“How do you live Fearlessly?” The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker (Book Review)

Via Jessica Durivage
on Jul 26, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

Photos from interview: Carl Kerridge

“The more you insist on improving who and what you are, the more you become master of your destiny.”

~ Rod Stryker

In the summer of 2006 I was coming out of a broken engagement, working in an unsatisfying career, my patterns and habits did all but suffocate and paralyze me on a regular basis and if I was getting really honest with myself – I probably drank more than I should.  I was definitely poised and ready to transform my life – but I had been ready for a long, long time – I did not have the tools to face my fears.  My weapons of choice were a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers and the t.v.  Then, I took Rod Strykers’ Yoga of Fufillment course at Kripalu in Lenox, Massachusettes and it set the course for a different way of living… one where I could never turn back.

“If you have not chosen the desire that has created your life, you are living by a desire you have not chosen.”  ~ Rod Stryker

Five years later, I had the opportunity to sit with founder of Para Yoga, Yogarupa Rod Stryker and talk with him about his book (released July 26th 2011) The Four Desires, a call to action to create a manual from the widely successfull Yoga of Fufillment course, which he still teaches internationally.  The impact of this work, unlike just about any other process I have ever committed to, still lives with me on a daily basis.  This article was written with support from my interview with Rod, the book and my notes from the workshop.

A small caravan of yogis headed through the winding caverns of the Colorado Rocky Mountains – bursting with summer green and purple, waters flowing and hearts open and ready to receive.  We were headed to Rod Stryker’s home.  With nervous anticipation to re-connect with my teachers, teacher – a Master.  A Yogarupa.  Somone whom when their name is spoken – an air of auspiciousness seems to dance into the room.  Pulling up at his home in Carbondale, CO about 20 minutes north of Aspen – we meet in his home office, a barn located at the base of the propety.  His “office” is a mixture of his Apple Mac and Mala  Beads.  One can get the sense that thousands of hours of practice have been done here.  We sit on meditation cushions to conduct the interview and I place my copy of the book between us.

Jessica Durivage: As you know, I had the opportunity to take your workshop five years ago.  I am excited to hear how will this book translate to people who have not been able to work with you directly?

Rod Stryker: My hope and intention in writing this is that you can open the book and access the process. It is very process driven.  It includes a very thorough and step by step methodology around the process.  All you need is the willingness to expand the scope of your life.

As effective as yoga is for the mind and the body, which is now being proven by clinical research, asana and physical practice is  just a tiny piece of the larger scope of it. The other 90%  of the larger yoga tradition is just as effective in transforming our lives.  If someone is interested in that profound transformation, I don’t think it matters if they have ever done yoga.

JD: The book, and as I remember the workshop both are very yogic in foundation, process and language.  There is a lot of Sanskrit in the book.  Do you think this will be challenging for someone to work through if they are not familiar with the terms?

RS: It was always a balancing act with the Sanskrit.  My reason for putting it in was to help committed yoga practitioners to understand there was a basis and foundation to what I am talking about. I use a deliberate methodology drawing from the yoga tradition to accomplish a fulfilled life.  There are key parts that address that, that you will never get to in a yoga class.  This is not “Rod Stryker’s version of material spiritualism,” but actually is very traditional if we know where to look and we know where to find it.

There is a perception of yoga based around “withdrawal from the world,” and the more we can pull out of the world, the more we can give up our needs and give up our desires so then the closer we are to the goal of yoga.

It is really quite pervasive, “Life is suffering and the basis of that suffering is desire.”  It is that misunderstanding and narrow view of that is what yoga is that I wanted to break down. We all have desires.

Some desires can help us to grow, expand and channel the best of who we are into the world, and it’s part of your reason for being here.  We all work to separate those desires from the ones that are not constructive.  There really is a power and a profound movement in moving toward your spiritual destiny.  That is part of my rational of using as much Sanskrit as I did – I have put it there to help you understand this comes from an ancient tradition, but the main thing is that this is a process.

