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I'm struggling with Desire...

No! Not that kind of desire… I mean my heart’s desire.

On my podcast, I’m doing solo meanders using Martha Beck’s book “The Joy Diet: 10 daily practices for a happier life” as my muse. Chapter three is all about finding and exploring desire. And honestly, I’ve been struggling with this chapter. Which I find interesting for just the reasons that Beck points out… we habitually ignore what we desire. It’s forbidden territory for most of us, at least in my experience. Why is this topic a struggle for me, right now?

In fact, we are socialized to ignore the very things that light us up, in favour of being practical, following the safe path that supports paying the rent and putting food on the table. And in so doing, we sideline the very things that we enjoy. Maybe exploring my desire is just that, taboo?

A lifetime ago, I remember my mother, when faced with my then husband’s unhappiness with his civil service job, asking him, “What makes you think you should enjoy your work?” And I remember asking her, kinda shocked at the question, “What makes you think you shouldn’t?” To this day I remember standing in my sunlight apartment, overlooking Lake Ontario, oceans of unshared perspective lying between us.

Following our heart’s desire can be seen as frivolous or indulgent. To deny following what lights us up, we must lie to ourselves about what we desire. Beck reminds us that from early ages we are taught, conditioned even, to shrink from our desires. We “inoculate ourselves from disappointment” by denying what we want. If desiring something is indulgent, then don’t desire. I get that.

So the invitation here in chapter three is to spend some time uncovering what we desire. Specifically, Beck invites us to identify, articulate and explore at least one of our heart’s desires every day.

Of course, there are a number of provisos around desire – what if my desire is harmful, or downright evil? Should I name it and then act on it anyway?

One thing I do know about people, and Beck speaks to this too, is that most of us are kind, at heart. Over the course of her long career, Beck has come to trust that our true heart’s desires are rarely destructive. Even when a desire seems “off base,” when we sit with it and understand what lies under it, the desire often centres around good emotional health, a fundamental wish to love and to be loved.

She also talks about how when we repress what we judge as a “bad desire,” it can lead to sideways outcomes too. “Acknowledging, articulating, and learning about them makes them manageable; denying or avoiding them gives them the power to overwhelm your best intentions,” she writes. By being honest about what is there, you give yourself the opportunity of healthy exploration, understanding what lies at the core of the desire, which is often a thirst for safety, belonging, and dignity, or as she says, loving and being loved. Once we understand that, how to act on the desire can become clearer.

What can this look like?

Well, in my own self, a simple desire I’ve had for a few years now is to be able to rest in a full squat without falling over. You know what a squat looks like: knees fully bent, feet flat on the floor, bum resting on my heels (almost), chest and shoulders upright, not curled over. Being able to breathe in this position, and sit there for more than, oh, 30 seconds. Squatting is a key movement in my body’s ability to move well over time, so I’ve been working on this. As I explored this desire to sit in a full squat, I realized that this desire connected to wanting to be healthy as I age. Ah… so it’s not really about sitting in a squat as much as it is my desire to age in a healthy way. Scratching the surface of the desire, sitting in a comfortable squat position, leads me to a deeper desire, aging well.

In my mind, then I weave in a few other movements that I will also need to be able to do in support of my desire to age in a healthy way. Interesting… noticing the desire, and then acting intentionally on the desire by asking – what am I willing to do to make this happen – are additional parts of this practice. I’ve decided to follow the Petra Fisher Movement and include movement activities she suggests in my daily fitness practice. And learning to squat is part of that. Imagine!

In fact, being willing to accept that I am allowed to form my life around the fulfillment of my desires is the final step in Beck’s directions in this chapter. And that in itself is a game change. Induglent? Nope. Does this light me up? Yup!

A good starting point for this final piece could be asking pivotal questions like: What makes you think you are allowed to pursue something that beckons you? Why do we think we are not entitled to enjoy our lives? Are our hobbies the only places where whimsey can dance? And then, imagine what life could be like when this desire is fulfilled. This answer may be even more satisfying than the initial desire.

What happens for you when you explore what your heart desires? Does this help you find a little joy in your every day?

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Sometimes it is easier to have dreams - and to enjoy those dreams - as a subtlety or nuance to desires when the first few steps are unclear or hard or dependent on someone else……

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