Mindfulness invites us to look beyond duality. One duality I was contemplating on recently is the desire for my work to have impact and letting go of my attachment to this desire. In mindfulness we see the stress caused by wanting things to be a certain way. Since change is a constant, even things we desire and accomplish are bound to change. Our attachments bring dissatisfaction and pain. However, if we didn’t have desires, wouldn’t we lack motivation to make any progress? What would propel us to move beyond our limitations if we didn’t have a desire to get better or improve our condition? This is what I discovered:

On contemplating my dilemma around desire and motivation, the question that came up was, what if it is not desire that is motivating but something else within us? What if the mind’s desires, which lead to attachments, expectations, and fears, are only holding us back? If you look at it that way, desires are are not motivating but draining. Look beyond desires and you discover your true power that comes with freedom from duality.

Desires are are not motivating but draining.

Look beyond desires and you discover your true power that comes from the freedom.

Rather than being stuck within the duality – to desire or drop desire – change the question. In changing the question from – whether to have desire or let go of desire – to looking within me at what is motivating me, I discovered my whole self that knows what is naturally the right step to take. In changing the focus from desire, attachments, and associated fears, we clear the space for our natural potential to emerge and the next step to be taken in that moment became clear. There is ease, clarity, and a certain brightness in freedom from attachments.

Try it for yourself – next time you are working on a project, ask yourself what are your desires and expectations for that project. Who would you be if you let go of those expectations? Take a few breaths and release any tension you are holding in the body. Check in with your mind, body, and heart to let go of the weight of expectations. And now with your whole self ask, what is most important right now? Simply do that – what your whole self knows is the natural next step.

Coming back to the title – can we make progress without desire – one way to answer this is to change the question – what motivates us to make progress. The new question moves us beyond the traps of the duality – to desire or not to desire. As long as we are alive, there will be desire. However, in the absence of looking inwards at what our desire is manifesting within us – attachments, weight of expectation, and fear of failure – desire is depleting us more than energizing us. Rather than focusing on dropping the desire, which in itself is a new desire, we can attend to the breath and create space for our whole self to emerge. What I am calling whole self may show up as clarity, fullness, love, or other manifestations of your inner knowing that will naturally lead you to the next step in progress.

With the pressures imposed on us, and we impose on our children, to be successful, this inquiry on what it means to be successful and desiring success is a worthy one.This is not an intellectual activity but something for you to experiment and play with till you discover your own way of living with more ease, more clarity, and all of you.

This is a practice. Rinse and repeat.

Please share your experience and questions.