Book Review: The Four Desires by Rod Stryker
Creating a life of purpose is more than goal setting sheets and vision boards!
By Martina Bell – Co-director of In Life School of Yoga, host of the Vancouver Yoga Social Book Club and founder of ESL Yoga®
I didn’t really feel the need to read yet another book on how to find my purpose, set intentions and manifest my goals. And when I finally settled into my armchair next to my bookshelf, which presents a stately collection of self-help, yoga and other how-to-find-happiness bestsellers, I anticipated that within a few days Rod Stryker’s book would be comfortably placed up there – that I enjoyed the read but that my life would still be pretty much the same; except with any luck “The Four Desires” would have shed a slither of light on one of life’s most profound questions: how to create a life of purpose, happiness, prosperity and freedom?
Before moving on, I would like to clarify that I’m not “unhappy” per se (actually quite the opposite is the case) or don’t see value in what how-to-set-your-intention DIY books commonly suggest: write a goal setting sheets, make vision boards and trust!
Even though the book opens with a bold Tantric promise introducing itself as “a road map to fulfilling your material and spiritual desires, both your short-term goals and the enduring longing that all human beings have […] for lasting peace and freedom.” I couldn’t help anticipating what was to come: a journaling activity asking me to listen to my heart and write out my intention in the present or past tense to create a sense of immediacy; complete a meditation visualizing the intention as manifested to create a sense of reality; and to make up a vision board followed by a promise how the universe would manifest this vision board if I only believed in it.
But as I read on, I realized that in this book, setting an intention was not even the beginning as it offers a much deeper and elegant process.
Rod Stryker offers an explanation of desire; “it precedes your every action, since before you can do, you first have to want” and of the human need for two kinds of fulfillment, fulfillment through attainment [material] and fulfillment independent of circumstances [spiritual].
Chapter three goes on to explain the four desires according to the Vedic tradition in greater detail:
The four desires
- Dharma – “the longing for purpose, the drive to be and to become who you are meant to be”
- Artha – “the means necessary to accomplish your dharma […] material resources”
- Kama – “the desire for pleasure of all kinds”
- Moksha – “the longing for liberation, true freedom”
Then the journaling activity did come. Rod Stryker calls it “The Dharma Code” which is a statement that clarifies your soul’s reason for being. To say “The Dharma Code” is a written account of one’s ideal life is a simplification, the instruction of how one’s supposed to distill one’s individual Dharma Code did echo what other books suggest: Imagine yourself later in life and somebody you know and appreciate giving a tribute about your life and what you accomplished.
Your Dharma Code: Not just another journaling activity
Not only is Rod Stryker’s style engaging and his weaving of ancient Sanskrit with timeless teachings elegant; it is his suggestions how to proceed AFTER the Dharma Code has been distilled that offers a new level of depth in the process of manifestation. As such the Dharma Code marks the beginning, rather than the end of the journey. And this is what distinguishes “The Four Desires” from other books of this genre – after all at this point you’ll only find yourself on page 76 of 320.
How to serve your Dharma Code: Intention
Unlike a Dharma Code which signifies more a general approach to life, an Intention is much more particular and “result-oriented, aimed toward fulfilling a particular goal”, it is a combination of desire and determination and much more than a wish! To explain the seven-step process to draft your Intention (Sankalpa) here would go beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that it involves a deeply revelatory meditation and journaling activity (yes!). And it is intention after all which when it serves your Dharma Code propels your life forward.
The incredibly deep and enlightening remainder of the book explains how to overcome resistance, how to free yourself from fear (including an amazingly daring meditation or “life-style” practice! Get ready for a life changing experience!) touches on the secret of success and closes with a beautiful explanation of the importance of adjustment and contentment, the two underlying principles for every step in the book.
Tantra means to touch, allowing your heart to be touched
Unlike the other self-help books I’ve lovingly read, the Four Desires hasn’t made it onto my now crowded bookshelf – and for now at least it won’t. This book has touched my heart and it is a book that I keep close to my bed side, my sofa and my Puja. This book is so rich in teachings that reading it only once does not suffice. I also open it to inspire my meditations or contemplations. It is to my – admittedly very limited – knowledge not only one of the most applicable books, but also one of the rare ones that give practical instruction as to how create a life of purpose, happiness, prosperity and freedom which work, because now my life is actually not quite the same.
About the Author: Martina Bell is the co-director of In Life School of Yoga, host of the Vancouver Yoga Social Book Club and founder of ESL Yoga®.