1. A confession.
The first time I picked up my copy of Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map I could hardly finish it. I watched as social posts flickered in my online vision, people talking about its brilliance and I wondered why I couldn’t handle it. Personally, I wanted to throw it against the wall. It took me a long time before I picked it up again.
Lost in the throes of a job I didn’t want and a life I didn’t love—coming out of a relationship that didn’t work, and a body that failed me, I couldn’t stand it. How did I want to feel?
How did I want to feel?
I wanted to feel anything but the way that I was feeling.
Desire lights the way home, but it asks you to do something important first: it asks you to look inside and examine your feelings.
And that, shit, that’s hard.
2. It can be easy.
Wait, what? But it’s hard.
Yes, it can be easy.
At first, this sentence will make you laugh. It might make you angry. It made me angry.
Because when you’re in the middle of it, when you’ve tried everything you can and you’re working 12-14 hour days and working a few more hours at the end and you still don’t have enough money, when your fat cells congeal in your ass from sitting too long, when you cry alone in a garage because it’s the only place you can afford to live, having someone tell you it can be easy can be maddening.
It’s not fucking easy! You sputter. You laugh. You reach, reach, reach for the thing that makes you feel better right now, because the truth of the matter is that she’s actually right, as are many of the philosophers that talk about the root of desire within our souls,– right about how what you want, what you desperately crave is to feel the feelings of desire, ambition, pleasure… you want to feel good again.
You want to feel what you want to feel. You crave it, want it, need it.
But then, I didn’t want what I had, and all I wanted was to feel less pain and less hurt and less dissatisfaction and so I did everything I could not to feel.
How did I want to feel?
3. A rant against feelings.
Hated it, I hated it, and I just
didn’t want what I had, so
I did everything in my power
To numb it, to stop it, to prevent it,
God-damn-it, I just don’t want to feel this way any more … I whispered,
tears falling on the outside of my
heart, drops dripping across my ribs, well,
I just don’t want to feel anything.
We’ll run from pain, run as fast as we can into the open arms of
Whatever’s waiting for us that
Tells us we’ll feel better,
Even if feeling better simply means
Not feeling anything at all.
The unbearable lightness of being
Or rather the weight,
the heaviness of wanting to disappear, and
What it felt like under the
Heavy oppressive fatigue
job application denials, denials, denials,
to-do lists layered all up in post-its,
tangible reminders of what I hadn’t done and
who I wasn’t and how
miserably I was failing;
Thoughts about what I could and should and would do
If I could only just escape
Escape this hell of daily
monotony, droll dissatisfaction, loss.
I called my coach, my listless voice tacking across the telephone into her ear,
goals rolling out at half speed,
Alarmed, she interrupted me and said,
Sarah, Sarah, Oh Sarah,
First, let’s get you to
You are chasing ambition that can’t serve you right now;
a list of things that won’t help,
Let’s pause, pause.
Sink into what your body needs.
We’ll get there, she murmured quietly,
You don’t have to prove anything today
First, let’s unwind. It’s okay
to let go. To be here, right now.
It’s okay to be here right now.
4. Pain is a teacher.
Pain is the corner of our soul, our own personal life coach,
Talking to us through the crannies of our bodies,
Squishing through our insides,
Reaching out, clawing at our skin from the inside,
ripping at our hearts and minds and
often shouting insistently,
HEY, HELLO, and HELP! And
I’M LOST INSIDE OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING,
and then, sitting back, depressed,
why won’t you listen?
This is not the way.
And these feelings are the only thing your soul’s got to
Tell you that something has to change.
Will you listen?
This feeling, this desire, this pain,
This cutting, terrible, thick block
wrapped up against your chest
It’s a voice, a chant, a prayer, a desire
From your soul.
Yes, here we are again,
Desire, it’s a funny thing.
And this desire leads us home.
Yes, it really does.
5. The difference between mind-numbing and feeling.
It’s not easy, digging into this emotional work, but you have a choice: you can continue to build up defenses and safety nets, numbing yourself with security and short-term solutions,
You can FEEL. You can feel what’s going on, and sit into the turmoil and strangeness and discomfort that is, quite simply, your body telling you a story.
When we have pain, we often try to hide from it or run from it. The discomfort of a job that doesn’t fit, of a relationship that isn’t right–your body knows.
And when it starts to feel bad, that’s your soul, speaking up. It’s saying to you, “Hey, there’s more to me than this. I am so bright, and so full, and so capable, and I need to grow past this and bigger than this. We’ve got to leave what we’re currently in so I can be stronger and bigger and brighter.”
When the soul speaks up, it often looks like a scary story, so at first we try to avoid it, because it sounds like:
“Drop everything you know, and walk away.”
And so, when I first picked up the Desire Map, I hated it.
The hardest thing was the most simple: Danielle asked me to feel.
And in a world that’s so primed on not feeling and hiding our feelings and distractions and numbing and avoiding, I struggled. I was mad. I was really, really sad. Things hurt. Things weren’t working inside. Things weren’t working inside.
My crutches–alcohol, caffeine, mind-numbing television at night, running and running and running–were what I had to cope.