JD: Speaking to the process, Rod… When I shared with some people in my community that I was coming to interview you they were like, “Oh he is the guy who made you write your eulogies.” (gotta read the book, folks…) People really thought that that was a really interesting concept.  I remember when I was going through this process it really brought up a lot of intense feelings and emotions to the surface.  As far as for support for this book are there going to be online community forums or study groups available?

RS: Yes.  We are in the development stage for this right now. It is interesting how many of my students have stepped forward and said, “I want to teach this.”   Study groups have been proposed with peer support to help you walk yourself through what is a rather profound approach to Self reflection and Self awareness.  You can really make the case that the basis of this book is about Svadhyaya or Self study and Self examination.  Like most things, the more momentum you have to accomplish something, because our own innate resistance and challenges and non-constructive ideas can stand in the very way of what we need, the more likely we are to succeed.  So through online forums and group discussions we want to provide support to those who have made a commitment to this process.

JD: How do you weave the (Himalayan) tradition and the lineage into this book?

RS: I began to teach the material that would become this book less than 3 months after I met Panditji (Pandit Rajmani Tigunait), my teacher.  There was nothing in terms of actual information he gave me, there was just that meeting and it awoke something in me.  I am having trouble finding the right words to describe it.  It was clear that it was a catalyst to aliven something that had been inside of me and it was a question that I had long been asking.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

I was finding that you could practice very profound yoga methodologies – as I had been practicing for many years with my other teachers – but still not be Self-Actualized.  There was still a gap between fully expressing yourself in the world,  finding fulfillment in all aspects of life and doing your yoga practice.  It was a question that was living with me.

How do I bridge the gap between these two things?

The outline for this, 12 years later, is in the book.  I would tell you that this book is an amalgam between The Art of Joyful Living by Swami Rama and The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  What was so intriguing about (The Artist Way) was that it was a process.  About 7 years ago I read The Art of Joyful Living.  Here was Swami Rama, a man with very few equals in the world in terms of his knowledge base, his articulation and the depth of his experience.  And yet, he writes a book which is so straight forward all about life.  No esoteric concepts.  He just dives into the idea, “Why are people not thriving?”  And then it was informed by The Artist Way in “How do I engage people in this process to move them there?”

Swami Rama with a group of students.

In terms if it’s relationship to the Himalyan Tradition, it is truly informed by an idea that runs through tradition.  On the one hand we can look at it (the Himalayan Tradition) and see it as a great  resource of knowledge about The Science of Life, Spirit, Fulfillment, Peace…  At the same time, this unique lineage distills it into its most refined and direct teaching.  All those teachings can be defined as, “How do you live fearlessly?”, “How do you live joyfully?”  And, every human being is searching for that.  The power of interfacing with the tradition was to really experience that distillation.  My life has been so inculcated by the wisdom of the tradition so where ever possible, I am quoting them directly.  What they have given me is so part of me, it is just woven into the tapestry of the book.  It is the whole book.  It is just that embrace of life – and to live joyfully that is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.

Rod Stryker and I at his home in Carbondale, CO

As a traditional “review” of this text – I am a living and breathing product of the work and would be excited and estatic if everyone found the willingness to commit to any personal process they found that worked for them.  This process, was extrememly effective in the short and long term in my life.  The book is an amazing source and reference designed to guide one through the process of moving deeper into oneself to discover what it is that we really want.

I would highly recommend getting the accompanying cd’s with the practices in the book described and taught by Rod, himself.  I would also recommend staying close to the Para Yoga Community for support and guidance through your own process.   I believe, as I sit here with the book by my side, that I am truly holding what will become a classic text. I recommed this book for teachers, teachers who train teachers, students, and anyone on the path looking to “let the wisdom and love in their heart show you who you really are, and then let it guide you.” (from The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker)

For more information on how to order the book and the accompanying cd’s please visit www.rodstryker.com.  For more information on the Para Yoga Community, workshops, classes and training please visit www.parayoga.com.  For more information on the Himalyan Institute and the Himalayan Yoga Tradition go to www.himalayaninstitute.org.  Join Rods Facebook Page and Para Yoga’s Facebook Page.  On Twitter – @parayogatweets and Youtube.

