“What would I like to have with me if I were deserted on an island?”
I went to work – my mind began racing, trying to find the one item I would want the most when I am alone and deserted in an island.
Picking one item is hard.
Internet connection and a laptop. Scratch that — a kindle. No, how about an iPad? That could give me books and the ability to do other cool things. How about a grill or any other kitchen item to help me prepare meals? No, I have to have my mattress – I could be stranded for months together.
Then I saw the folly of this line of thinking.
I was entering the rabbit hole where the concept of ‘enough’ doesn’t exist.
Not unlike the real world.
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want — Naval Ravikant
We live in an age with comforts that our ancestors couldn’t have dreamed of having.
Yet, few of us stop to actively be happy with what we have. People are depressed at alarmingly high rates.
Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?
If I had to identify the problem in two words, I would venture the following: More desires.
Desire is a Fire Which Gets Stoked When Fulfilled
The Mahabharata gives a powerful lesson through the life of Yayati.
Yayati was cursed to become prematurely old. The curse had a proviso: if Yayati could find anyone to trade places with, Yayati would regain his youth, and the other person would become old. Filled with the lust for satisfying desires, Yayati traded places with his youngest son Puru. Yayati spent the next 1000 years pursuing all kinds of sense pleasures.
After 1000 years of enjoyment, he gave back the youth to Puru and got back his old age.
Yayati made a startling statement.
Desires are like a fire and satisfying them is like adding fuel to fire.
If you felt that satisfying desires is the organic way to transcend them, Yayati tells you that you are mistaken.
The way to transcend desires is by recognizing their true nature and not by satisfying them.
Transcending desire is a monumental achievement.
Contentment is Underrated
You can be a billionaire and remain dissatisfied.
Or you can be contented with what you have.
Authors Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were enjoying each other’s company at a lavish party in New York. Vonnegut wistfully observed the luxurious life that the wealthy enjoy. Heller responded that he had something that his hosts may never have. The knowledge that he had enough.
What a powerful word. A word that provides a portal to lasting happiness.
Gratitude is a great way to strengthen the contentment muscle. When we appreciate what we have, the knots of our deepest desires slowly loosen.
Before we know it, contentment becomes our second nature.
A Chance to Practice Long Hours of Meditation
Being deserted on an island is an opportunity to practice long hours of meditation.
The world has become a complex place.
Technology has shrunk the world. It has also made us slaves to gadgets. People expect us to respond to phone calls and messages instantly. Everyone wants our attention. Which makes it difficult to give our attention to the one person who needs it the most: ourselves.
To think that I wanted to have gadgets with me if I were marooned in an island. And give up the perfect opportunity to practice long and uninterrupted hours of meditation.
Desirelessness Does Not Mean We Don’t Pursue Goals
Desirelessness does not mean we quit our jobs or stop following our dreams.
It does not mean that we live a penurious life or that we don’t treat ourselves to guilty pleasures.
It means we don’t let our happiness hinge on our desires being fulfilled.
It means we don’t keep craving for more of the same desire.
It means we recognize that experiences are temporary.
It means we enjoy the present moment.
The Media Constantly Lies to Us
“You can’t be happy without this.”
This is the lie every advertiser sells us. People believe it. They then convince us this is true. We believe that we can’t be happy if we don’t purchase that expensive sofa or if we don’t vacation across Europe we can’t be happy.
That sofa is definitely nice.
I’m sure Europe is wonderful — mouth-watering pizzas in Rome, visiting the Harry Potter museum in London … I’d love to experience them if I get a chance.
However, I don’t want to make my happiness contingent on purchasing that sofa or visiting Europe.
I want to be happy from within.
I want to be happy for no reason.
The Final Word
Achieving our desires through hard work is commendable. Few achieve these successes.
Transcending our desires is the higher success.
Image Credit: Cris Tagupa from Unsplash