This past week, I was away for a yoga retreat in the south of Italy. It sounds dreamy, and it certainly was.
Near the end of the week, I found myself waking up earlier than the sun for the first time this summer. Feeling inspired to watch the sun rise, after I finished my morning meditation, I began my slow stroll towards the sea.
About thirty minutes later, I came across a beach that I did not know existed. There were only a handful of people, quietly sitting on the cool sand and watching the sun rise over the horizon.
As I felt the sand under my feet, I imagined going for a dip in the sea. Except I did not have my swimming shorts, or a towel, and did not know if it was warm, or even safe, as no one else was in the water.
My desire to go into the water was clear. The resistance from my mind was also clear. The tension between the two felt all too familiar.
I imagined myself in the water. And noticed a smile appear on my face and a rush of energy over my body. It felt right.
I then imagined myself not going in the water. I pictured myself walking away from the beach, towards where I was staying. I felt regret.
I imagined my mind beginning its inquisition of why I did not have the courage to pursue what it is that I desired.
I imagined the washing machine of my mind starting to spin through the many moments from my past where I did not have the courage to do what it is that I desired.
I imagined my mind taking this innocent idea of taking a dip in the sea and blowing it up into a crisis about how fear is driving my life.
It was then I knew that I no longer had a choice. I could not leave that beach without going into the sea.
It was not about going for a sunrise swim. It was about reminding myself to pursue my desires with confidence, even if I noticed some fear or resistance from my mind.
I proceeded to then take off my clothes and run into the sea with a smile across my face. The water was warmer than I expected, the beach was shallower than I expected and I enjoyed it far more than I expected.
A gentle reminder that my mind does not actually know reality, despite its insistence that it does.
Floating quietly in the sea while watching the sun rise, a feeling of freedom arose from within. The freedom that comes with fulfilling a desire. At that moment, I was desireless. The desire that I previously had was now fulfilled and I could float in this space of not feeling any desire. It was liberating.
I stayed in the water for a long time, in this state of desirelessness. Long enough for the tide to begin to change. Long enough to see wrinkles on my fingers and toes. Long enough to see the beach starting to get crowded. Long enough to feel the air above the water getting warmer.
Then I noticed a desire show up. It was a desire to stay in this state of desirelessness for as long as possible. I had now lost contact with the moment, as I was no longer in it but observing myself in it. It did not feel the same.
It is like taking a picture. Of anything or anyone. The act of taking the picture takes you out of the moment, as you cannot capture it while in it.
Once I was no longer present, I started my exit from the sea and returned to the sand. Laughing quietly at myself for desiring desirelessness, I turned back to look at the sun rising over the horizon.
I felt appreciation for this experience of desirelessness, which was completely unconscious while in it, as the becoming aware of it took me away from it.
I understand that it is a cycle. It begins with a desire sprouting in my mind, and the ones that grow taller and stronger are the ones I will try to pursue, and if they are fulfilled, I will experience a blissful state of desirelessness however be totally unaware of it, until of course another desire appears and I again begin the cycle.
Desires will come and go. I need not avoid having desires in the first place. I need not fear trying to fulfill my desires. Flowing with waves of desires arising and disappearing is how I will continue to swim through life.