband a creative home in a rental with a loving husband and first child who is almost seven months old. I feel so much in the midst of so much of my own desire and see the need to be patient so that I can be present. This can be tough for me who holds so so much desire. Just thank you. I will be sitting with this post for the next weeks or so.

    jenniferlouden - July 12, 2013

    thanks for saying so Sara!! It can be tough to hold so much desire, I know exactly what you mean. I believe we have to build a container for it, with our bodies and breath and our patience and our discernment – whew, tall order but one worth living into!

Tricia Bath - July 14, 2013

Wow Jen, as always, your insights seem to come into my life when I need them most. #1 and #2 are great reminders for me. They speak to the impatience I often hold in my chest when I am buoyed by desire. For me, it’s hard to hold so many emotions at once; I end up reliving childhood tantrum moods and then diving into shame afterwards. It all comes back to being kind and understanding with ourselves. Being willing to understand that self-care evolves and changes just as we do, I believe.

    jenniferlouden - July 14, 2013

    yes it is hard for me too, so I end up doing something like eat sugar “because I want to” and then crash. It’s challenging to be with it all! hugs!

Body Image Boosters From The Blogosphere 7.14.13 | Weightless - July 14, 2013

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Karen Talavera - August 7, 2013

Hi Jen and thank for doing some much-needed myth-busting and clarifying around this topic! I’ve pondered desire (it’s nature, it’s purpose, yadda yadda) for so long and eventually came to the conclusion a year or two ago that its greatest value in life is as fuel (rocket fuel for life, if you will).

When I used to think of desire as a guiding sign and connect it to “purpose” I would get stuck in lots of ways (I’m feeling this so strongly that I must be meant to do “x” and not what I’ve been doing . . .) Then down the proverbial rabbit whole I would go. I wonder if you or others have found that as well? Sometimes that line of thinking might be true but then again, even acting on a desire does not necessarily make the dream life magically appear over night, right? Action and persistence are still required for things to be made manifest in 3D reality and may be the truest gauge of the *depth* of desire, because I’ve also found that some desires wane shortly after pursuit.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d do anything *I really love* (which is also the stuff that either brings me the greatest happiness OR that I’m most afraid of OR – no surprise – both!) were it not for desire, so for the catalyst it is I am grateful and find more joy in going with it than trying to figure it out. Your points about choosing, though, shine an important light, for if we want to see desire *manifested into reality* we must exercise our powers of discernment. Learning to do so is an exercise I continue to be happy to have the chance to practice.

Finally, I wish you and Bob an incredible wedding celebration and an even more incredible marriage. I still can’t believe when I met you you had just met Bob so this flowering of your relationship is mighty inspiring for those of us following from afar. Many blessings to you both.

    jenniferlouden - August 12, 2013

    Love the idea of rocket fuel and yes, desire attached to purpose or making money gets so messy. Have you ever read Opening to Desire by Mark Epstein? My favorite book on the subject. Outcome has nothing to do with desire, that is where we get graspy. In the end, “What do I want?” becomes the fuel to help me navigate past fears and “moods” toward what I love. Thanks for the love wishes too!

      Karen Talavera - August 12, 2013

      No I haven’t read it but thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely check it out. It’s an opportune time in my life to explore this a bit deeper and anything that will help me “detach from outcome” is a quite welcome.

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