Rod will also join the Where is My Guru Show on Friday, August 19th from 11am-12:00pm EST and will be available to answer any questions you have about the book and/or the process.

Every Friday at 11 am EST. Join us!

Listen LIVE

Call in: 877-500-ZEUS (9387)

Listen in: 917-388-4642

Chat: www.herewomentalksocial.com


About Jessica Durivage

Whether in a business suit, on a yoga mat or a meditation cushion, Jessica will follow her Dharma to the ends of the earth and work to bridge the gap with the world and the light that dwells within each being.  Grateful for the wealth of experiences, teachers and mentors who have guided her along her path as a yogi, a business woman, a non-profiteer and an improv comedian; she cultivates mindful, savvy and innovative approaches to make the world a better place each day and lead with compassion, from the heart (and trying not to take herself too seriously). / Jessica is the founder and owner of Where is My Guru - an ever evolving work of life that encompasses writing, art, community, leadership, consulting and a weekly radio show where you can find her contemplating Purusha, Prakriti, the Yoga Sutras and why all Yogis are crazy mo fo's. Check in with the Where is My Guru Blog and the radio show on Fridays at 11am EST - www.whereismygurunow.com


82 Responses to ““How do you live Fearlessly?” The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker (Book Review)”

  1. Wonderful article, Jessica. Rod Stryker, along with Stephen Cope, was one of my earliest and still most important Yoga influences. Great to see him here on Elephant.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much Bob! We share an appreciation for the same people – thanks for helping with this article this morning and for all of your support.

  3. Just ordered the book.

  4. david says:


  5. Diane says:

    Oh, Jess. You've done it again–crafted an informative interview with so much infusion of your beautiful self. xo

  6. Karen says:

    1. Suffering exists.
    2. The origin of suffering is attachment to desires.

    These are the first two of the Four Noble Truths. Important to note that it's actually the attachment that poses the problem, not the existence of desires.

  7. Hi, Karen.

    Way back when, when I was searching for an new spirituality for my life, after having been deeply into Catholicism and then Judaism, I started reading about Buddhism and Yoga. Rod Stryker was one of the two teachers (the other being Stephen Cope) whose Yoga writings I found most persuasive and influential.

    This is largely because they both espoused a more creative and dynamic role for desire in our daily lives (as is clear in the interview above and the title of the book itself), in contrast to the Buddhist writings I happened upon, which all seemed to be preoccupied with trying to escape from desires altogether, which didn't make any intuitive sense to me.

    Just a personal reaction, of course, not anything to generalize to anyone else. I know many Buddhists, and even many schools of Yoga, for that matter, feel the opposite. They find Tantra-based philosophies like Rod's, which embrace desires, to be just more dangerous illusion.

    Just goes to show that there are different strokes for different folks.

  8. Thanks for posting this. I'm right now ordering all 3 of the books mentioned in the article!! Thanks so much!

  9. Jessica says:

    That is so great! Can't wait to hear what you think!

  10. Jessica says:

    Thank you for your reply, Karen.

    I would love for Rod, himself to have the opportunity to dialogue with you. This actually came up in the interview. I can only speak for my own experience in my own little life…

    If I am living my life with "blind" desires and "blind" attachements – meaning, I don't really know what they are I just know I am not supposed to have them, then how can I know what needs to be removed and what needs to stay? Just as Patanjali stated in YS:2 – Yoga is the cessation of the flucuations of the mind. That means stopping the flow of thoughts all together. First we need to identify the good thoughts from the bad thoughts (or good desires from bad desires) and from that place we can begin to do the work. Again, just my own perspective.

  11. Loved it, so happy to have been there to witness the meeting of Guru Master..

  12. mia park says:

    GREAT article, thanks so much for writing this.

