All of creation arises from desire. Was is not desire that created this entire world we live in? I know that it is from desire that I write novels, essays, poetry, and songs. It is a result of my desires that I paint pictures, photograph nature scenes and wildlife, and make love. Desire builds bridges and buildings, corporations and institutions. Whatever has come into being has gotten here as a direct result of desire. Yet we learn from Buddhism that all suffering arises from attachment to desire. So how do we desire without falling into the trap of attaching ourselves to the desire and thereby causing ourselves and others untold suffering? How do we desire and let go of the object/subject of the desire at the same time? Therein lies the paradox.
An example of fulfilling our desires without attachments could be the writer who writes because she/he cannot help but write. I have always tried to write what I would want to read and what I want to say. I may have an audience in mind, but I don't change what I write because I am concerned that it won't be acceptable to someone in that audience. Do I desire to be commercially successful with my writing? You bet I do, but I don't write with an attachment to the commercial end of it. If I did, it would take away not only the joy of the writing, but the purity of the writing act. I don't write because I want you to like me for it. I don't write because I want to become a millionaire. I write because that's what I do. That's who I am. I write because words and ideas and the DESIRE to express them arise from the depths of my soul and, like a fountain, bubble forth and splash onto others. If you don't like me for what I write, then the result is that you don't like me for what I write. Nothing else. I don't curl up and die over that, and I certainly don't stop writing because of it. The fountain will not cease to flow and run over. It continues to recirculate, to renew itself constantly because it does not depend on the end result for its renewal. It relies on the source, the desire itself. It does not become attached to anything else. In the writing, there is also release.
The same should be true of a love relationship. Do you love someone or do something for someone so they will love you in return? I hope not. That is the kind of conditional love that will fall apart as soon as the conditions cease to be met. You should love without requiring love to be returned and give because your life is so full that you want to share without thought of reciprocation. If love is reciprocated, then that is wonderful and a deep blessing indeed, and a relationship of mutual loving is born. This kind of relationship is like the fountain that is continuously renewed. In the loving, there is also release.
So how do we go about desiring without attaching ourselves to our desires? I think here we need to think in terms of the end result of our desires. That, I feel, is where the potential for attachment lies. We may have a pure desire that is good in itself, but if we attach ourselves to the end result of the desire, then we fall into suffering. We give and instead of releasing the act to go wherever it will, yielding whatever harvest it will yield, we try to control the end result. That is attachment. That is the road to suffering.
To avoid attachment to the end result, we have to maintain awareness. When we slip into unconscious living, we more easily fall into the trap of attachment, of wanting something in exchange for something, tit for tat. We want to decide on the outcome of our actions. But if we focus on the source, the original desire, to fill us, then we can move through our lives loving and releasing, giving and releasing in a way that we can't if we are worried about who is giving or loving back. If we allow the desire (the writing, the loving, the giving, etc.) to go forth into the world on its own terms, simply allowing it to have whatever results it will have, then we are yielding to our hearts' true desire and living according to our inborn purpose, while letting go of any control over the end result. I'm willing to bet that the more each of us lives according to the desires of our hearts, without attaching ourselves to the outcome, the more we will reap a harvest of blessing.
Beth Mitchum is the author of five novels, one collection of poetry, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: