In this episode, we discuss how ego desires are ruining your life and how to connect with creative desires. We share a story from the Upanishads to help you connect with creative desires rather than being caught up in the suffering of ego desires. We dive into:
- What is the Upanishads?
- How desire can be destructive and cause suffering in your life
- Why we need a spiritual understanding to create true fulfillment
- How to stop feeling “not enough” in the world
Our new series on Spiritual Principles of the Wisdom Traditions explores the teachings of the Upanishads, Adi Shankara, Buddha, Swami Vivekananda and others.
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Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let’s begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:00
Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with Debra and Rob Maldonado. We are excited to share our summer series, a new season based on the spiritual principles of the wisdom traditions. Let’s talk about that a little bit. What do we have in store?
Robert Maldonado 00:47
It’s time to delve into the wisdom traditions and to talk about how we see them, what they have to offer people that are interested in the mind. Of course, our approach is not a religious one, we see these writings and these teachings as important documents that talk about man’s and human’s early understanding of consciousness. They wrote it down in very clear, concise ways.
Debra Maldonado 01:23
At first they didn’t write it down, they told stories. These are thousands of years old teachings.
Robert Maldonado 01:31
They’re still relevant today. If you notice, yoga is so prevalent around the world now. It’s one of the schools that emerged out of those wisdom traditions.
Debra Maldonado 01:43
Our sources are the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Adi Shankara, Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, who came to the US in the late 1800s and brought Eastern philosophy to the Western world. Jung was very influenced by Eastern philosophy, a lot of his work later on, not the early personality work, but more when he started getting into individuation later in his career, he realized that there’s a self, this nature of us that’s beyond the personal. It all fits together in the whole package. One of the things that we love about the Eastern traditions is that, we do the Jungian life coach training, and the top, third level is our spiritual teacher training, where we really start to focus on these principles in a deep, profound way, where you start to see the world very differently than when you first came in. The title of today’s “Are your desires destructive or creative?” We’re going to talk about the nature of desire, because as human beings, we all have desires. So you have any desires, Rob?
Robert Maldonado 03:00
It all starts with desire, it is the seed of action, therefore, it is a primal element we all have to deal with.
Debra Maldonado 03:09
We have to always move, always act. We always have desire with us. How do we work with desire? One of the stories I read in this book called Gyana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda, he did a lot of lectures and very practical teachings, he’d tell stories. One of the stories was of a man in a small village. He doesn’t have much, he goes to the guru in town and says “I would love a genie, he can give you anything you desire.” The Guru is trying to talk him out of it. “You don’t want this genie, you’re not ready for the genie, you really shouldn’t have it. It’s could be very dangerous.” The man said “I really want the genie.” The guru said “Okay, but beware, you have to always give it something you want, or it’s going to eat you up and destroy you.” The guy’s like “I have plenty of things. I want to keep that genie busy forever.” He gets the genie. The genie is like “What do you want?” He’s like “I think I want a bigger house.” He gets a bigger house. “I want the most beautiful woman in the country.” He gets a beautiful wife, he has beautiful kids. He says “I want to be the king of this country.” He got all these material desires satisfied. After a while, he was pretty satisfied. “I’m the king, I have this beautiful wife and family, I have a beautiful house, servants, I have everything I need.” The genie’s like “Tell me something else you want.” He’s like “I don’t want anything else. I have everything.” He’s like “If you don’t give me another thing to desire, I am going to eat you and destroy you.” It turned into a monster and was chasing him around. He was trying to find the guru and he said “Guru, please save me from this genie.” The guru’s like “I told you the genie is dangerous.” He said “Please tell me what to do. I don’t want the genie to eat me, I can’t think of anything else I want.” He said “Get a curly dog’s tail, cut it off, give it to the genie and instruct him to straighten out that tail.” So the genie would go and straighten out the tail, smooth it all out, then the tail would curl up again. The genie would straighten it out again. He gave the genie something to do, so the genie didn’t eat him. What’s the moral of the story? Don’t order a genie.
Robert Maldonado 06:03
Desire is never fulfilled. It’s always a process going on. It’s insatiable, you will never be satisfied through the senses.
