To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in nothing

Last weekend I went to a morning retreat on St. John of the Cross. There is much I am still digesting, and as part of the process, I felt compelled to reflect on the following quote:

“To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in nothing.”

I think the reason why this line intrigued me is that my version of this quote would be something to the effect of: “To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in healthy pleasure.”

In other words, I would view reaching satisfaction as a purification process that turns me away from junk feelings towards healthy feelings. 

But nothing altogether?

Perhaps this is taking the view of love as a skill, not a reward to a whole another level!

I’m a bit torn, for on one side I can see how what I might rationalize to be a good pleasure, might not be so healthy after all.

On the other side, I believe that doing worthy things should genuinely feel good, and those feelings should be leveraged to do even more good in the future. 

How do I reconcile the two?

I think the answer lies in yet another seemingly cryptic quote by St John:

“And when you come to the possession of the all, you must possess it without wanting anything.”

Leveraging motivating feelings, when possible, for an extra boost or two is a plus. But, true mastery comes from making choices independent of our desires.

So what does this mean practically?

It’s not easy. I’m a visual person, so I am going to go with an image. Next time I ask myself if something gives me a healthy satisfaction, I’ll do my best to replace it with the following question: how would hands and feet of Jesus act?

What gives you satisfaction? What would desiring satisfaction in nothing mean to you?


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