  13. Jessica says:

    Mia, the pleasure was all mine! Thank you for much for your reply. I know this is an exciting time for your community. So happy to be involved in a small way.

  14. Jessica says:

    Could not have done it without you. Thank you for being there not only for the interview – but from day one (you know what I mean). PLH

  15. Mark says:

    Dont know Rod Stryker…seems that he might be a nice enough guy. The Himalayan Institute seems to be some "spirituality based" program with a nice website… and offering "excursions"…lots of money to be made on a path which leads to where? Indulging desire? Bob…were you listening to any Buddhism? Buddhism recognizes desire, just as anger, pride, ignorance, and jealousy as the five poisons…whose true nature is the five wisdoms. All of these poisons if left as they are and seen as they are can be a path to enlightenment. Your admonishment of Karen is inaccurrate and so is your undestanding of tantra as taught by the Buddha. Mr. Stryker is borrowing from Buddhism and leaving out where the real work needs to be done. Why would he do this? $$$$! My only caveat is that my opinion is based only on this article.
    Jessica…your statement, "First we need to identify the good thoughts from the bad thoughts (or good desires from bad desires) and from that place we can begin to do the work." is what we as humans have been doing even with no spirituality…every moment we are judging….where has it gotten you? enlightened?

  16. Hi, Mark. Thanks for your comment.

    I think what you say stands by itself, so I'm happy to let others weigh in with their opinions.

    Except for one thing–I was not "admonishing" Karen in any way.

    In fact, I went overboard to say that these are just different legitimate points of view. As I said with as great a clarity as I could muster–different strokes for different folks.

    I welcome your alternative point of view in the same spirit.

    Thanks again for being here.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  17. Emily Perry says:

    I have had rod's CD "3 meditations to Live by" for about 10 years~ they are my go-to for whenever I need to get back to my practice in a grounded way. I am so thrilled about the book~ and thank you for the lovely interview!

  18. Jessica says:

    Thank you, Emily and ditto… Chants to the Divine is my fav. My teacher, Karina Ayn Mirsky sings on it with Yogarupa.

  19. Kristy Meyer says:

    Love it! Love seeing a blog here about Rod Stryker, one of my teachers, and my teachers' teacher. 🙂 🙂
    I really resonate with this concept: the amount of energy available to us is boundless once we understand, embrace, and utilize our desires in accordance with our dharma or life purpose. Since I started to look at desires as information coming from within to guide me to actions that are in sync w/ my personal dharma, life really started to flow and I feel freer than ever before. The transformation has been remarkable and is still underway. Fear is starting to become something that I recognize, feel, and move through to get to my goals.

    The more I understand this, the more I am able to use the energy behind the desires to move through life more fearlessly and with an easeful joy.
    Also, I doubt I would have been able to articulate my personal dharma w/o Rod's teachings on fulfillment. It certainly would have taken much longer.
    Yogarupa is a wonderful teacher, and he teaches from a lineage of time-tested scientific yogic teachings.

  20. tanya lee markul says:

    Added to my list! Thank you Jessica!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  21. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  22. Mark says:

    Karen…your point is an important one. There is a way through using desire, anger, pride, ignorance, and jealousy as a path to enlightenemnt as was and is taught by the Buddha. But this does not in anyway mean that you indulge in them more than we already do.We have been doing this for all of our lifetimes to no avail…it does not work..indulging in more desire begets only more desire. Which in turn begets more of the other poisons of the mind.

  23. Jessica says:

    Mark – You use the words "indulge" and "indulging" twice in your comment. Are you simply speaking to the teachings that you follow? I am a little confused as this article and the book never once implied that we "indulge" in our desires. Just would like a little clarity around that. Thanks.

  24. Mark says:

    Jessica….what is Rod advocating other than indulging in desire? You yourself state that one must decide which desires are good and bad in order to accomplish whatever Mr. Stryker is promoting. So you begin with judging what is good and bad, beleiving that either one is solid..Is this not any different than what you have been doing since the beginning of time? It seems the only difference is that Mr. Stryker is making the pitfalls of samsara into a hip new trend while making money off of it….Why don't you tell us exactly what the result of his method is. Certainly there is no evidence showing that there is any benefit other than desire?

