Since I made that post, I have been attending to desire as it arises through the day. I have found much depth in the imagination/fantasy distinction. Watching desire arise in response to external and internal phenomena and holding both the desiring one and the thing desired in awareness, they are seen each to interact and to morph. Neither remains constant. True to Buddha's teaching of impermanence and co-dependent origination, from the perspective of the one desiring, the desired is always subtly shifting, and from the perspective of the desired, the one desiring is also shifting, each revealing new characteristics and losing old. From a psychological standpoint, this subtle and fascinating shifting is enormously informative about how the sense of a self arises moment to moment, yet is never the same.
Often, the thing to which desire attaches first appears to be an object of imagination, but as it is held in awareness, the nature of desire tends to shift and some aspect of the thing desired can be seen as arousing fantasy. Escape, not engagement, with reality. There is no bright line, no division that can be held between the two. But the tendency of mind to shift toward delusion, toward fantasy, toward a grasping for unreality to satisfy some egoic need, is seen as subtle and pervasive. Some aspect of the self seems to sit in wait for the opportunity to emerge under the guise of imagination, only to appropriate the object, the seen, to satisfy its unmet needs, and because those needs are insatiable, suffering. A nice lesson in the tendency to delude ourselves as to what it is we actually desire, in practice and elsewhere.
This lesson leads us farther along the path. The observation of desire's tendency to move toward fantasy gives rise to wisdom which, in turn, reduces the tendency to identify with fantasy when it arises. The mental pattern revealed is remembered, embodied knowledge of this source of suffering is refined. Untimately, our desire to practice, our imagining how practice will reduce the self's suffering, is strengthened.
Desire. Wonderful energy for awakening.