What example can I think of to illustrate it? Supposing you love the wife of your best friend. You love her and you can’t have her. And so you’re miserable.
In this situation, love is there but desire will never be satisfied. I want what I cannot have. I’m conflicted.
But what the friend pointed out that solved the dilemma for me is that wanting is related to objects. Love is not. She drew a line between the two.
She cited the well-known parable in which the student told the master two dogs battled for command of his heart – one represented desire; the other represented love. He asked his master how he could know which dog will win. And the master answered that he can know because the dog that will win is the dog he feeds.
This is such a well-known spiritual distinction that I blush that I overlooked it. But then that’s the problem with intellectual knowing. It isn’t anchored deep enough to come to our rescue. Only experiential knowledge and heart knowledge is.
When she explained it to me and I took it in, it became experiential knowledge. I felt it. I saw it. I got it at a much deeper level.
Later, in meditation, I now recognized again the feeling of unfulfilled desire. But this time I saw it as the dog I no longer wanted to feed and so I just “be’d” with it without feeding it. When love returned, I fed it instead.
And I see that the dog of desire – wanting, hankering after objects – is what keeps us from love. The other dog – love – is never attached to anything but itself, never fixated on an object. Not if it’s truly love.
How many times have I said to myself that the basic spiritual movement is to turn from desiring the objects of the world to devoting oneself to God, who is Love? In short, the basic spiritual movement is to turn from desire to love.
This world was designed and it’s up to us to discover its design principles. (1) Well, here’s one. God implanted in us a longing for Him (Her, It). (2) That longing cannot be satisfied by anything but God – anything but love.
We try to throw things at it, to fill up the yawning chasm in our hearts with toys and experiences, relationships and anything else our senses desire.
Two difficulties arise. One is that we sometimes encounter a situation where we cannot have what we want. We can become like a three-year-old child, feeling denied, rageful, entitled, self-pitying. Really infantile stuff.
The second is that God so created the world that no external object will satisfy us for long anyways. Our desires launch us on an endless cycle, which never leads to satisfaction.
We may feel a brief cessation of desire but then boredom sets in and we hanker for the next external object. Only God has the power to completely satisfy. And God is love.
However, the amazing thing is that, when I contact love, love is enough. It soothes me. It has me forget all my desires. It blinds me to external objects. All wanting drops away.
What a valuable lesson this has been for me. How can we repay people who teach us something so valuable? I don’t think we can, except to acknowledge them.
(1) “Life is Designed” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-divine-plan-for-life/life-is-designed/.
(2) “The Longing for Liberation” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-longing-for-liberation/.