In a life training course I once took, we did an exercise in desire. In pairs, we took turns asking our partner “What do you want?” over and over, persistent to the point of annoyance. As the listener, I experienced it as cacophonous — there were dozens of pairs all around us and the question reverberated loudly throughout the room: WHAT DO YOU WANT? The incessant demand for an answer was disconcerting: TELL ME RIGHT NOW – WHAT DO YOU WANT? I closed my eyes to better focus and began mentally sifting through my personal pile of desires, seeking to uncover my One True Desire. The relentless questioning – WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHAT DO YOU WANT? – softened into background music as I sank deeper into my spirit. Almost immediately, I understood this experience to be a touchstone moment in my spiritual development and I was curious to find out where this exploration of desire would lead me. I wove my way down past personal desires for financial freedom, good health, happy relationships – past my hope for the gift of charity, my desire to see Jesus, my longing for Home. At the very bottom of my soul, I discovered that I WANT TO BE. Just that. I WANT TO BE.
It is my life’s work to figure out what that actually means. What do YOU really want? Over the decades that I have pondered the idea of Desire, I’ve come to believe that what we truly desire, we get. This goes far beyond the Law of Attraction, though that is a good starting point for learning to hone desire. The first step, of course, is to figure out what we truly want, what we want to attract into our lives. It seems a simple task, but it’s not. There are all kinds of alluring distractions here on earth that can appear to be worthy of our desire. Money. The “perfect” body. Satisfying work. And beyond those superficial things, we can be tempted by more noble desires: gifts of the Spirit, a complete Family History chart, an eternal family. These are the things of good report we hear about at church and are continually encouraged to develop. And of course those are better things to desire than just temporal things. But most people stop there.
There is a deeper level of desire that we don’t talk about, even at church. It may be because this level of Holy Desire is beyond language, almost impossible to capture in words. It is a passion of the soul that extends way back to premortal life. It is a yearning for union with God that infuses every bit of our body and spirit. It is that constant reaching for godliness, perfection, completion. It is the ache of repentance and the balm of grace. It is sweet desire, because the one object of our affection is the very God of the Universe.
I have noticed that we each seem to arrive on earth with a certain amount of Holy Desire and this varies from person to person. I’m sure we bring with us all the spiritual gifts we have developed before we inhabit our bodies. But eventually, even if we have been endowed with a deeper-than-most passion for God, we begin to hit the limits of our capacity. This will show up any time we choose our will over the will of God. I do not mean the “will of God” as defined by others, even prophets. And I do not mean to imply that we are engaged in a power struggle with our Parents. They never coerce. Their “will” is simply that we each grow into our highest and best Self. Their love for each of us is so pure that we can only access it – and thus submit to the will of God – when our love is pure, including our love for our Self.
So what do we do when we notice that our holy desire is falling short of the Holy Desire of Deity? We nourish our desire, as Alma instructs. We notice it, we applaud it, we encourage our own holy desire. In my experience, this is not accomplished by strict discipline, at least not overtly. Desire is not interested in the sticky stars on our scripture reading chart, or whether we’ve checked off our visiting teaching this month. Those kinds of rewards feed the ego. They encourage control and pride, not Holy Desire. But those very disciplines offer opportunities to open the portal to Heaven on a regular basis. That is the power of spiritual discipline. And any time we are in communion with God, our Holy Desire expands.
The best spiritual practices for developing desire are prayer and meditation. At a certain level, these are the same thing. They are practices that allow our spirit to be in control, and all our spirit wants is communion with God. Obviously, the five-minute morning and evening prayer will not suffice. It’s a fine start, because it serves as a regular reminder that to find what is Real requires leaving the world behind. It takes time to get to know Someone. We enter prayer and meditation differently; in prayer, we generally speak our heart – in meditation, we sit still and know God. But we arrive at the same place, spirit to Spirit. Any practice that brings us to this sacred communion will nourish our highest desire.
Everything begins with desire. As humans, as children of God, we will work for what we want. So getting clear about what we really want is crucial. If we live our life or our faith unconsciously, just doing what we’re told to do – even if those things are clearly good — one day we’ll wake up to discover we are nowhere near where we want to BE. Our innate Holy Desire is a gift. What will you do with yours?
Have you tried to measure the level of your soul’s desire for the divine? What disciplines or practices do you use to increase your Holy Desire?