  25. Mark says:

    Furthermore…I admit I may be stretching here as I have no personal experience with Mr. Stryker. I do have an impression though and I feel that i have voiced it. All of us enjoy desire. Finding a quick sure way to enhance and prolong desire and make it "spiritual" is certainly popular nowadays. For sure it is a moneymaker. To me, if my impression is correct, there is nothing spiritual about this method. If we define spirituality in the same way the Buddha defined or even the Hopis for that matter.

  26. daniela says:

    How interesting..so how do you define your idea of spirituality? And, if you thought it would sell, would you sell it?

  27. Jessica says:

    Well, I can only speak for myself. I choose to support the ideas and beliefs that allow me to channel the best of myself into the world. My personal experience with this work has led me to "indulge" (since that seems to be the word of the day) in service, writing, community and leadership. It helped me to let go of indlugences like drinking, over eating, laziness…

    Call me crazy…

  28. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  29. Mary Donnery says:

    I took a morning class with Rod Stryker in London, England a few years back. I found him to be warm, personable and a genuinely caring teacher. I look forward to reading his new book.

  30. Ben says:

    Mark, money seems to be your main concern here. Typically, when I see someone accusing someone of trying to make money from a teaching, it is the accuser who has some kind of issue with money. This might not be the case. Is judgment of another a buddhist teaching?

  31. Lisa Hartjen says:


    You raise two important points: one about money in relation to spirituality and the other regarding to the nature of desire. I will address your second point here.

    For the sake of clarity, let me first state that Rod is not teaching (or writing) from a Tantric Buddhist perspective. He is writing from years of study with practitioners of the Mishra (middle) school of Tantra and Sri Vidya. Although there are some similarities between the two, Tantra and Buddhism do not share the same worldview. Some basic differences are noted below.

    In my understanding (and any Buddhist practitioners, please correct this if need be), Buddhists initially see a world of suffering from the ego-based self. The first (of 4) Noble Truth is “the truth of suffering” the other three Noble Truths speak to understanding suffering. As one continues on the path, one finds compassion by first understanding the nature of one’s own suffering, which then leads to an ability to experience compassion for all who suffer. In Buddhism it is believed that all beings (and things) are inter-connected, therefore, there is an emphasis on compassion in action in an effort to free all beings from suffering.
    (The InterFaith Conference of Metro. Washington (2009). Notebook Project: “Teaching About Religion,” p. 4)

    Vedanta views the manifest world as illusion (maya). In Vedanta attachment to the world of change and things is the root cause of our suffering; therefore, one practices non-attachment (vairagya) by turning away from the world (prakriti) and toward the nature of one’s soul (purusha).

    In Tantra, the world is viewed as a manifestation of the Divine in her many forms. However, as Pandit Rajmani Tigunait once said, one cannot fully understand non-dualism (unity) without first understanding dualism (separateness). In “The Heart of the Yogi” Doug Keller (2002) furthers this by saying that the Tantric path is “two-fold;” one first turns inward toward Pure Consciousness (Shiva) before turning back outward in order to see the manifestation of the Divine or Absolute (Shakti) in the outer world with clarity (Keller, 2002, pp. 41-42). Tantrics believe that as we become more “light,” we can share this light with others, thereby uplifting those around us.

    The four desires that Rod refers to in his book are said to be the driving forces behind all actions that we undertake in life (according to the Vedas), namely: “dharma, the desire to become who you were meant to be…artha, the desire for the means (such as money, security, health) to help you fulfill your dharma…kama, the desire for pleasure in all forms…[and] moksha, the desire for spiritual realization and ultimate freedom” (Stryker, The Four Desires, p.xiv). None of these desires is considered inherently harmful in Tantra, in fact, the balanced fulfillment of every one of these four desires is said to be the essence of deep and lasting joy. As Rod states, “From the viewpoint of the Vedas, all four kinds of desires, including desires for material prosperity, if pursued mindfully, can be spiritual because they can pave the way for our soul to express itself on earth” (Stryker, p. xv). Ultimately Tantrics seek to align these four desires with one’s purpose in life.

