The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom (Full Session)



it's an honor to be here and so just just few more people are coming in well I am indeed a yoga teacher and one of the things I maybe I should just kind of preset here is the idea that I won't be teaching any postures and you know the truth is that yoga these days has become synonymous it is more popular than ever and we are doing it in great numbers in the United States something like the the the statistic that's often used is cited is about 18 million Americans are doing yoga but the truth is that America has tapped into just a tiny fraction of the potential of yoga and in fact most of us really think of it as exercise and I can begin by telling you that really the scope of yoga's has a lot more to do with life itself than just exercise I'd like to just before I get into the material try and create some context and particularly in this extraordinary event that's happening where world leaders and influential thinkers are all kind of congregated and together pooling their ideas and their inspirations and their passions and when I looked at my description last night in preparation for this morning I thought to myself in light of so much of what's going on in this particular event it seems like a rather small idea the idea of seeking happiness and in a way maybe even selfish or self-centered given the kind of broad scope and context of this event and I will I hope create its create an understanding in you or help us all understand that they are in fact not in conflict in fact they are parallel tracks the yoga itself comes from the Vedic tradition and the Vedas are what we could really say are the oldest existent spiritual scriptures on the planet and they have some profound ideas in them that we actually see have matriculated and evolved into various religious and spiritual traditions throughout the world one of the principal ideas and this is probably the basis of my saying that your individual happiness if it is in if it is long-term if it is sustainable happiness is in fact consistent with global let's put it this way that the globe itself and all the various populations all the various sites we can think of on the globe thriving those are two consistent ideas what the tradition says is this is that when you are thriving when you are serving your highest purpose you are in fact serving the highest purpose of everything the way I like to portray that is that each of us is a note in the symphony of existence in the symphony of creation and the Vedic tradition then begins to build on this idea that says that if you are thriving you are in fact serving the greater good now what is thriving look like there's a difference between we can say happiness and thriving thriving from the Vedic tradition has this idea that the soul each of us inherently has four desires and I'm going to define them bring in a moment what I'll say is these four desires if we pay attention to them if we honor all four it begins to make possible that we reach our potential as human beings human beings as evidenced by this event and so much in your life are unique are unique in the entire on the entire as far as existence is concerned as far as the world is concerned we are unique our potential is really limitless architecture engineering science art dance music communications politics the development of civilization literature media technology human-beings are the one species capable of that kind of scope of development and these four desires touch upon us extending the potential that is that is seated in each individual so what does it look like here these four desires I'll go through them fairly quickly so I can kind of then begin to build on that theme the first and foremost of these four desires is what in the Vedic tradition is called Dharma and anima means well has a lot of meanings one of the meanings of the word is path or law or virtue but gist of it is that each of us has a unique purpose that each of us has a unique reason for being if you go back into this science and we I can we can nearly make the case that the Vedas are a science rather than a religion we can say that their view of this is that each of us was really born out of a noble idea that each of us has something Noble and significant to contribute to the world and that can happen through parenting it can happen through government you can have politics it can happen through creativity and art and one of the things I try and remind people of is it's not necessarily saying your purpose is found through a specific career it is found through a unique let's say quality of contribution so if I could in your mind just conjure up a few individuals we can conjure up Leonardo da Vinci conjure up mother Teresa think of Buckminster Fuller think of Nelson Mandela each of them had something unique to contribute and we really couldn't ask any one of them to fill the shoes of any one of the other three each of us has that potential this is the promise and the let's say kind of the where they set the bar in Vedic tradition which is says that each of us if we are going to be happy need to fulfill that purpose so it begins by finding it of course and I'll speak to how we do that before we're done but the first and foremost thing that we need to pay attention to according to this tradition is what are we here to do what are we here to accomplish what am i here to contribute how can i elevate not just my own experience of life but how do i elevate others and it's very simple if we really wanted to create happiness in a nutshell we have that teaching to draw from it says if you're going to be happy honor that purpose if you do honor that purpose you will be happy if you don't honor that purpose you won't it's a kind of bold statement it means that we can have many things we can in fact accomplish a great deal of things we can have material success material prosperity but without alignment with that purpose we won't actually be deeply satisfied so that's the I would say that's the preeminent of the four we begin with that idea the next three in a sense are in service of that one the next one becomes Auto which means to have the means to fulfill that purpose so typically this would refer to financial means physical health having a roof over your head but more than that it's also the specific tools and means you utilize in order to fulfill your purpose if my if today is consistent with my purpose this microphone is helping me this is actually a means to help me fulfill my purpose of communicating these ideas with you so we look to our life and see what things we can what things are meaningful to us what things are necessary for us to fulfill our purpose and not all of us have to be multimillionaires to fulfill our purpose if you are in fact a yoga teacher your means will be different than in fact if you are a world leader necessarily they may be in fact different if you're a real estate developer you'll have different means than an artisan so the main thing I want to say here is that this idea ultimately of fulfillment and physical or monetary material means they're not conflicting ideas and that's a little radical because a lot of people think that to be successful in yoga you have to have nothing and only when you have nothing and you've renounced everything you renounce the world in all its I'm already you know undressed in a linen shirt that's already a little non yogic in a way but the point being that this is really a kind of new idea that you have to renounce the world in order to actually fulfill your purpose and your spiritual destiny so as I'm looking around the room today my sense is a lot of you can take comfort that you can have both a sense of fulfillment and worldly prosperity the third desire is enjoyment it's actually the word is common it means enjoyment or pleasure and very often I guess if you were Orthodox in one religion or another you might be hesitant to indulge pleasure and I think that's rightfully said rightfully we should respect the fact that probably you and I have experienced this at various times in our life that we seek certain pleasures that are not constructive they're not supportive but I want to step back and just remind you that all of these all of the desires are should be in service of our greater purpose in addition to the pleasure of beauty and art and sensuality and good company even sexuality I talked to people in some people it's gardening in fact I was gardening last night and that with my three of my kids and that was great pleasure so it's to also say that our life can be in fact quite rich with pleasure but beyond that there's also one more element to pleasure which is really quite significant and that is the pleasure of accomplishment it said in Nevada is that a human being will brave the roughest seas in order to experience the pleasure of accomplishment that's what you and I do in fact very often the rougher the seas the more pleasure we derive from when we get to the other side when we get to our destination so we should also think as pleasure as being part of this larger purpose in life and the final one is perhaps the one that most people attribute to yoga and think that yoga predominates or it's the predominant theme in yoga and that is we'll call it spiritual freedom or liberation the Sanskrit word for it is moksha and moksha in fact is often again misinterpreted to mean that somehow or another you want to renounce everything dissolve all all all connections to the world to family to finances to every responsibility and somehow dissolve into heaven and that's really not quite the right idea the right idea or the way it's really portrayed in the ancient wisdom is the idea that if we could have these three desires that I've already described and at the same time have freedom while we pursued them that would lead to the greatest quality of life it's you have you ever as the alarm ever gone off for anyone in this room and you thought oh do I really have to get out of bed right now has anyone had that feeling ever once just once maybe all right so at that moment that instant where the alarm goes off and you have a certain level of dread or just sense of overwhelm on the responsibilities you have that moment was a call was this was a call for freedom it wasn't to not have the beauty and the joy and the purposefulness that you have in your life it was can I do it and yet be unburdened by it that's really what we longed for so those four desires let's just take a moment just consider them for a moment purposeful life having the means to fulfill it some pleasure along the way and freedom think about those four things and what I'd like you to do is to consider that the extent to which you are honoring all four desires you are truly fulfilling your potential that's it in short throughout my life I lived in Los Angeles and I and as and when Gina introduced me she said and teaching for 30 years a little over something like 32 years and I used to teach in a part of Los Angeles that's not unlike Aspen in fact some of the quite a few of the people I taught had planes that arrived on it to Aspen on a regular basis and I really as a young man I was in my I was just turning 20 when I began teaching yoga it's hard not to be impressed by the level of accomplishment and by the level of vision and creativity by those who are materially successful it doesn't happen by itself it core acquires passion intensity and a good deal of other qualities at the same time I will I had the kind of privilege of being around individuals who had attained a high level of spiritual connection or will say spiritual awareness or self understanding at the deepest levels and very often I found that individuals who had one didn't have the other that it was a kind of either-or scenario and what I'm arguing for is that the full life is a combination and integration a dance really a weaving of those two worlds and really I the focus of my the yoga that I teach is in fact I still teach a few postures I still see pop teach postures but the gist of it and the heart of it and that really the subject of the book I've written called the four desires is about finding this ground where we can not just find one of those desires but how we in fact fulfill them all it is the pivot around not just happiness but it is the pivot around the feeling that really our life has meaning in the in the tradition the they speak about desire in a very interesting way and now I'm stepping outside of Orthodoxy because most Orthodox traditions whether it's Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or go through the list desire is considered really kind of anathema to spiritual freedom spiritual attainment the richest let's say the most profound accomplishment when can have in one's life desire is considered the opposite and when I step when you step outside the orthodoxy and you look at actually what Buddha said he said he simply made a qualification not good or bad he said wholesome and unwholesome that was the way he described desires there are some that are going to support your well-being and there's some that are not in the Vedic tradition they say they use the term helpful and pleasurable some desires are in fact nothing more than more pleasure and maybe it doesn't even last and then other desires are in fact helpful helpful for your growth and helpful for its positive impact on the larger whole of which we are all apart that's the central theme of this idea that you and I essentially are operating within a universe in which we are not separate from and I think that by this day and age if I had said that 20 years ago there still might be a pretty strong debate about whether or not we were connected to the larger universe but you know what you and I at this stage of the game understand that when our economy went bad the first country that really suffered do you remember when what country that was it was very up north do you remember Iceland Iceland Iceland is impacted by our economy tanking who would have thought when Chernobyl does when Chernobyl went off people in Finland were getting cancer when in fact in our most major cities the water is actually full of the pharmaceuticals that the people are taking so in fact if you don't take pharmaceuticals but you open your tap you are so we're connected we breathe the same air the rain here is informed by what countries are doing halfway across the world in essence to boil this down what the tradition is saying is how do you figure out your purpose out of the all the possible purposes there are in the world and I look at the list of speakers for example at this event and I think wow I wish I had there or bus that would be cool that would be impressive to be in those shoes how interesting their life might be and it's easy to begin to look outside of ourselves and think of the of the of the possibilities of being in someone else's place in life the tradition is very clear about this and some of you probably have heard of a book called the Bhagwad Gita which is one of the most wonderful depictions of life from a spiritual perspective but how we live it how we live a spiritual life in the world and one of the things that says and I can quote it I think exactly it says it is better to live your purpose to fulfill your duty badly than to fulfill someone else as well that's really what we're left with so how does one decipher one's purpose this is where yoga begins to come into play because in essence in essence the the key to finding that out is not found outside of you it's found inside of you the tradition makes it very clear that we don't discuss we don't develop a purpose I don't look at for instance Madeleine Albright's purpose and think wow why don't i mirror hers or warren buffett's purpose why don't instead what is necessary in order to understand my unique note in the symphony of creation is a still mind only through stillness only entering into a kind of timelessness a steadiness that is distinct or different from the society you live in from the world events happening outside of you only when I can step into timelessness devoid of external information does that purpose begin to ring true does its clarion call come through clearly so what it suggests then is that there is that taking time if you will to step outside of your rational mind outside of the scope that your rational mind can reach taking time away from it is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself it also so happens that meditation and real deep relaxation have the kind of physiological the benefits of them I and I and I don't that this doesn't sound too crude but if we could package the physiological benefits of deep relaxation or meditation and put it in a pill it would outsell viagra I'm quite clear first of all there's no there's no negative effects in fact when you relax deeply if you have low blood pressure it actually can elevate when you have high blood pressure it lowers it has this amazing effect on our physiology but my point today is not so much a physiological call you know not so much appealing to the benefits of the physiology but rather the sense of purposefulness and the very quality of the way we live so before we're done today I think I think we've mentioned in the description that we'll go ahead and do a short meditation in short my book the the four desires in helping individuals try and find and shape the purpose and then build from that into even larger ideas around the four desires a critical piece of it is meditation it suggests that that we have so much coming at us in terms of just raw sensorial information just input that's constantly flowing toward us that it becomes so hard to really hear this inner calling and we also have the kind of multifaceted attractions of the mind so the mind gets distracted and is anyone used the internet ever and had this experience will basically you go online to just you know check out let's say New York Times or Huffington Post and find out what the goings on or of the day and before you're done you've bought three sweaters has that ever happened to you so you go there with one purpose and then you get taken off to somewhere else if we think about it the mind is constantly being drawn from one thing to the next from one thing to the next in fact one thing I'd like you to think about before before I'm done I'd like to emphasize this point when you leave this short time that we have together you will spend the rest of your life fulfilling or answering a single question and the question is a simple one it's very straightforward but think about it the question is what's next at this moment you're answering the question how will I sit how will I breathe will I take notes will I not take notes what will I do when I leave this room I heard about meditation I've heard about it before rod striker reintroduced me to the idea of its significance will I ever do it will I go to all will I how will I use my time here in Aspen at this you know unique and extraordinary event what is next is the critical question that we spend our life asking ourselves and at the end of our life our life is really a statement it's the accumulation it's a logical progression of how we've answered that question what's next how will I respond to this next moment how will I respond to this argument how will I respond to these ideas how will I respond to this aspect of the news how will I respond to my disturbance how will I respond to my conscience these are all questions that we ask ourselves millions millions of times so the question then becomes if that's what we're asking all the time how do I answer in the best way possible in the way that by answering it consistently in a way that supports my well being that supports the greater good and I've learned if nothing else today you've learned that if you support your highest well-being you're supporting the global well-being so now how will I support my well-being and again my what I encourage you to do is to seek out whatever form of it you want seek out some means by which you take a break where you literally become if you will you forget or you disengage from worldly matters any maze and looking at a lot of people in this room many of you who look like you have wonderful lives but the value of stepping away from your wonderful life just for a few minutes on a regular basis can transform it to become even more wonderful and moreover so that you ensure that you are responding to what is next that central question in the most effective in the most meaningful way that's really critical that we take that time in meditation or in deep relaxation and some relaxation by the way you can do on your back but it's you know I would there's actually a growing methodology that's kind of a growing development which is called yoga nidra Yoga Nidra is relaxed we could call it quality of relaxation that's almost sleep but sleep with awareness that's the way we could define it it's lately being tested in the military with people coming back from the war and suffering from PTSD it's being used with addicts and to show changes in cognitive behavior it's really quite an amazing tool and if you can get your hands on something related to yoga nidra taught by someone with some authority you will be amazed the beauty of it is you get to lie down and do nothing and just listen and essentially teach yourself to relax so in that state of relaxation what happens to each of us is that we don't we're no longer of this time we're no longer of the economic qualities of the time in fact we're not even of the time related to our individual age how old am i that disappears if you relax enough the aches and pains go away in fact it's profound pain management system and that's been well documented in the research and beyond that this is what taps us into that stream of inner knowingness that inner voice people who've studied yoga a little bit invariably come up with a kind of somewhat challenging question which is do you need a teacher because they've read something quite critical that I want to share with you which is it says that there's a teacher within you there's a voice of conscience and now not conscience like morality but conscience as one who knows more than you know that's exists within us and that is uncovered