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.