In the spring, I met up with my friend, Leila, to catch up before our kids were out of school for the summer. Leila is truly one of my very best friends. She inspires me, and she is one of my biggest cheerleaders. We have a good time together with lots of laughs. We also usually end up having very deep conversations - like about how we are working on ourselves to be better people. This meet up in the spring ended up being one of those deep conversations. In the process, she told me about a book she was reading that resonated with the conversation we were having. I knew I had to read this book based on what she had told me about it. The name of the book is The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom by Rod Stryker. Shortly after our conversation, I purchased the ebook, but didn’t make time to read it. I kept wanting to, but just didn’t follow through. A few weeks later, when picking up my children from playing at Leila’s, she presented me with a hardback copy of the book with a beautiful message inscribed in the front:
For a friend: Ms. Stacie
Your strengh and love amaze me everyday!
Wow. It brought tears to my eyes to have someone who is so inspiring to me view me that way. It was validation that I was traveling the right path. I’ve reread that message many times since then to remind myself that I’m making good decisions.
And yet, I still hadn’t started to read the book! This week, I made the decision to start it. So far, its really pulling me in. It really is a book that comes from the point of view of yoga. I don't do yoga, but I have in the past and would like to. Just haven't made it a priority. I see why Leila recommended this to me, since our discussion had been primarily about how our attitudes, beliefs and assumptions affect the journey we are on. This concept is tightly interwoven with “mindfulness” (at least to me, it is). At its most base and crude form, I call it “sh*t in, sh*t out”. Whatever you put into the machine is what you will get out of the machine. I find when I operate from a place of negativity, it gets me nowhere, except more negativity. When I operate from a place of abundance, I end up being content and joyful. When I am joyful, I operate on a more thankful level, and I end up seeing more goodness and amazingness in the world.
The book speaks of Tantra, which I had only ever heard used as a sexual term. I had no clue to the many other meanings of the word that the book goes into great detail to explain. My most favorite definition links up with the idea I just mentioned: “to be touched, specifically referring to your heart; feeling a sense of awe, wonder or profound appreciation for life, when you suddenly [see] life as the greatest gift of all.” I enjoy that feeling of awe and appreciation. It fuels me.
When I finally got to the part of the book that starts explaining what the four desires are in the Vedic Tradition, I felt connection. It felt like part of my soul was in this book. It feels familiar to me, and they probably will to you, too. Here are my notes copied from the book:
Dharma is the drive to fulfill your potential; your career, life path in a serving context. It is about discovering your soul’s innate and unique mission or purpose. It is the one desire that informs the other three desires. It is a desire that positively affects the world. It is the first desire because our happiness is completely dependent on us fulfilling our unique vision of duty AND because our unique dharma determines the scope and specifics of the other three desires.
Artha is the desire for all of the means necessary to accomplish your dharma - material and non-material, such as food, shelter, will, prayer.
Kama is the desire to pleasure of all kinds, such as beauty, family, art, and friendship. This desire for pleasure is the motivation behind all actions.
Moksha is the longing for liberation, true freedom, the sacred, and peace. This is the driving force behind all spiritual traditions.
No one of these four desires is greater or more important than the others.
I had many whirling thoughts as I was reading this (just the introduction to the book!). I wondered how is it that some people know their dharma so much earlier than others? The books mentions that at different times in our lives, one desire will be stronger than the others. Was I so focused on other desires so much that I missed this one? I envied those kids at college who knew exactly who they wanted to be,what they wanted to do, and weren’t afraid to own that. I’m forty and I’ve only just begun to “get it”.
I’ve always been lucky enough to have the physical means necessary to achieve nearly whatever I wanted or needed. My struggle has always been with the non-material things needed, like confidence and especially will power. When I used to run, I knew I could physically run more than three miles, but I could rarely get past the lack of will power to continue on. It was a mind game that I rarely won.
I am a true Taurus in my love for pleasurable things. Family and friendship are the supreme rulers for me. Food, drink, a good book, art and beauty are always ranked high.
My spiritual quest is never-ending. I love learning about belief systems and the people who created them. I easily see the sacred in the normal. Randomly, I tell my children I love them. Michael responds and moves on. Piper responds and then asks why I said that just then. Its because their sheer presence in my life blows me away. The lessons they teach me are huge. They are divine and when I see them, I feel a love and appreciation that can only be called spiritual.
I am still in the process of reading and working through the exercises in the book, but I see many themes that resonate with me. I know this post may seem hokey, but this is where I am in my life. As I read this book, I see so much of myself on the pages and its ironic to me that this book is here now in my life, when I have been and continue to work to create the life I want to live. I’d like to end this post with a quote from the author’s teacher:
You are responsible for your life. The sooner you see how you have determined your fate, the sooner and more completely you will have the life you want…because you choose how you will respond to the circumstances [that are not under your control], it is you and only you who, in the end, has and will determine your destiny.