Knowing vs feeling (impermanence, attachments, desire)

For a long time I thought it was enough to know about something spiritual, but it wasn’t necessary to feel it. For instance, I’ve known about impermanence on an intellectual level, but to experience it in your bones, that’s the difference between a finger pointing at the Moon and the Moon itself. Robin Williams spoke eloquently about this difference on the park bench in Good Will Hunting.

Another topic is desire. There’s a Buddhist monk vow that says, “Desires are endless, I vow to conquer them all.” I’m not a Buddhist monk — I dropped out of monk school because of things like cookies, margaritas, sex, and love (not to mention pain) — but recently I had the very direct feeling of desire, and it finally occurred to me that if I don’t get past it, it will still be affecting my life in 2020, 2024, and if you believe in multiple lifetimes, I’ll still be dealing with it then.

It blew me away that this feeling is thousands of miles beyond simply knowing that I have that desire. For me it’s like the distance between (a) knowing that there are glaciers in Alaska vs (b) being right there and seeing and hearing the calving.

Editor’s note: “Desire” can be cookies, margaritas, etc. — anything where there is “want” with attachment.