Get Closer

Driving to Pittsburgh yesterday, I heard the song “Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts. “Darling, if you want me to be closer to you, get closer to me.” In light of the online class I’m taking on the Five Hindrances, I thought about that song as if I were talking to myself about being happy and content in light of the way I engage in and respond to the current hindrance of study: sensual desire (or desire in general).

Teacher Gil Fronsdal wrote in a recent daily meditation, “Often, the desire for sensual pleasure is a surface manifestation of desiring something else…Many times it is not the object of desire we want, it is the ideas we have about the desired object.”

There are many things I desire. The one I chose to examine more closely in this course is my desire to stay thin. Like other desires – eating, sleeping, having sex, shopping, etc. – the desire to stay thin can be a helpful and skillful tool, but like food and sleep and sex and shopping, the desire to stay thin can also become that “surface manifestation of desiring something else.”

Some people eat because they’re depressed. Some people have sex in order to not be alone. Some people shop to fill a void. Some people, like…oh…say…ME, stay thin for reasons beyond staying healthy (reasons ones I’m not comfortable confessing just yet). Yuck. This is not a comfortable thing to examine. But if I want to be “closer” to understanding this desire, I need to get “closer” to it, I guess.

I’d rather just have sex or something.

Because my main (and most helpful) reason for staying thin is to be as healthy as I can, NOT staying thin, while an option, is not something I desire or will actively pursue. However, in my desire to stay thin, I’ve noticed that sometimes I get grumpy and discontented when making food choices or exercising. An instruction I found helpful was today’s meditation from Buddhist teacher Ines Freedman, who used taxes as her example, but I inserted “exercise” to illustrate my point.

Freedman wrote, “…We are not our moods, no matter how prevalent. If every time you sit down to exercise, you are unhappy, maybe you have a choice. What would you rather do? You have to exercise in order to stay thin, would you rather exercise happily or angrily? Is it any more authentic to exercise in a bad mood?”

Just as it’s easier to gain weight than lose weight, it’s often easier to feel or react to negative feelings than bad. We dwell on them and personalize them and let them hinder our desire to be happy and content. For instance, I hear from people all the time who tell me they feel stuck and can’t start losing weight because they’re afraid of failure. They don’t feel they have any choice except to lose weight, but they don’t know how to take that first step.

What I’m learning is that we have choices within our choices, like a family tree of choices. I can choose to stay thin, and within that choice, choose to do it with a more positive attitude. You can choose to lose weight or you can choose to not lose weight. From that choice, you can choose to do it in fear or with hope. Within those choices you can choose to be passive or assertive. Our choices are endless. The point is to be mindful of your choices and mindful of why you choose what you choose.

I desire to stay thin. I desire to understand why I want to stay thin and to work through and dismantle the reasons that are not so helpful or skillful. Difficult work, to be sure, but in the end, I’ll be free from that clinging and I can cross one more desire off my laundry list of unskillful desires.

So, my question to you is the same one Gil asked of his students: “What are the root desires that may be the cause and fuel for your sense desires?” Because darling, if you want to be closer to yourself, get closer to your desires.

9 thoughts on “Get Closer

  1. You are right, it's all about choices. Every day for the last twelve years that I have chosen not to overeat is another day that I will stay thin. Although choice is good, sometimes it is hard to make good choices! I have found that the longer I have maintained my weight loss, the easier the food choices become. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh Lynn, just today in my “Ontology and Cosmology of Romanticism” class in the university we were discussing just about that.That human beings strive to achieve wholeness of the self and get a step closer to self-consciousness.That their lifetime is devoted to the quest of the “anima”.Anima stands for the dark unexplored side of the self,the REAL one.Once they find her and permit her to take control of their mind, nothing stops their evolution and growth.Others,however fight her or they never allow her to come to surface out of fear and personal complexes.I think you have found your anima Lynn. All those years your thin self-the REAL you-was trapped in a fat woman's body.And I am too moving towards to find my anima.I feel I'm getting close to it.It's not that I want to be thin just to look good and for others to admire me.I want to be thin because I was born to be thin, my SELF is a thin girl.I'm sure that noone but you,understands me better!!!

  3. whoa. FANTABULOUS post oh amazing writer woman.

    it is all the same in a way (as you point out).
    so many things I SAY I want.
    Give lip service to desiring.
    Yet seem not to be working toward them.

    (yep. totally turned this all around and made it about me. :))

  4. Katerina, what fabulous insight! Finding our anima IS what it's all about. Best to you as you continue to unfold the real you.

    Miz, remember, I asked the question so you GET to make it all about you 😉 God knows I'm all about me on YOUR website!

    45, yeah, it's hard to follow something like Anima…I miss college…

  5. Isn't there a quote out there that says how we aren't really afraid of what we can't do, but more of what we CAN do? I know this applies to me. Loved this post. More please.

  6. There are so many bells going off in my head right now it sounds like a glockenspiel. Great post! It really resonated. I love the family tree of choices…

  7. great post! i have to be honest and admit that i've never really thought about the 'real' reason behind me wanting to lose weight… sure, i'd like to have smaller hips/thighs and be in smaller clothes but isn't feeling better, stronger, and healthier more important reasons? shouldn't waking-up on a saturday morning and going to a spin class be something i look forward too, instead of sleeping late and having a huge breakfast… each of us have our own reasons but like you said, it's the choices that we make and have to live with that matter most… 🙂

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