Not everyone is for God primarily due to the power of desire. Although the desire for bliss, implanted in our very soul, will eventually lead us back to God, for innumerable lives this primordial force has expressed itself as the desire for material and sensual fulfillment.

Likes and dislikes are similar to ocean waves crashing endlessly on the shores of our mind, keeping it agitated. Until we mature spiritually, we are too restless to be satisfied with peace or inner joy. We crave stimulation and excitement and will go to great lengths to find it. We fear boredom and will do almost anything to avoid it.

It does no good simply to try to suppress desire. The path to freedom lies in gradually refining our desires, making them purer and more expansive. When our strongest desire is to know God, we have finally arrived at the doorstep of Infinity.

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Making progress on the spiritual path seems to require great effort. In fact, this effort is mostly the friction created by the resistance of the ego.

Yogananda said that we have five states of consciousness: happiness, sorrow, indifference, peace, and joy. Happiness and sorrow are like alternating waves, and indifference is the trough between them. When we can calm these three, we experience the fourth state: peace. Finally, when peace replaces mental restlessness, we can meditate deeply enough to experience the fifth and final state—joy.

Ultimately joy comes through union with our limitless self, which is God. Joy is the innate quality of our own greater being.

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Another reason that we aren’t yet ready for God is that we become hypnotized by our goals. Whether we succeed in accomplishing them or not doesn’t really matter —we’re still caught. Let’s say we want a shiny new car. If we succeed in finally getting it, we get a temporary feeling of gratification, which fools our habit-bound brain into thinking that happiness is found by fulfilling desires.

If we fail to accomplish our goal, it can be even worse. We are left with only the imagination of how wonderful life could have been if we had acquired that new car. No reality of insurance payments and dirty windshields will intrude. The subconscious mind retains not only the desire for a new car but also the delusion that happiness can be achieved by trying harder to attain material success.

This cycle is endless until we decide that our true goal should be freedom from all desires. As Yogananda said about desires: “never fed, ever satisfied—ever fed, never satisfied.”

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We were part of a small group traveling with Swami Kriyananda for a weekend of skiing. During a snowstorm the car skidded into a Greyhound bus. The bus was completely undamaged, but our car was totaled. While we waited for a tow truck, Kriyananda discovered that the bus was headed to our destination.

As we climbed onto the bus to continue our trip the passengers began commiserating with us about our loss. They were surprised by our calm and happy dispositions. Swamiji responded to one of our new companions, “I would be perfectly happy about this in a week. Why should I waste a whole week? I’m happy right now!” Non-attachment is the soil where the flower of happiness grows.

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Devi was enjoying a seclusion near the ocean. Looking out at the horizon line of the sea, she felt a great sense of peace and expansion. Then she noticed a surfer riding a wave toward shore. Soon she was inwardly rooting for him, hoping he wouldn’t fall, losing her expanded awareness.

Catching herself, she laughed and thought, “This is how maya gets us. First we feel the peace of infinity, and then a small drama catches our interest. The next thing we know, we’ve forgotten infinity, and are engrossed in the play.” Re-enact this a million times, and you can see how we forget God.

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One time Ananda Moyi Ma was asked, “Isn’t the desire for God just another desire?” She responded with classic wit and wisdom, “Yes, but it is the one desire that ends all other desires.”

Jyotish and Devi Novak are Acharyas (spiritual directors) for Ananda Sangha Worldide. Jyotish Novak is also Spiritual Director of the Ananda Monastic Order worldwide. Other Clarity articles by Jyotish and Devi Novak are listed under "Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi."

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