when we relax when the rational mind becomes quiet this kind of inner knowingness and many have have felt it a gut feeling a feeling of have you ever had that feeling like I know exactly what I need to do was a Great Sage in the 7th century said just that he said I always know what is right but sometimes I don't do it I always know what is wrong but sometimes I do it the key is that we there is this vehicle is this this presence of knowing that is within us and that's what meditation is to help us with in this conference in these few days you're spending here there'll be tremendous intelligence and rational thinking put at your feet and you maybe some of you in the room will be part of the process in fact and just by being here in fact you are part of the process but what I encourage you to do when all is done is that in addition to the great resources that we have for our intellect that we take some time away from the intellect in order to tap into something of deep meaning that's timeless and that if we begin to learn how to uncover it will teach us or guide us to the life that deep in our heart all of us want okay so I've made a pitch for meditation would you guys mind with the remaining time that we have we have about 10 minutes would that be okay if we died you through some of it maybe you were just waiting all this time you weren't expecting a whole speech and you only came for the meditation so I'll just take a quick sip and while I'm doing that just put down your notes and have your feet flat on the floor please I would suggest that you put your lower back right against the very back of your chair so that you are comfortable and ideally your spine is as vertical as possible okay let me–just front-load this by saying it's perfectly fine if your mind wanders in fact if you are if you find that you get distracted during this practice all I would do is welcome you to the club because everyone has felt the same thing has experienced that mine being distracted but there are some ways to get the mind quiet the Yogi's found some interesting methods and interesting areas within their body that allow us or help us to get the mind quiet so let's just go ahead and sit tall I'll just go ahead and begin to lead you through this practice and I'll ask you to close your eyes your breath is key to helping the body in the mind relax so what I'll ask you to do is just in your own way begin to smoothly increase the inhale and the exhale and as you're breathing through your nostrils slowly sense the breath not just moving through the nostrils but there's a sense of the breath moving everywhere into the body as though your body was an empty vessel since the breath moving toward your hands moving toward your feet and as you exhale just feel as though the vessel is being emptied just please continue again just if you get distracted just put your attention on the breath without straining you're doing your best to move toward a complete inhale and a complete exhale what I'll do is I'll encourage you to steal that as your breath becomes more smooth your mind is becoming more quiet continue just for about another minute and have the sense that you are sending a signal to the mind and to the body to relax excellent now slowly allow your breath to become involuntary and as the breath now begins to flow on its own without you shaping it see the breath rising and falling through your nostrils just see the breath rising and falling as two separate streams ascending and descending through the left and right since that the apex of that movement is the point between your eyebrows so more or less the stream of the breath is forming like an upside-down V the two lines of the breath intersecting between the eyebrows just for another minute or so watch them breath move and remain effortless just feel that very gentle sensation and since the two lines of the breath meeting between the eyebrows what some of you might begin to feel as though the sensation or the awareness between your eyebrows starts to grow or expand in addition to being mindful of the breath there's a kind of presence or even light between your eyebrows that's starting to grow science has helped to confirm the ancient wisdom that in fact there are many parts of the brain that we don't use particularly the frontal cortex we use only a fraction of its potential heal now as though a kind of presence or light is starting to grow or expand in that space on the sermon of the mount jesus said let thine two eyes become one and their body shall be full of light it's exact corollary to the yogic teaching now as you relax in that space you can relax your awareness of the breath feel as though your forehead is transparent translucent if you will without trying to visualize anything without trying at all since that light or energy or presence or awareness starts to flood through the brain through the forehead into the brain for a few minutes I'm going to ask you to sit quietly and feel light presence energy healing move through your forehead skull and soak the brain envelop the brain feel the brain soaking in a bath of light or presence as you give yourself over to this awareness feel the sense is being recharged eyes sense of smell sense of hearing sensation the ELA completely beginning to renew and re-energize and recharge you the brain soaking in light or energy just a few more moments deal the brain soaking the senses recharged your whole being renewed and re-energized now the last step resting in this kind of presence quality of being please think of something important to you something that you