    Finally, Tantra and Buddhism both acknowledge that attachment to our desires, and more specifically, attachment to the fruits of our desires, is the cause of suffering. I would venture to say that the two paths differ in their definition of liberation: Tantrics believe in finding freedom in this world, while (my guess is) Buddhists believe in finding freedom from this world. The Tantric path is a tricky one and full of potential pitfalls, which is why practitioners are taught to tread it under the steady guidance of an accomplished teacher.

    As a longtime student of Rod Stryker I can tell you that he is a very accomplished teacher who has guided me toward a deeper understanding of who I am and why I am here on this earth. He has touched many lives through a clear and systematic approach to fulfilling our potential as human beings. The Four Desires book is a culmination of Rod’s many years of study and practice of Tantra. It is written with clarity and in a style that makes it accessible to many readers. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about themselves and for those seeking fulfillment in this world.


  32. Hi, Lisa. Yours is one of those comments that deserves to be an article in itself.

    Would you consider reworking a little into a standalone article? I would then publish it as a guest article right here on Elephant.

    Please let me know at my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/bobweisenberg


    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  33. My heart shines with delight for you Jess and for Rod. – So proud to be a part of both of your lives… two souls who are powerful forces for good in this world! ~ Karina

  34. Jessica says:

    Thank you for sharing, Kristy! I hope that you continue to find expansiveness in your life. I hope to see you at one of Rod's trainings in the future! ~ Jess

  35. Jessica says:

    What a journey this has been – and my inner longing to be connected with you and this tradition weaves light, love and guidance into my life… just when I need it most. I am so grateful for you, as I feel so connected to you through my own work in the world – that you truly are right there with me, supporting me and loving me.I love you!
    ~ Jess

  36. editing geek says:

    rod stryker and me (for starters)!

  37. LUBER says:


  38. Kristy Meyer says:

    Thanks, Jess! 🙂

  39. […] This interview first appeared in elephant journal. […]

  40. […] Purusharthas, dharma, artha, kama, and moksha, are defined as “the objectives of human being.” Rod Stryker draws from them in his best-selling book, The Four Desires. Here are the four connected to the […]

  41. […] Read The Four Desires book review on Elephant Journal. Read an introduction to The Four Desires book club. Visit the 4D book club’s home page on elephant journal. […]

  42. […] Read The Four Desires book review on Elephant Journal. Visit the 4D book club’s home page on elephant journal. As a traveler and painter Chanti has grounded her roots in the path of yoga wherever she has landed. Chanti began practicing Yoga during her first year in college & continued when she left for Hampshire College to complete her BA in Painting/Fine Arts and Special Education. From 2001-2004 she lived and worked in Havana, Cuba as the Hampshire College Cuba Program Coordinator where she studied Iyengar Yoga. Chanti has been studying and teaching yoga in the Tantric Hatha Linage since 2005 with her teacher Rod Stryker, founder of Para Yoga. He has taught her that everyone has the ability to know their destination and find that road to walk on. She has currently completed the Para Yoga Certification (level I) & her Restorative Yoga training with Judith Handson Lasater. Her study of Sacred Art and Yantra Painting merge her love of Yoga with her passion for painting and education. […]

  43. […] Chanti Read The Four Desires book review on Elephant Journal. Read other discussions about The Four Desires Instructions: How the book club works As a […]

  44. […] Chanti Read The Four Desires book review on Elephant Journal. Read other discussions about The Four Desires Instructions: How the book club […]

  45. […] Chanti Read The Four Desires book review on Elephant Journal. Read other discussions about The Four Desires Instructions: How the book club works As a […]