My mother used to say, “Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.”
She was expressing a deeper truth — every desire must be fulfilled. Desire, Paramhansa Yogananda taught, directs our energy. When I first heard Yogananda’s voice on a recording, I remember him thundering, “You must finish your desires!” As I was new on the spiritual path, I thought, “Goodness, how in the world can I finish my desires?!” It seemed like an insurmountable task to me at the time.
Swami Kriyananda once asked Yogananda about desires:
“All desires, Sir – even trivial ones, unfulfilled at the time, that one later forgets about? What about such insignificant desires as the mild wish for an ice cream cone? Must even that idle wish be fulfilled, eventually?”
Master shocked me by answering quite seriously, “Oh yes!”
Don’t try, however, to search out every fleeting wish you may have had. (That process might take forever!) Rather, make a sweeping overview of your life, and say, simply, ‘It is all Yours, Lord. I want only Thee now, nothing but Thee!’
How do we change the clay of material desires into the gold of spiritual realization and the desire for God alone?
I recently heard an incredible story from a friend about how God hears our prayers and helps us transmute desire.
When my friend was a young man, he lived in Los Angeles for a period of time and had a girlfriend named Pat. Pat had red hair and was from St. Louis. They were on the beach in Santa Monica and Pat broke up with my friend explaining she was leaving Hollywood and moving back to St. Louis to be with her high school sweetheart.
Naturally, he was heartbroken. He was left alone on the beach and a fervent prayer welled from within his heart. He had a book of Satya Sai Baba’s at the time and prayed fervently looking at Baba’s photo, “Lord, I don’t want to fall into this delusion of romantic love!”
Not ten minutes later while still alone on the beach a woman sat down on her beach towel not far from him. He noticed she had very similar red hair to his now ex-girlfriend. They struck up a conversation and lo and behold her name too was Pat! And to add to the “coincidence” she was also from St. Louis! The new Pat opened up to him that she had come to the beach to commit suicide by throwing herself into the ocean.
To make a long story short, they did not become romantically involved, but his kindness and friendship saved her life. God answered his prayer through this incredible encounter.
If you feel you need help overcoming material desires, pray to God that they be transmuted from human romance into Divine Romance.
To finish your desires, Swami Kriyananda offers some invaluable advice from his essay, “The Final Exam”:
Go mentally over every desire in your heart, and offer it to God. Think of the higher, spiritual counterpart of the fulfillment promised by that desire. If, for instance, you’ve had a desire for a car, don’t merely tell yourself, ‘I won’t be needing a car anymore where I’m going.’ Say, rather, ‘Now I will be flying in heavenly freedom through vast skies of eternal bliss!’
If your desire was for, yes, let’s say it, for an ice cream cone!, remember these words, addressed to me by Anandamayee Ma (a wonderful woman saint whom I knew in India). Speaking with a radiant smile, as she was giving me a little box of sweetmeats, she said, ‘Sabsomoy mishti khao‘ Always eat only sweetness!’
If your desire was for a mate, offer that desire up to God and pray for the supreme bliss of eternal union with Him.
If you’ve ever desired to go anywhere or to see anything, tell God, ‘Let me soar in Infinity, enjoying Thee everywhere, and in everything!’
If your desire was to do something, tell God, ‘In infinite consciousness, I will accomplish everything!’
Mostly, dwell on happy thoughts. Tell yourself, and tell God, ‘This life has been a dance in Your bliss. Even the hard tests You’ve sent me have helped me. I’ve learned so much from them; I’m grateful for all of them; they have given me priceless insights. But now, Lord, I offer everything up to You. It was Your life I lived, not mine. Let me rest eternally, from now on, in Your love.’