would like to accomplish that would serve not just your individual good but the larger good something you want to become some aspect of life you would like to include that you've been ignoring or some aspect of life you would like to step away from that you've deemed unconstructive in your own way first identify what that might be some really meaningful intention you would like to fulfill and now I'm gonna ask you to either see it in that light or presence in your brain or say the words like you are stating an affirmation what it is you want to accomplish and as you see it or say it feel with absolute certainty that it'll be fulfilled say it three times with absolute certainty it'll be fulfilled and then just take a moment feeling it as completely viable completely certain to give thanks as though you now will end the practice with just this kind of a thankfulness that it's already happened rest in that knowledge in that certainty in that confidence and then slowly lower your chin and create a little bit of heat and your hands if you wants a nice way to come back just rub your palms briskly together and put that over your eyes okay excellent so welcome back so feel okay billers alright okay I think I have question a time I don't my time monitor was doing the meditation and she stopped flashing things at me so I don't know if I out of time or okay I'm so glad you did it though you deserve it alright so we have about four or five minutes any questions at all with any part of of that description yes ma'am yeah I don't know if we have a mic thank you thank you for that meditation that was wonderful my question is is there's some thought about you know in America in particular do something achieve something then be happy mm-hmm and then there's religions to talk about be happy first get in that place and then you can do or accomplish so can you speak to cuz you're kind of talked about purpose yeah and I hear sometimes be happy then you can maybe find your purpose but it's a possibility to be happy first and focus on that that is a wonderful question so was every been able to hear the question because I it's probably a critical piece of mic talk that I didn't include and I'm so glad you brought it up so the question has to do with should we focus on attaining and fulfilling certain like an endgame and by which we'll be happy and you attributed that to kind of an American you know it's pretty global now though they're doing that in China too and or should we like more the spiritual traditions suggest find the happiness and then let it flow forward well they're not mutually exclusive once again from the tradition your soul actually has two parts again again this is the Vedic tradition so I can't speak for every spiritual tradition but the one from which I'm deriving these teachings and it says that your nature is already fulfilled you are already fulfilled and what we'd have to do is recognize it we have to clear away the distractions and the obstructions to clear see and then this wealth or this we'll call it this spark of eternity this spark of spirituality will always be there it's in us so that's what meditation and the like is for and that is what I would suggest is one of the tracks of two parallel tracks the other the other teaching is that our soul has a purpose that the drive as I said earlier that it's not that the soul is incomplete it actually wants to share its own love of self its own sin of glorifying its its capacities is found in the accomplishments of the world and so they're not actually mutually exclusive they should actually be occurring spawned simultaneously and that's where meditation relaxation comes in that's to recognize that we are already fulfilled that we need to clear away the obstacles to clear seeing so we can remember that and then at the same time not just sit around in that remembrance and not contribute anything to the world and so what it suggests is find that find that find what you know what that spark of eternity is that is you and at the same time honor it by giving its full voice because it actually is here for a reason so it's the perfect question and maybe the best way to answer and end the day so and perfect timing so thank you all for coming thanks to the Aspen ideas festival have a wonderful conference thank you

7 thoughts on “The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom (Full Session)

  • So amazing. I feel so humbled by Rod’s thoughts and the manner in a way he’s sharing enlightened experience. I feel so fortunate by life connecting me with the way or your seeing. And living with him on the same land.

  • This was enlightening to me. Thank you very much.I was thinking along the same lines and today I saw it in its principles. This is also the essence of true entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Ruth Rachel…none of this is new, the vedas are the oldest spiritual texts we have uncovered and this illuminates some of its teachings. If anything, based on some videos I see you favoring, you should read up on the true history of the Illuminati founded by Weishapt rather than feeding the ignorant, fear mongering propaganda machine that is a vast majority of YouTube "illuminati" and "occult" searches.

  • Knowledge is power. There is nothing new under the sun. The concept of "new age" is deceiving. Most of what is deemed "new age" has been here long before all three of the so called major religions, meaning "not new!" What the enemy meant for evil, could the Creator possibly make for good??????????

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