Debra Maldonado 06:20
Through the external desires. You have the best marriage, but you want more. We experience this in our everyday life, we might not have a mansion, or kingdom, but we have things in our life we feel satisfied with. But we always feel like there’s more, even when we have everything we want. I think when COVID happened, all the comforts of the world were taken away, all the things that people thought gave them meaning and connection were taken away. We really were forced to ask ourselves, what do we want. I think a lot of the anxiety people have, the post COVID anxiety, comes from people not knowing what to do with their desires. They’re still caught up in that dissatisfaction.
Robert Maldonado 07:10
Of course, the whole ethos of the Western mindset is that if you find the right things to consume, if you possess the right things, you will find happiness. The pursuit of happiness is through the materialistic understanding of the universe. That’s the whole idea in the Upanishads, it’s saying “You cannot and will not find happiness through sensory experiences.” It’s not saying you can’t enjoy life. On the contrary, it explains how you can enjoy life through nonattachment, through understanding what the senses are, what kind of experience they are giving you, and how to understand that experience without getting caught up in it, without the experience dominating your mind.
Debra Maldonado 08:15
What do you think are the causes of this? Everyone thinks they’re the only ones that feel not enough. How would you describe the cause of that not-enoughness? Because we can all relate to that. This isn’t enough, or I’m not enough, I still have to be better.
Robert Maldonado 08:35
We know about the mind that its primary objective is to survive. For survival, it works really well. Once you find something to eat, some shelter and water, you’re temporarily satiated, you’re satisfied. But the desire arises again, it prompts you to find more food, to find shelter and water again, to continue.
Debra Maldonado 09:11
The material world, Maya, that we’re in is always changing. It’s always temporary. Anything you acquire slips, gets old, gets consumed, even your body, you got to keep feeding it, you have to work out, you have to keep making money. You can’t just get a pile of money, you have to spend it to keep going. There’s that temporary nature to our reality that feeds that. It’s never solid.
Robert Maldonado 09:45
Otherwise, once you obtain your desires, you would be done. You could rest, and that would be death.
Debra Maldonado 09:55
When I first started doing this work and having my own business and working with you, I was like “One day, everything’s gonna be worked out.” There’s this place somewhere where we have all our desires met. I would look at people that were more successful and think “They must feel so relaxed now.” But it doesn’t lead to that, it doesn’t lead to any kind of satisfaction when you’re dealing with the external sense pleasures, those milestones in our life are never satisfied. Because we age, people leave, things change all the time. There’s no island that’s peaceful, that we can just rest on and cruise through life. People think there is a place like that, because of the suffering we think there’s another place where we’ll be finally satisfied.
Robert Maldonado 11:01
Let’s think in levels. If you are at that basic survival level, the idea is that the external object is going to help you survive, and that’s correct, it will help you survive. But when that is augmented, and people believe that it’s not only going to help me survive, it’s also going to make me happy, and wise, and peaceful, that’s the problem right there. Because that’s not how the mind is designed. The prompting is simply for survival, not for higher aspirations. You’re acting out of survival, but you’re thinking you’re acting out of higher needs, and that obtaining of material objects in the world is going to fulfill you somehow, at those higher levels.
Debra Maldonado 12:07
We know people have more joy the day before their vacation than while they’re on their vacation.
Robert Maldonado 12:19
Buddha says there’s always this dissatisfaction, it’s like a little pebble in the shoe, even when you have everything, you’re still dissatisfied. You see it with these millionaires and billionaires, they have everything in the world, but yet, they’re always searching for something else. They gotta get the biggest rocket now, and they gotta get something else, something bigger, they go back to a childish approach to life, playing out of the same instinctual patterns that are there in the ego.
Debra Maldonado 13:01
Would that also be why we have climate change? We’re using all our earth’s resources because of this ego desire to consume and build more, and be more, take over other countries.
Robert Maldonado 13:20
The formulation that is explained in the Upanishads is precisely that, that it’s a misperception of what the nature of material existence is.
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Robert Maldonado 14:28
We’re born into the world and automatically start to desire things for survival, which is correct, there’s nothing wrong with that. But because of the large brain that we have, we also have imagination and this cultural layer of existence in our human nature. We project that desire on to these bigger concepts, if I get social status, if I get the money, the prestige, the respect, it will somehow increase my happiness. But we know that’s not true, even in current psychological research, we know obtaining more material and accumulating more stuff, more money does not increase happiness. It plateaus, it flattens out after a certain point. We’ll talk about what it recommends in place of that. But if you’re doing it for survival, which is what the primary objective is, it plateaus out after you’ve gotten enough to survive.
