The desireless self

Ask yourself, “What is the real motive behind everything I do, think, want?” You’ll see that your real desire is to be desireless. Your real desire is peace.

Jean Klein, The Ease of Being

The main aim of each want is to end the want itself. To be desireless, as Klein says. Once we get rid of a want, another one appears. We fulfil it, it makes us happy for a while. Another want appears. The wheel of wants never ends. A wheel with holes we constantly need to fill. We can watch it, but we cannot stop it by fulfilling each want. This is pure slavery.

When I first read this in one of Klein’s books and the mental image formed in my mind, I felt a sort of vertigo. I could picture each desire as an abstract want and I could see the endless succession. The wanting road to nowhere, the mouse on the wheel, Sisyphus pushing the stone endlessly.

Man is always creating time. Psychological time is thought based on memory. It is essentially the past and we continually revive the past through it. In fact, what we call the future is only a modified past.

Jean Klein, The Ease of Being

I have to admit that until I read Klein’s The ease of being I hadn’t realised that all of our capacity for abstraction relies on memory. Klein insists on getting rid of memory and just living the moment to fully appreciate reality rather than interpreting it and therefore deforming it to our momentary taste.

Memory is the key to interpretation and manipulation of reality. Without memory, we would not be able to predict the outcome of any given situation, we would just observe it. We wouldn’t be able to hope for something different, since we wouldn’t know whether what we perceive is positive or negative. Without memory, we wouldn’t be able to project into the future, since we need the capacity for abstraction and previous experience to make an estimation of a possible future.

Memory is essential for our perception of time. Even for the existence of time in us. Without memory, we would live in a permanent present. A permanent awe, like a child. I wonder if we would have any wants without memory. How would we know what is missing if we have nothing to compare the present to?

I was left with no reference to anything in my previous experience. In this suspension of evaluation I was catapulted into an openness, a receptivity to everything.

Jean Klein, The Ease of Being

All those squares of ‘now’ where I can stand, those possibilities. Each in a different position along the axes, even in a different time, different from this one. Yet they’re only the same ‘now’ with a different wrapping. What’s with the hurry to move on? What am I to read that I have not yet read, to write that I have not yet written, to have…? What’s with this obsessive need to be somewhere else, just ‘not here’? What will ever be different in a different square? Just the wrapping. Acceptance, as Jung said, is the key to the second half of life and to life in general.

When you accept something totally without judging or qualifying, acceptance is awareness, and in this, you are completely free. Completely. It’s beautiful, this feeling of freedom that comes in accepting life, accepting what you are.

Jean Klein, The Ease of Being

Things don’t happen to us; they happen in us. We are the silence in which things happen.