I didn’t know how I wanted to feel. I wanted not to feel. Asking me how I wanted to feel hurt. Burned. It felt terrible. When I picked up the book and had to confront an onslaught of feelings–to acknowledge feelings at all–I didn’t like it. (That’s the kind way of saying it.)
I cried under the covers and felt a raw ache in the center of my stomach. My eyes felt hollow and sunken in, my pants didn’t fit. I wore all black and barely made it to work on time, sometimes an hour late. I pulled sugar out of the cabinets and put as much of it as I could into my mouth while watching television late into the evening, impressive shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Next Top Model. I drank entire bottles of wine and loved the feeling of being drunk. I put on glittery clothes and went to as many parties as I could go to. Sometimes I’d get home and sit on the bottom of the stairs and weep. Climbing them took too long.
What the fuck is this shit, I’m sure I said.
6. The process of getting to the good feelings.
For me and desire mapping, I’ve realized that there is a process to it all.
Sometimes the pre-requisite to getting to the great feelings is acknowledging all the shitty feelings that might currently be present. To get to the good ones, you gotta start where you are. You really can’t start anywhere else. And it can be a messy, painful, difficult unfolding process. It might not be easy right now.
I’m convinced, now, that this is part of the unfolding process.
To feel the root of desire, you first have to feel.
When you cut off the layers of plaque that hold you back, you can shine more brightly.
There’s plaque lining the outside of each of our souls. We build plaque and tartar through life’s wear and tear. We build resistance and protection.
But the current pain is temporary. It’s the space through. Lean into the fire, and walk into the fear, and embrace it. The shaking and stirring is part of the recipe for your greater truth.
There is love and kindness on the other side. Be brave. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Embrace this transformation.
Chip and chisel away at the armor that protected you in the past. You don’t need it anymore. You can be bigger and brighter. I know it. And somewhere inside, you know it, too.
7. Bringing desire to light: a roadmap for your soul.
I picked up the book again, the map, the program.
And begrudgingly wrote down what I wanted, what I wanted to feel.
There was a key distinction: not what I thought I wanted to feel. Words that I thought I should feel tumbled out, like intelligent and accomplished and satisfied.
Yet my soul whispered Sarah, I’m too tired, in reply.
I dug a little deeper. What did my mind and body and spirit and soul want, right now, in this exact moment? At this point last year, all I wanted to do was sink into a bed of restful bliss, sweet dreams, and a pile of cotton candy so high I’d be able to drift off into a beautiful rest. I dreamed of Mexico vacations and sandy beaches and warmth. My pulse jumped a little when I wandered by McDonald’s and I saw the kiddie grounds with piles of balls. Sinking in… I wanted to rest.
I wanted sleep. I wanted to feel peace.
I wanted freedom.
As I wrote, my ego started furiously correcting me,
Insisting that these little words weren’t
Torches enough to light the proper path,
I needed to be chasing things like Success and Prosperity and Wealth and Fame.
And I laughed,
As much as you can laugh from the belly of your bed buried under covers of tears,
Said, fuck it, you know, right now,
I gotta let go,
All I want right now is
Peace, freedom, quiet, and joy, rest,
And movement in my body.
Joy, I’d like a bit more joy.
These words became my torch for a terrible winter, a slow process to guide me through decisions, a wayfinding map out of the darkness of burnout and fatigue.
As the world swirled up around me, coaxing my cracked mind and ego with invitations, I used these words as sign-posts for decision making for the current period.
Rest, Joy, Movement, Freedom.
Those became the framework for my decisions for the six long, dark, cold winter months where I shielded myself from burnout and clung to the minimum scraps of what I could scrape together. Did it bring me rest? Then it was a no. Did it bring me joy? Then it was a no. Was it movement related? (Like the joy and freedom of dancing, and how a single dance class could bring me back to more rest?) Nope, not gonna. Did it help me on my path to freedom?
Then no, nope, and no.
No, no, no.
8. Fast forward to today (because it’s so much easier to move time in writing),
Desire, rooted desire, internal desire, internal fire—
The desire to change, to lean, to get closer to home,
The home inside of the self, inside of the soul,
That content, that peace, that
Conscious swell within,
That lets the voices go and the chatter fall
Softly to the wayside—
This desire tells a story. It tells a story of you, and tells you, through words and a language of its own, the shifts and places for change and growth.
My words today are slightly different—they are peace and freedom and light and movement and joy. Using the words of right now brings you closer to your desire, to yourself, to your light.
So that desire thing?
It’s a map to your soul. To your light. To your essence. Sometimes it’s a bit buried.
It’s okay to feel.
It’s okay to be you.
It’s okay to be where you are, right now.
Desire Map is a program and a book by Danielle LaPorte that’s been one of the many tools and processes instrumental in shifting my life over the past year. It’s one of many that I’ve come back to, time and time again, as I learn to listen to my soul. The new collection comes out tomorrow, December 3, along with a day planner, a workbook, and a journal. Also: I happen to know the designer who helped bring this collection to life, and I’m madly in love with him. Enjoy.