1. Buddhist

When a Heart’s Desire Is Commandeered by the Ego

In seeking to live a life free of suffering, we learn to say “no” to the guidance of our ego-mind and look instead to our heart, our true Buddha self, for guidance.  Because any guidance coming from the heart will be pure, untainted by the ego-mind’s learned feelings and perceptions, we can count on it being in our best interest.  As the Buddha said, our true self would never cause us suffering.

But the fact that you are following your heart’s desire doesn’t mean you’re home free.  Beware.  If you approach a heart’s desire with a lack of equanimity or with an intent that is not skillful, you will form an attachment to it, it will become a craving, and so it will become an unskillful desire and you will suffer.

Let me give some examples.  You desire to help others, which certainly sounds like a heart’s desire.  But if it arises from the intent to create an image of oneself as being good, or if that intent attaches itself to the desire, then the desire becomes unskillful.  It is tainted and will cause you suffering.

Desiring to have friends is also a skillful desire.  But again, if it either arises from dissatisfaction with ones life as it is now, if one is running from what is … from loneliness … or if that lack of equanimity attaches itself to it, then the desire is unskillful. Whereas, if one is content with ones life as it is now, accepts that it’s just the way it is, and desires to have friends, then the desire is skillful.

In short, desires that are in furtherance of, or in keeping with, the five Precepts and are not tainted by unskillful origination or lack of equanimity are Right desires. They can and indeed should be acted upon for they move us along the path, they increase our happiness; they are skillful.

But things are not always so clear; beware that your ego does not play tricks on you.  For example, you may be having difficulty fulfilling guidance you’ve been given by your heart.  As a result, you feel that you are not being there for yourself, you are letting yourself down.   And it makes you feel a failure.

The original guidance may have been pure, there was no unskillful origination or lack of equanimity in the desire.  But you have received that guidance against a background of a lack of acceptance of your life as it is now.  And that lack of equanimity has attached itself to your heart’s desire.  Your ego-mind has commandeered it.

To ensure that one’s desires remain or become Right desires, it is essential that you truly accept your life as it is now. If your acceptance is self-deception, your desires will not be based in equanimity and will become cravings.  Since this is a major change in attitude for most of us, ideally one would hold off on acting on any desires until one was assured that one had embraced acceptance and had nothing but equanimity within one.  But since holding off till that point is not very realistic, one must be very mindful and at the first red flag of frustration or any other sign of attachment, stop and meditate on what is happening.

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