This month I got to speak to Melanie St. Ours about the topic of desire. In this interview we talk about the brain chemistry of desire, how to recognize destructive desires, and how taboo and community censorship of desire can affect our health.
As I write this we are poised roughly halfway between the gates of Beltane and Litha on the ancient wheel of the year. When I mapped out the curriculum for my Sacred Wheel Immersion last winter, my spirit guides showed me a clear picture of this being a time of great expansion. I saw the women in my immersion circle with their arms outstretched, as they victoriously realized their true hearts desire and had the courage to step into the sun. I saw this part of the path as being a continuum from the bliss and fertility of May Day to the expansion and power of the Summer Solstice. Ecstatic, victorious, glorious, luscious and blissful were the words that came to mind when I looked at this part of the circle from the safety of Midwinter.
Now that we are here, a very different picture is beginning to emerge, both for me personally and for the women in my group. Instead of ecstasy and bliss, there is old grief being uncovered, never ending health crises and for some: the lowest of the lows. If I weren’t so certain in the magical container we built together, and in the truth that everything happens for a reason, I might begin to wonder where I went so wrong. Our homework for this time period was to fearlessly investigate our own bliss and desire. Much of the work we did on Beltane was around releasing our own blocks to true desire.
When I think of how this is playing out, I am reminded of something a teacher of mine once said. You cannot experience any of your feelings to their fullest extent unless you are willing to experience ALL of your feelings to their fullest extend. The good and the bad, the highs and the lows.
My two year old son is proving to be the greatest example of this right now. As his awareness of the world around him expands he is faced with so much desire:
Blueberries, holding the car keys, getting to go swimming, opening and closing any sort of gate or door ad nauseum…….
The level at which he experiences the desire for these things is about on par for how I might imagine feeling about getting a publishing deal, or how I felt about getting pregnant the first time. These are no small desires to a toddler, and consequently he experiences no small grief when denied the object of his desire. We are talking meltdowns of epic proportion, tears, wailing, inconsolable grief. Inevitably he will learn to regulate these feelings, learn patience and his desires will grow smaller in number, but more grave in their importance. While I’m not advocating that we all throw tantrums like a 2 year old, I do marvel at the unfiltered purity with which he is able to express his grief, and then how he is able to shift back into joy and desire almost instantly.
Our culture puts a lot of limits on grief, we have lost many of the rituals associated with the grieving process (sack cloth and ashes anyone?), and we are expected to get on with it and get back to normal after a relatively short amount of time. We certainly don’t condone sitting on the floor and wailing like a two year old. So it doesn’t surprise me that we have such a collective problem with desire in our culture. We deny our grief and in the end, deny our truest desires.
Don’t get me wrong, we WANT a lot. We want new houses, shiny electronics, the latest the greatest, the biggest and the most expensive. But how much of that stuff truly satisfies? And how much of it do we want because we think it will make us happy?
I don’t know about you, but many many times I have experienced getting exactly what I thought I wanted only to have it feel empty and unsatisfying. I also have been lucky enough, and I hope you have too, to experience those rare moments of having a desire truly and fully satisfied. To me it feels like “this is what I was born to do” it happened the first time I looked into my son’s eyes and it often happens when I am in the zone with my work.
Many spiritual practices espouse transcending desire, moving past the endless cycle of wanting, but I don’t believe that is the answer. As humans we were made to want. My son proves that to me every day. But in a world where we are so in denial about our grieving, letting ourselves want, truly and deeply want, is frightening.
So instead we create a labyrinth of small desires, each one hiding and obscuring the truth that lies underneath it. The truth which is our purest, rawest desire.
To look this desire in the face we have to claim it. In claiming it, we make it real, and we also make real the possibility that we may not get it.
Or worse: get it only to lose it.
This is frightening.
Why would any one ever try? Desire is messy. There is no way around that. But here is the thing. Doing things any other way isn’t working.
Desire doesn’t go away if you ignore it. It just twists itself into another form, usually a less satisfying, and ultimately more destructive form. The countless people who have taken their own lives because they believed their desire and sexual orientation were wrong, is proof enough of that.
So this is my love letter to you, if you are sitting in the depths of grief, and facing old demons. Don’t give up. Feeling the bad stuff only increases your capacity for feeling the good stuff. Stay with it, be present. Let the screaming two-year-old that is your heart have it’s time on the floor. And notice if you have a moment, that in the middle of the pain and grief is a nugget of desire, shining like gold amongst all the messiness.
That, my darling, is your truth. Don’t give up on it.