Debra Maldonado 15:45
70,000 a year or something, they say that’s like the level, if you make over 70. The people that are in poverty, yes, if you go from poverty to making a good wage, and you can take care of yourself, your happiness will increase, but it stops at around that 70,000.
Robert Maldonado 16:03
It flattens out. The money line can keep on going up, increasing infinitely pretty much in capitalism, but the happiness line will flatten out, you will not increase your happiness, your peacefulness, your wisdom, if you continue to accumulate.
Debra Maldonado 16:28
We are conditioned to operate from a deficit model where we’re coming from that “not enough”. Initially, our action is I don’t have enough food, I’m gonna eat, I don’t have enough shelter, I’m not making enough money, I’m not getting enough love. That lack mentality feeds that desire. Because you don’t desire something, unless you feel you are absent of it. That’s a misperception.
Robert Maldonado 16:59
Now, the misperception is amplified through the media. If you notice, commercials, what are they doing? People are happy on the beach jumping up and down because they’ve found something, any of the things that people are selling. Now, those are subliminal messages. Most of the time, we’re not thinking, what are they showing us here? We’re just taking it in passively, but the message is being received by the brain, that if you get these things, you will be like those happy people jumping up and down on the beach, meaning your happiness will increase, which of course, it doesn’t, we know it doesn’t. But we’re continuously fed that message. We’re continuously feeding it to children of course, from the very beginning. By the time a child is 5-6 years old, they’ve seen hundreds of thousands of these messages that obtaining these toys, these games, these objects will lead to bliss.
Debra Maldonado 18:10
You were a child psychologist working with children’s and families. When the parent was giving the child everything at once, the child always wanted more, you don’t have any boundaries with the child. You can have two ice creams, you can have three, you keep giving that person what they need, they learn to keep consuming instead of delayed satisfaction. They did those marshmallow tests with the kids. You can have one now, or you can wait and get two. Most kids would take one right away because we need to consume right away. We need to get short term hit, that’s the destructive type of desire.
Robert Maldonado 18:59
This desire is not bad in itself, of course, because it’s helping us survive. It simply becomes destructive when we don’t understand its nature when we haven’t tamed it, we haven’t learned to use it in a proper, appropriate way that helps people because ultimately we’re hurting people by making them more attached to things. Not that there’s anything wrong with things again, we need things and we need to learn how to use them. But when we give people the message that those things are going to make you happy, better, that’s a recipe for disaster. This is from the Gita which everybody knows what the Bhagavad Gita is. It says “When a person dwells on the pleasures of the senses, attraction for these things arises, from attraction arises desire, the lust for possession. This leads to passion, to anger, from passion comes confusion of mind, the loss of remembrance, the forgetting of duty, from this loss comes the ruin of reason. And the ruin of reason leads to destruction.”
Debra Maldonado 20:25
Sounds like a love relationship, you just lose your reason, you desire someone. You forget where you get it, infatuated with an idea, obsessed with success, obsessed with creating something, but it’s more from that needy place.
Robert Maldonado 20:44
What happens is when you cultivate this continuously, because appetite is addictive, we see people get addicted to food, people get addicted to objects, to money, to anything. We can get addicted to almost anything, because the mind will react to what we feed it. We’re continuously feeding it these material objects and saying more will make you better, happier, more fulfilled. Then the mind goes into that overdrive of just wanting more and more. Like the genie, it’s never satisfied and cannot be satisfied by these things. It becomes destructive. That’s the remedy we see prescribed in the Upanishads and the Gita. It says, you have to tame the mind, you have to tame that genie. Of course, we see yoga.
Debra Maldonado 21:47
Its nature is that the desire is real, it’s telling you something instinctually, I really need to have that, or I’m tired, or I really need to find that relationship or I’m going to be alone forever. Believing those stories we’re telling ourselves that are going to make us happy.
Robert Maldonado 22:11
That would be the first principle that you have to understand. What is it that I’m dealing with here? Because if you believe that the external object has its independent existence, very much like the Buddha says, if you believe things arise independently of your mind, you’re mistaken. You’re misperceiving reality. The reality as far as we know, and this goes back to the very sophisticated understanding that the Upanishads present of consciousness and the mind, it says, both you, the observer, and that object are one. There is no disarray, basically, it’s arising within both you as an individual observer and the object that you’re looking at. In this case, both are arising within one field of consciousness, one field of awareness. That’s the right perception. Because then you see the object for what it is, it’s arising within your mind essentially, you’re perceiving it within mind, and it exists within the mind. That lack of separateness gives you the right relationship to that object, there is no difference between you, your desire, and that object.
