The four desires - shaping your destiny

Updated: Mar 18

Shaping your destiny – Restore & Rest

In our last yoga teacher training weekend, we discussed how to use the ancient wisdom of yoga to shape our future and discuss the four desires (for a more detailed explanation, read Rod Stryker's book). Here and again, a thorough reflection on our life can help to shape the fundamental question of "What next?". In challenging times, this is quite a task but can help control the situation as best as possible.

buddha is within you - guidance

This is self-enquiry off the mat. On the mat, we ask ourselves where we apply too much effort and how we can increase our vital energy, are we pushing too much, are we not pushing enough, are we avoiding certain postures, etc. Off the mat, we ask ourselves the same, that is, where do we invest our energies and effort? Do we spend resources, maybe unnecessarily, on worries, problems, or do we fall into patterns that exhaust us again and again?

One of the many messages we have received from the Upanishads is, "You are your deepest driving desire." According to the Vedas, we are born with those desires. Yoga scriptures are full of "self-enquiry", so do the Sutras speak about svadhyaya - understanding ourselves or "self-study".

So, what are the desires that determine our choices? Our desires (and fears) determine choices (e.g. for work, partner, friends) that are shaping our future actions. The question arises if they are constructive and therefore align with our dharma. Do they support our aims or not?

The core of the four desires

Because of conditioned thinking, we often make decisions that are not wholesome for our authentic being. We may be scared to go into a relationship because of experience, and we do not want to get hurt. All this, even thus, maybe our deepest desire is a relationship. You want something, but deep down, you fear, so it is likely to divert you from your aim. The first step is to become aware of what are our deep-down fears, and what are our strong desires?

We start to reflect upon the question: What is what we really would like to happen in our lives? What is the most positive desire? Is it constructive? We have to dig very deep in this reflection as there are so many possible inputs from the past that divert us to take a right or wholesome decision.

So, what are the four desires or "Puruṣārtha"?

Purusha means "soul", "Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle".

Artha, "the purpose of the soul or self".

The four puruṣārthas are

· Dharma (righteousness, moral values, living your life as authentic as possible)

Dharma is the desire for purpose – the desire to be fully you – how can you become who you are meant to be. How will you serve the greater whole? What can you do?

· Artha (prosperity, economic values)

What financial security do you need to become what you are meant to be? You need to be healthy, be financially secure and have a roof over your head.

· Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values)

Is the desire for joy, pleasure, and senses. So, the environment is important. Which social interactions do you have? Beauty, art, dance – it is a certain pleasure feeling for accomplishment. Do you feel appreciated in your surrounding?

· Moksha (liberation, spiritual values).

We need to feel free to get there. If you are much burdened by life, it is harder to accomplish.

What do you need to get there? The tools you use to fulfil this. A good exercise is to reflect upon the following: If you had all four of them, what would that look like for you?

Do this little exercise:

"Exhale slowly and fully. Pause. Then exhale again. There is always a slight residue left in the lungs. In that residue is to be found the sludge of toxic memory and ego. In that brief further exhalation, let them go - and experience an even deeper state of relief from the burden, of peace and emptiness. In inhalation, we experience the full "I", human potential fulfilled and raised like a brimming cup in offering or oblation to the Cosmic Divine. In exhalation, we experience the empty "I", the divine void, a complete and perfect nothingness, a death that is not the end of life. Try it. Exhale slowly and fully. Pause. Then exhale again."

BKS Iyengar, Light on Life​

How complete is your exhalation? Do you feel you can let go?

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Maybe you want to learn more about yoga history and philosophy? The four desires, the eight limbs of yoga, the seven chakras etc. If you are interested in diving deep into yoga and philosophy and learn about how bodies move, enrolment is open for the 2021 Teacher Training.

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