The irony of writing a blog on finding your life’s purpose is not lost on me. Like so many of the really important things in life, words fail. But still, we are human so we try anyway. If you were to ask me to sum up my life’s purpose in a few words I usually say something like “I’m a healer, priestess, and mother”. Which isn’t false, but it’s not really the whole picture. For example, before I could really say that I knew what I was here for, I would still have called myself a healer. (I wasn’t yet a priestess or mother, so I never would have thought to call myself that). So what changed to finally help me realize my purpose?
It wasn’t the words.
Rather is was a feeling. A certainty, and a knowing that was undeniable. When I do healing work something opens up inside me. Again, words fail, but if I were to try, I might call it a connection to Source, a feeling that is bigger than me and timeless; a feeling of rightness, that if I were to try and translate into a phrase, sounds something like “I was born to do this”.
It is the feeling I get in ritual space, and the feeling I get when I hold my son.
I’m sure the feeling was always there, like I said, I called myself a healer long before I actually knew it in my bones. But I didn’t trust it, I didn’t give it room to grow. I’d be willing to bet that if you are someone who doesn’t know their purpose, you are probably doing the same thing.
So how did I finally learn to trust and accept this feeling? Here are few things that helped me in my journey:
Being in reverence:
Whatever you want to call it, being in sacred space, connecting to the divine, finding your higher power. Whatever connects you to that feeling that you are part of something larger than you. Maybe it’s staring at the ocean, maybe it’s climbing a mountain, maybe it’s holding your child, maybe it’s meditation. The more you can intentionally connect to that feeling of reverence, the more it will show up in your daily life.
Healing my relationship with desire:
I used to hide the things I wanted so deep inside my heart, that I didn’t even know what they were. When I originally wanted to become an acupuncturist I signed up for massage school instead, and told everyone how glad I was that I didn’t have to deal with all the hard work and debt of grad-school. The thing about finding your life’s purpose, is that it is always something that you want with all your heart. If you don’t let yourself want it, you will never find it.
It took me a lot of help to get where I am today. I didn’t do it alone. All along the way I had teachers, mentors, and friends who were willing to hold a mirror for me to look at when I couldn’t get a clear perspective on myself. I would never have gone to grad-school if I didn’t have a trusted mentor encouraging me. Not to mention, that when I finally did start connecting to reverence during my work, it helped so much to have someone to talk to about it and someone to help me put it into context.
Where ever your journey takes you, I hope that this year provides you with plenty of opportunities to connect to your higher purpose, and your WHY.
If working with me personally resonates with you, you may want to join my year long immersion program. We will be using the 8 most potent days of the year to craft rituals of transformation, connect with our desires and discover our purpose. Find out more and register here! Or sign up below to listen to a free class I gave on the subject.
When I was in my early 30s my life was fairly aimless. I lived in a tiny RV trailer in the driveway of a big group house that was shared by 7 other people. I was stuck in an unhappy relationship that was going nowhere and I barely eked out a living cleaning houses and having a failing massage practice. Worse than all that, I had this lingering feeling that my life was supposed to amount to more than it was, and I didn’t mean wealth or accomplishment in the traditional sense. I really felt like I was here for a reason, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. By luck or divine providence I stumbled upon a class on magic and decided to give it a try. The class was awesome and I learned a lot, but things didn’t really start changing for me until my second year of training. It was during this year that we all took a vow to follow the sacred holidays of the quarter and cross-quarter days and “walk the Wheel of the Year”. The class begun in ernest on Feb 2, Imbolc, or Candlemas as it it some times known. It was there that I took the vow to “Live my life as a magical act”. For the next year and a day I had committed to letting every second count as some kind of magic. It felt serious and important at the time, but of course I was completely unprepared for the journey I was about to take. By the end of the year, I had accepted my calling as a healer, was headed to grad school to get my degree in Chinese Medicine, and had fully accepted myself as a magical being What started as a simple vow, deepened as the year progressed. By Ostara, in March, I was ready to plant the seeds for a new life. By Beltain, May 1st, I had come to know some of my deepest heart’s desires. By Mid-Summer I received a vision so powerful I can still feel it today. It was then that I really began to realize my own capabilities as a magical person. August 2nd, Llamas, brought the first rewards of the year in the form of acceptance to grad school, and by Samhain, in October, I was ready to say goodbye to much of my old life, I moved out of my trailer into the first house I ever owned, and started school to prepare for my career in medicine. By Winter Solstice in December I was ready to be still in the dark quiet of the year and comfortable for the first time with not knowing where exactly I was headed, but knowing it would be amazing. It wasn’t just the celebration of these ancient holidays that made the year so amazing, it was that I had vowed to walk through the year in a way that allowed the mystery teachings of each holiday to become present in my life. Each holiday has, buried within it’s rituals, a deeper set of lessons and wisdom to teach us. When I made my commitment, I committed to being living vessel for those lessons and I was amazed at how life provided exactly the circumstances I needed in order to learn and grow. For