We long for resolution. We long for life to wrap itself in the pretty package of a happy ending. Sometimes we seek fulfillment from material things, sometimes spiritual, sometimes from life itself: Falling in love, finalizing the divorce, having a baby, finishing the degree, finding the perfect job, retiring. We want the future to hurry up and arrive so that we don’t have to bear the pain of waiting for it.
However, even when we finally get what we have been chasing, the satisfaction from that is only temporary. Our minds quickly whisk us into further longing. As a great teacher of mine once said:
Satisfying desire only leads to more desire.
Caught in the trap of desire, we are dulled by fantasy, so we are no longer invested in present reality. Yet, if instead of spinning out into the dream, we open our hearts to the tension of unfulfilled desire in this ever-present moment, we can have, in the present, the joy we have loaned to the future.
The Art of Being Fully Alive
Being fully alive is being awake in the midst of the life, even through those difficult, prickly sensations we try and avoid. We sometimes assume that only with proper circumstances will we feel ease and joy. We spend endless time and energy fixing our outer world, in the hope that that will fix our inner world. And yet, it simply doesn’t work. We must find the willingness to work with our circumstances as they are right now. In fact, unanswered desire is where life itself is lived.
The French use the phrase, ‘la petite mort,’ or ‘the little death,’ to refer to orgasm. The orgasm is the moment of fulfillment, the release of both the tension and connection of desire. Climax is the satisfaction, yet also marks the end-point, the moment of separation. The release of dynamic tension is a death. Our hope for satisfaction is ultimately the wish to cease to exist right now. Not only do we lose right now, but we also end up hurrying to the grave.
While we are alive we are embodied, and desire is in some way our natural state. Though we can choose how we act, whether we follow desire or not, we can’t just shut down our desires inside ourselves, as that cuts us off from our own vital energy. What we can do is embrace our longings, without necessarily acting on them. We can rest without the belief that their satisfaction will somehow solve our human dilemma. When we hope for some other reality, we forget to taste life as it is, unfiltered, in this very moment of fresh wide-open possibility.