The Four Desires
Several months ago, I had an uplifting and exciting conversation with two of my yoga colleagues. All of us had found our way to master yoga teachers whose teachings are more and more about meditation and emphasizing greater purpose beyond the asana practice. One of my colleagues is a student of Rod Stryker, and at the time, she was deep in her studies, working with a yet-unpublished manuscript of Rod Stryker’s new book, The Four Desires. What she had to say about his teachings really resonated with me, so I picked up a copy of The Four Desires as soon as it came out.
The Four Desires, as Rod Stryker outlines, are dharma (life’s purpose), kama (pleasure), artha (resources), and moksha (spirituality). At different times in our life, one desire my dominate over the others, and ultimately, we are striving for the contentment found by living out our life’s purpose. The book is all about uncovering the heart’s desires and how to achieve sankalpa (short term goals) that will lead you to fulfill your Dharma Code (your life’s purpose).
What I loved about this book is that it offered explicit exercises for self-study as well as complimentary guided meditation practices. I strongly recommend getting the CD that goes with the book, because it’s necessary to do the meditations as directed to get the full benefit of the exercises, and besides, the meditations are really lovely and will be useful even after going through the whole book.
Some of the exercises came easily, and felt good to do. Some were difficult and I encountered resistance. I’m really curious about the experience other yogis had with this book, so I’m going to go ahead and share the results of my work. If you consider that a spoiler, I guess you can come back and read this next part later! Also, I think it’s interesting to talk about what actually goes on in meditation, because otherwise it can be such a solitary practice. Something is happening in there though! I wish people would talk about that part more. Maybe I just don’t know the right people.
Anyway, here are some highlights of my discoveries:
Dharma Code (life’s purpose):
I share the limitless goodness of Being through my unique perspective on the Divine.
This was surprisingly easy for me to articulate. I don’t really have anything else to add because I’m so clear on my statement, that I feel like it speaks for itself.
Sankalpa (short term goal):
I am radiant! I meditate daily and I have a fulfilling practice that positively affects all aspects of my life.
OK this surprised me. At the meditation that accompanied the exercise for identifying sankalpa, the word mokhsa lit up like a marquee. OK! Moksha it is! I thought my sankalpa would have something to do about filling my dance classes or advancing my yoga career, or some other tangible thing. I even bought a Prosperity Mala from Tiny Devotions because I’ve been wanting to amp up my yoga/dance career. But looking at my Dharma Code, there is nothing about yoga/dance in there. Except that, at present, the way I share the limitless goodness of Being is through teaching yoga and performing dance. But HOW do I get that unique perspective on the Divine? Where does that understanding of WHAT to share come from? Oh yeah, through meditation. I also like how what I thought I wanted was quite easily uprooted by my core desire for LIGHT (I am radiant!) through meditation, that is, by not actually thinking about it.
Vikalpa (the obstacle in the path of your sankalpa)
I must do everything perfectly, or it is not worth doing at all.
Oh Vikalpa, the ugly self-critic, or as Donna Mejia would say, your drunk friend that you need to learn how to ignore. Bleh. I think that the worst part about my ugly drunk friend Vikalpa is that “perfect” is pretty much undefinable and impossible and therefore I am way hard on myself in nearly every aspect of my life (see also Svadyaya and Practice). That nonsense runs DEEP, yo. At least I am aware of this sucky thought pattern and can work on shifting it, shining light on it, and chasing it outta here.
I’m grateful for the fresh perspective this book has helped me shape over the past few months. I’m looking forward to continuing to use the meditation practices, and I’m also looking forward to revisiting the whole process again when I’m ready to pick up a new sankalpa to work on.
Read the book! Do the work and tell me about it!