January 2012 mindfulness practice: Acceptance of desire
Buddha, in the 4 Noble Truths teaching, starts off in its common translation, “Life is suffering.” However, I think a better translation is “Dissatisfaction is always present in human life.” This is easily seen by our own experience. I wake up in the morning and if I follow my dissatisfactions it might go something like this:
- The alarm clock is too loud and I want to sleep longer.
- It’s too cold when I come out from the covers.
- The bathroom is dirty and disorganized. Where’s the toothpaste? It’s not where I left it.
- My clothes aren’t pressed.
- Why doesn’t my son make his own breakfast.
- I don’t want to go to work or go to meditate.
- And on and on. This is only the first hour of my day.
This stream of consciousness led by our misguided self-centered thoughts and our desire for pleasure seems to be constant – the mind of complaint. This constant desire is the second noble truth and the cause of the first, Suffering. At any moment, we can dip down into awareness and see our dissatisfactions and our corresponding desires at work. This cycle produces our suffering and through awareness can be broken up and freed.
We push away that which we don’t like — aversion.
We attach to that which we want — grasping.
Tara Brach writes,
“Relating wisely to the power and pervasive energy of desire is a pathway into unconditional loving. How are you relating to the presence of desire? It doesn’t matter what is happening. What matters is how we relate to our experience. How do we relate to desire without getting possessed by it and without resisting it?”
This “wanting self” is not personal. We all want, need, crave, long for. It is built in to our human predicament. If we can understand the workings of our mind, we can free ourselves of being ruled by self-centered mind and its twisted interpretations. Being aware of desire, we free ourselves from identifying with it. Our most common strategies for fulfillment of our desires like achievement, addictive substitutes, money, power, overworking, sensual pleasures etc, will not truly satisfy our dissatisfactions. We are not satisfied because desires are inherently endless. With that understood, we can realign our relationship to our cravings and come to a settled, calmer place with things as they are. We can stay with equanimity or serenity or compassion even in the face of our cravings.
Notice when grasping and aversion arise. Name them. Pause and return to body sensation and acceptance of the energy of the moment as it is. Breathe through the passing emotional landscape. Notice craving’s impermanence.