The Yoga of Desire: Unlocking the secret to lasting happiness

Mar 01, 2023

In the ancient teachings of Yoga, it is said that each of us is born with four desires. 

The first desire is kama, the desire for pleasurable experiences. You may notice how children are driven by the desire for pleasurable experiences and as adults, we are not much different. We all desire pleasurable experiences. However, Yoga tradition tells us that we won't find lasting happiness in pleasurable experiences because they're impermanent.

When we realize that true fulfillment can't be found in pleasurable experiences alone, a second type of desire comes online. It's called arta. Arta is the desire for success in all areas of our life. While the desire for pleasurable experiences can be instantly gratifying, the desire for success and all that it brings requires hard work and dedication. Unlike the fleeting nature of pleasure, the pursuit of success is based on long-term goals and requires consistent effort over time. However, success is also impermanent which is why we see so many people who are successful by traditional standards, but are unhappy.

It's usually after this realization that the third desire makes itself known to us. It's the desire to live a meaningful and purposeful life, dharma. But even the desire to live a meaningful and purposeful life is impermanent. What's meaningful to you now isn't likely to be the same as what it was when you were 25 or 35 and will likely change by the time you're 65 or 75. And because of that even dharma, won't bring you lasting fulfillment in life.

Many if not most people live life shifting through these three desires, yet there still exists this nagging feeling that something's still missing. Despite the fact that their life may look outwardly successful, and they're living what they thought was a purposeful and meaningful life that makes a difference in the world they still sense that there must be something more but they can't quite put their finger on it.

In yogic scriptures, it's said that at some point in time, each of us will realize that the desires of kama, arta, and even dharma won't lead to the freedom and fulfillment we seek in the depths of our being. This realization is the first step towards the ultimate desire of moksa, awakening to our true nature. It's through committing to our own spiritual awakening that we will experience the unshakable happiness, freedom, and fulfillment we’ve been longing for.  And as we awaken to our true nature, we become vessels for selfless compassionate, and wise actions that benefit not only ourselves, but all beings.

On the yogic path, it’s ok to desire pleasurable experiences and material success as much as it’s ok to desire meaning and purpose and awakening. What's discouraged, however, is thinking that what you desire will bring you lasting fulfillment.

Reflecting on our desires and committing ourselves to the project of awakening is just the beginning of a journey toward unshakable happiness, freedom, and fulfillment.

If you're interested in learning more about this work and taking your journey to the next level, stay tuned for the Awakened Leader Project. This immersive and empowering process is designed to support you in expanding your understanding and expression of the fullness of your being, so that you can live and lead with this profound recognition and the depth of richness and meaning it brings. More details coming soon!

Practice: Reflecting on Your Desires

  1. Take a few moments to sit in a quiet place, free from distractions.
  2. Bring to mind one of your strongest desires. Ask yourself: Does this desire fall into the category of kama, arta, or dharma?
  3. Reflect on the impermanence of this desire. Ask yourself: Will fulfilling this desire bring me lasting happiness and fulfillment, or will I simply want more?
  4. If you find that your desire is impermanent, ask yourself: What deeper, more fulfilling desire might be lying beneath it?
  5. Journal about your reflections. Write down any insights or realizations you had during this practice.

Remember, it's okay to have desires, but it's important to recognize when they are impermanent and won't bring lasting fulfillment. By reflecting on our desires, we can begin to discover what truly brings us happiness and fulfillment in life.