Debra Maldonado 23:48
There’s no difference between you and someone who has the appearance of being more successful than you, having more money than you, having a better relationship than you, they are you. If you accept that, you can actually experience it. It’s tricky, when the secret came out 20 years ago, a lot of people started using these ideas, this higher knowledge to feed their ego. Let me manifest a car, let me manifest a relationship, let me manifest the checks. It became more of a feeding that monster, the big genie, versus really getting a true understanding of what’s really happening here. I’m just going to use spiritual principles to create material desires. We have to be careful. We understand it and we want to create but we don’t want to create still with that idea that if I created that I’m better. Let’s talk about how we can use this to be creative. How can we use desire to be creative?
Robert Maldonado 24:58
If you correct the misperception, when you look at the world, and this is explained in the Upanishads, when you look at the world and you think it’s real, you’re already on the wrong track. It says, the simple fact is, you’re mistaking the unreal, meaning the world, for the real, you’re thinking the world is real, my thought of these objects, the things that exist in my head, my desire, and my conceptualization of the world is unreal.
Debra Maldonado 25:42
When we think it’s real, we actually pour our value into it, this has more value than this, the ego labels things in that dual nature. When we desire something, our mind is telling us that has more value than what I’m experiencing now. That misperception of external material thing has some value, it’s not yours, it’s more real, it’s real in connection to making me better. It has an impact, an effect on me.
Robert Maldonado 26:18
Let’s define real and unreal. According to the Upanishads, if the world is unreal, it’s an appearance, it’s not saying it doesn’t exist, it exists, but it exists very much like a like an experience, like a mirage, like a dream. In a mirage, for example, you look out in the desert, you see water. You’re experiencing seeing water, and if you don’t understand the principle of a mirage, you’re going to run towards that water. You are mistaking the unreal, the mirage, for the real, you’re thinking that’s real water, I’m going to run towards it and be saved, drink the water. That’s the birth of human suffering right there. Because we’re thinking, the world which we are expecting to give us happiness through the objects, through the obtaining of sensory objects, the world is real. When I get those objects, I’m going to be happy. That’s the initial misperception that we have to correct.
Debra Maldonado 27:35
The everyday person, we all want to have great relationships, have successful business or careers, we want to have family and connections and friends. The everyday person doesn’t have to sit in a cave but how do they use desire in a creative way?
Robert Maldonado 27:55
If you understand what you’re observing, that is a beautiful world below, incredible, beautiful things and objects. But its nature is illusory, it’s going to change. It’s continuously morphing and changing into new forms and new things. When you understand its nature, you can act upon it or with it accordingly. In that equation, what is real? The Upanishads is saying that the world is unreal, so what is real? What is the reality? It says the world is an apparent reality. It’s a reality, but it’s apparent, it’s only appearing to you that way, in this beautiful form. The reality is your awareness of that world, the pure awareness in which both you and the world arise. That is the ultimate reality. That’s a very different equation than the things of the world are going to give me happiness. Because you’re understanding the true nature of things, the reality is the awareness in which both I and the world arise. In that scenario, how can I use or how can I relate to these objects that I’m seeing, because essentially you’re seeing them in the right context.
Debra Maldonado 29:45
If you come from the ego, you’re not aware of the witness or the pure awareness that we are, you’re caught up in the world, you’re chasing the mirage in the desert. But when you connect with the witness, you have a different perspective. Because you start to see that I have everything already. I’m connected to everything. If I’m connected to everything, I have this body, how do I use it to create versus being caught up in “I need these things”? These little appearances and apparitions in the world, I need them to build up the ego. What would someone create from the awareness? If you’re the pure awareness, you have these earthly desires. How would that be different?
Robert Maldonado 30:39
The implications are really profound. A lot of our work is really about exploring the implications of those principles. Because even neuroscience now and physics, especially quantum physics, are talking about the same principle, this is how actually the universe comes into being. It appears to us, it’s created out of space and light, not out of material as people used to believe. The implications are really profound for the kind of work that we do. One of the principles that the Upanishads is talking about is that the mind is the one that is creating the meaning and the interaction with the apparent experience. That apparent reality, they call it Maya.