instance, Beltain, the high holiday of May Day, is the time for honoring our deepest desires. It was then that I realized how all my life I had wanted to be a healer. On the Fall equinox we celebrate the harvest, and savor our rewards, but even in the harvest there is an element of letting go. That which is harvested does not grow anymore. It was during this time that I bought my house, and was about to begin grad school, which meant deciding what things from my old life were important to continue nurturing, and which things it was time to harvest and be done with. The wheel has turned many times since that first year that I made my vow, and each year it never ceases to amaze me how much there still is to learn from the simple wisdom of these powerful days. In the years since that first one, my magical practice has deepened and grown. I have earned my degree and started a rewarding practice as an acupuncturist. I have met my soul mate, and together we brought our son into the world. Some years I celebrate all holidays in a grand fashion, sparing no extravagance and celebrating in large groups. Others, like the year my son was born, I observed them quietly and simply. But I always feel the energy of the earth and the seasons no matter what I am doing externally. Returning each year to familiar rituals has taught me many lessons. First that change is a process, that all things have a perfect time and place. Also, that there is a pattern and web to life that is much greater than me, but of which I am an integral part. And perhaps most importantly, that change is the only constant. I am so excited to be offering a year-long immersion in this transformative practice starting this Imbolc (Feb 1st). If you would like to learn more about this class, join me for a free phone call on January 25th. In this call I will share more in depth on each holiday and how you can use Wheel of the Year to make 2015 your most transformative year yet. Enter your email below.
photo credit: alabaster crow photographic via photopin cc
If were to pick THE most important aspect of my entire spiritual practice it would have to be intention setting. Intentions allow us to use our spiritual practice to actually change our lives and the world around us, instead of just enacting some empty rituals. In a world where goal setting has become king, and everyone and their grandmother has a bucket list, intentions are the key to making sure your ambition gets you exactly what you want and need, and not just some thing that you thought you wanted but have since outgrown.
What is the Difference
Intentions are like what Danielle Laporte calls Goals with Soul. A goal is just a bench mark that you set for yourself for some future time frame. The problem with most goals is that at the time you set them, you have no idea what will be still be important to you when you complete them. When we set a goal we are assuming that the way we are now, is how we will always be. It is limiting. Intentions on the other hand are open ended. They are about how you want to feel, what qualities you want in your life, not about the external bench marks.
Goals are fixed, Intentions flexible.
A goal is usually one thing, I want to do X. An intention is usually more about the quality of what you want in your life. I want more abundance. I want a career where I feel like I’m utilizing my full range of talents and skills. The great thing about intentions is that they leave room for the universe to find you something better than your wildest dreams. Something maybe you’ve never imagined. When we set a goal, we are limiting our success to only that which we are able to imagine. When we set an intention we are letting the universe decide how big and how far we can go.
How to set intentions:
1. Get really clear on what you want. Start with the tangible: a new job, a new car, more money. And then dig deeper. Take one thing and really go into why you want it. How do you think its going to make you feel when you get it? Then take that feeling and see if you can come up with a broader term for it. Want money? Why? So I can feel less stressed about survival, so I can play more, so I can go on vacation! What are the feelings behind those things? Relief? Freedom? Relaxation? Respite? I challenge you to steer clear of big general words like ‘abundance’ unless you have really done some thinking on what that really means for YOU. Many times we throw words like that around with out really having a felt sense of what they mean to us. By the way, if you really want to dig deep into this process check out The Desire Map.
A little cautionary tale here: A few years ago I had a friend who asked the universe for money. The very next day her car was rear ended and she was injured. She ended up getting a settlement from the accident, in the form of MONEY, but at the price of her physical health. That is why I feel like it is always better to get as clear as possible on what you want. She thought she wanted money, but I bet if we asked her now she would admit there were more important things than the actual money, like health and freedom from financial strain.
2. Once you’ve distilled down your desires, see if you can sum them up into a sentence. I find it helps to start with either “I want to call into my life ……(insert desires here)” or “My intention is to …..(insert what you are trying to accomplish)” Then add the all important phrase “or better”. Leave room for the Universe to step it up a notch.
3. If you are trained in ritual, you may want to then translate your intention into a ritual act, but even if you aren’t here are a few ways you can work with it: place your intention on the your altar, write it in your planner, set fire to it and let give it over to the universe, or just hold it daily in your mind as you go about your day. Leave the rest up to the universe.
And now I’d like to hear from you. How do you feel about Goals? Love em, hate em? Have you ever set an intention before, how did it work out? Leave me a comment below, and if you love this article be sure to share on Facebook or Twitter.
Allison Carr LAc believes that healing yourself makes the world a better place. Learn more about her work and classes at http://allisoncarr.net/
Photo modified by me, quote from Pomegranate Doyle