Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Desire Part One (of a zillion)

Desire. What can I say about this that hasn't been said a million times before? Not too much. But there is one point that is important because it is a trap that I fall into time after time again.

I have an unwanted desire, realize it, label it and immediately proceed to concluding "I must rid myself of this desire."

On the face of it, it's pretty easy to see that I'm just replacing one desire with another.

Yet, the hard part is that even while I am aware of this, I really just don't get it. In other words desire is a really, really, ultra-amazingly subtle thing.

There is nothing wrong with desire, per se, at least I know that much. And intellectually, I can recognize that I would be better off accepting my desires as they are and not adding layer after layer on top of them, but nevertheless this is what I do--like I am on auto-pilot. I guess the more you get used to doing something, the easier it is to keep on doing it. There is a certain psychological momentum we're dealing with here...

So, over and over again I am usually either drawn to one extreme or the other: feeding my desires with hedonistic abandon, or crushing my desires with a fascist zeal. And the whole craziness of it all is that even if I am "aware" of it--I can't even be sure of that awareness because it just might be a false awareness created by my unseen desire. That is why it is such a subtle thing.

Balance is needed.

Another reason that it is so subtle is that all of the expressions of this desire are not usually even expressed in the "real world". The part that actually ends up being expressed in the actual concrete world is just a small fraction of what is actually going on, expressed in the "real world" only as electrons whizzing about within the lump of fat we call a brain.

Just because it is not actually happening in the "real world", though, doesn't mean it is not happening at all. Furthermore, it is the root of what does happen in the "real world".

So just how can we keep from falling into the trap of more and more desire? By being aware of what makes us fall. And by getting up again when we have fallen. There is a Japanese proverb that states: "Fall seven times, stand up eight."


"Rather than just seeing(what is going on), we act upon what we notice instead: 'I shouldn't be wanting pizza. I must stop this desire for pizza.' This very reaction is already more craving. We're desiring an end to desire. We're doing the usual thing again--reaching for, insisting, grabbing. This is bondage, not freedom. This is a subtle but crucial point. There is no bandage to use on this problem that will not itself be the same problem over and over again...

The only way to eradicate this problem is to see it
(for what it is) and thereby no longer feed it."--from Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen

"By eliminating disturbances we redouble the disease."--Cho Setsu (quoted by Master Dogen)


gniz said...

It's incredibly difficult, I think--once we get into the mind and all of the thoughts, the millions of dreams and fantasies and ideas...

What does any of it mean? Desire is a label we attach to a particular set of bodily sensations, and then we say, "I am feeling this desire, this pull."

After enough spinning of my mental machinery on these subjects, i typically give up trying to understand or solve it.

What creates more tension, what creates less? Thats all I can do right now.


muddy elephant said...

That's pretty good, in fact. I should be asking myself that question more of the time.

Jordan & The Tortoise said...

A good friend of mine often has said "Ours is a practice of letting go."

Of course she is on that big cessation kick (a monastic) but I think the point is not trying to force anything away or push it off, just "LET" go.

Take care,

gniz said...

And thats where, to some extent, I agree with what Gudo at times seems to say.

This is ACTION, not thought. Sitting in that posture is action--for me, breathing and relaxing is ACTION.

That creates the changes, the alchemy, whereas thought just spins its wheels, thinking...not that its anywhere NEAR that simple...

muddy elephant said...

Thanks Jordan and Aaron. Your comments are much appreciated.

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