Debra Maldonado 31:38
The mind is in the middle, there’s Maya, and then the awareness of the mind.
Robert Maldonado 31:44
The human mind is the center in a sense, between this external appearance that appears to go into infinity as far as we know, space just continues infinitely, and inwardly goes in infinitely as well, because there is no boundary to the inner experience of mind either, meaning to consciousness. The apparent reality are both one, that is the true understanding of nondualism, both the consciousness which produces the universe and the universe, the appearance of the universe, are one, because if you think about it, if if you have a dream, for example, and you ask “Where do the objects in the dream exist?”, they exist in the mind, they’re made out of mind stuff. You can’t separate those objects from the stuff of mind, awareness, consciousness. It’s the same principle here. If the objects of the universe, planets, stars, galaxies, all are essentially the same as awareness, the same as consciousness, you can’t separate them. They exist within and are made out of the same stuff as consciousness. We are that consciousness, we are in it. As far as creating, which is a great question, what do we do with that? What are the implications as far as creating? The Upanishads say you create through your perception, that the things you perceive, the things you think of, the things that you can see, become your reality.
Debra Maldonado 33:45
The thoughts create your life? But you want to do it with a more conscious approach than just “My thoughts create my life, so I’m going to think positive, so I can get the goodies.” How do we desire without being attached? How do we desire without thinking it’s going to make us better?
Robert Maldonado 34:06
In the Gita the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna addresses that question, because Arjuna is essentially us in our ignorance state, thinking that these objects are separate from us and the world is real. Therefore he’s asking the same questions we would. He’s asking “If this is the case, why should I act in the first place? Why should I act if my thoughts create my life? There’s no need for action.” But Krishna explains that you have to take action. If you notice, we’re locked into action.
Debra Maldonado 34:54
Even when we sleep, we’re taking an action, we’re breathing. As long as we have a mind body, you have to act, you can’t freeze.
Robert Maldonado 35:05
Action can never be taken off the table. If you have to act, the question is, what do I do? How do I act?
Debra Maldonado 35:15
I think the great way to end this is, if I had everything, what would I still create? If you had all the money in the world, the greatest love of your life, the beautiful children that have Ivy League grades in school, all these things that we all think are enlightened in our life and make us better. If I had everything, what would I create from then? If everything was enough right now, what would I create just for the sake of creating? How can I be creative in the world? If you think about artists, when they try to create to make money, they’re not as creative. They’re doing a project for someone, but when they create just because I want to paint, or someone who dances because they want to dance, someone who acts because they love acting, someone who helps other people because it’s just their nature, it’s free of that desire, it’s a higher desire. You’re not getting anything in return but you’re doing it for the act itself.
Robert Maldonado 36:23
Krishna’s response is “Do your duty with nonattachment.” If you’re compelled to act, because we have a mind body, then we should do our duty, the role we’re playing in life, do it in the best possible way you can, but being non-attached. It means you’re not taking the action to get the goodies, because the goodies, the result, are illusory, they’re not external to you, they’re already part of your awareness, part of yourself. There’s no need to get attached to getting these results.
Debra Maldonado 37:16
We’re going to do other episodes, we’re going to talk about karma and non-attachment. We’re going to talk about the rat race, how to get out of that rat race. We have a lot of topics to cover. We’re touching on attachment here, but we’re going to do a full episode on that as well.
Robert Maldonado 37:34
The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.
Debra Maldonado 37:40
We are excited about this series, I know this is a lot, the way Eastern philosophy is very different than our traditional conditioning. It takes time to really understand what they’re saying. You can hear this hundred times and you may still just get a glimpse of it. There’s never a time where you feel like “I’ve figured it all out” because it’s so opposite of how we’re conditioned to perceive and experience the world. But it is really the doorway to freedom. I invite you to think about “What do I want? What’s that desire? What would I do not just out of lack? How would I create just for the sake of creating?” We’ll hopefully get some comments below. If you want to subscribe on our YouTube channel, you can click on the button on this video or if you’re listening to our podcast, make sure you subscribe and don’t miss any episodes of this series coming up for the summer to brighten your mind and lay in your soul.
Robert Maldonado 38:53
We’ll see you next time. Stay well.
Debra Maldonado 38:55
Take care, everyone. Have a great day.
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