Heartfelt Desire and the Passion Vine

Santa Rosa life coach & psychotherapist Patty Bechtold blogs about heartfelt desire at www.wiselifetherapy.com

True, heartfelt desire: what is it? And what’s the difference between everyday wanting and deep desire?

These are actually questions that I ponder, because I have to admit I am wary of too much wanting. 

Because sometimes it feels like there’s a drumbeat of wanting going on around us all the time. It’s propelled, in part, by human nature, but also by so many other things: mass marketing, social media, upbringing, peer pressure and social constructs about what constitutes a good life.

But beyond that kind of wanting—beyond that drumbeat—I do believe in the power of desire. 

And I’m pretty sure that desire is quite different than what we tend to think of as wanting.

Wanting can feel like pushing, striving, being attached to the outcome. Desire, on the other hand, can feel more like being swept away, surrendering, letting go of the need to know exactly where it will take you.

By the way, I don’t mean only physical or sexual desire, even though we’ve just passed Valentine’s day. I’m thinking more about how we all have unique and very personal desires. In fact, you can experience desire and love for people, animals, places, ideas, work, feelings, behaviors, values. Anything, really.

And in the throes of deep desire (for anything) you may feel captured by what you love.

You take a few steps toward it, and it reels you in. Sometimes you’re not sure what’s propelling the forward movement: you or it. Sometimes, as you connect with it, you even lose track of where you leave off and it begins.

So desire, in its most elemental form, is the swirling life force: love, fascination, passion, curiosity, pleasure, connecting.

I learned something about heartfelt desire back when I was tending passion vines.

A few years ago I had a much bigger garden and I used to grow them. Okay, I was a little mad for them really. You could say that I had a passion for passion vines.

And I vividly remember a conversation I had with my husband one summer. We were out in the garden and he’d been admiring the vines. Then he said, “If anyone ever doubts the power of the life force, they should just go spend some time with those passion vines.”

I love the image of the passion vine as a teacher of true desire, a symbol of our life force.

The passion vine grows toward the sun with wild abandon. It’s captured by those structures that support its growth: a trellis, an arbor, an old table, the side of the house, a tree. It can’t really do it alone, and needs help to proceed with its vigorous desire for sun and light.

It’s also really good at pushing out beyond what seems possible, surrendering to its desire. Reaching. Twining. Wrapping.

But it can burn itself out too. Its passion to go toward what it loves can be so furious that it wipes out its support. The weight of the vine causes the arbor or trellis to fall to the ground, broken. 

And then the passion vine falls with it, spent. Covering itself up and cutting off further growth.

So I used to help it along by trimming it back before it collapsed. (Well, except for that one time I neglected it and it crashed to the ground.)

I knew that this was what it wanted, though. How did I know? Because as my trusty electric pruner released the first layer, we’d get to the old dried out buds and tendrils and leaves underneath. 

And then the passion vine would start to revive as the old stuff fell away. Suddenly it was lighter. Freer. Ready to grow again with wild abandon. Ready to be swept away by its desires.

Which makes me think there’s a lesson here about what heartfelt desire needs and how we cultivate it in ourselves.

Maybe desire, like the passion vine, needs support, along with a continuing cycle of growth and replenishment. 

By doing a little careful pruning now and then, we’re able look underneath and ask, “What’s the desire beneath the desire?” That helps us tune out the constant drumbeat of wanting that I am so wary about, and drop down into what’s real and true.

I know the passion vine loves sun and air and water and space and support.

And me? I love stories and creativity and deep connection and natural beauty.

And you? What are your most heartfelt desires? What captures you and pulls you toward it? What’s the desire beneath the desire?

(A version of this post was published in 2012 on my first blog, Living Deep Studio.)


The Lover archetype governs all kinds of love–from parental love to friendship to spiritual love–but we know it best in romance.
-Carol Pearson
Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Welcome. I'm a Santa Rosa therapist and life coach, and I help women who feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. I specialize in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, life transition, and women's groups. On this blog I write about different approaches to help you find your way back to your deepest wisdom. Thank you for being here.