Includes: Wanting, Needing, Lust, Longing, Craving, Thirst, Yearning, Wishing for, Addiction
This is the quality of mind that wishes for something to be happening, usually pleasant, that isn’t happening in the moment. It’s the sense that things as they are right now are somehow not OK. It can range from the slightest movement towards something more pleasant than what’ is happening, to the most severe addictive qualities of mind.
When working with Desire or any of the Hindrances, using the R.A.I.N. acronym can be helpful:
Recognize that desire is present. Say it to yourself. Let it be crystal clear that this is the condition of the mind at this moment.
Accept or allow it to be there. Not condoning it or feeding it, but simply acknowledging that this is what’s present, without judgment. It’s here, what is there to resist?
Investigate the mind state by moving closer to it. One important way to investigate Desire is to explore and see its suffering nature. More on this at the end of the blog.
Practice Non-Identification with the mind state. You didn’t ask for it to arise, it just arose. Now, you had something to do with its arising, in that there is strong momentum from all the previous times it has arisen in your mind, but in the moment, you did not directly cause it to arise. There is no need take ownership of it. You want to take responsibility for it, because, here it is, but no need to claim ownership.
Picking A Snake Up By The Tail
Because the objects of Desire are pleasant, it can be difficult to see clearly, in the moment, that Desire is a suffering state. The teachings compare having desire in the mind with picking up a snake by the tail. At first, it seems like there is no problem, until the snake whips around and bites you!
When Mindfulness is absent or weak, what we are mostly aware of when desire is present is the pleasant feeling of the object of Desire. The picture in the mind of that new object we are going to obtain, or the thoughts about what a great time we’re going to have on vacation. We’ve got the snake by the tail, all is well. But, with stronger mindfulness, we can look more closely at the situation and discern the suffering nature of it. Perhaps we can notice that the thoughts about the vacation are constantly disappearing and to maintain the fantasy, we have to keep recreating them and how tiresome that is. Or, we might notice that the thoughts about the object we want start to have a life of their own. They keep coming, even when we’ve had enough of them, and so we can feel their tyrannical nature.
The idea is to see ever more clearly the suffering nature of desire, until one day, when the seeing is clear enough, the snake comes slithering by and we just don’t pick it up. We know that the short term hit of pleasure is not worth the suffering that is bound up with the desire.