A couple years ago when I was on retreat, the teachings focused on navigating the challenge known as desire. It was suggested that noticing desire arise during formal and informal mediation practice can teach us a lot.
As I began the practice I was surprised to see how often desire did show up!
I like to think of myself as a generous person, and quite likely my friends would reinforce this perception. But let me tell you honestly, it was revealing to watch how much of my inner time was spent planning, wishing, hoping for all the things I would get or beneficial occurrence I would experience. I was actually embarrassed. Then I recalled that the purpose of the practice is not to beat myself up over what arises but rather to get curious and use kindness to understand.
A lot of what I saw on that retreat had to do with wanting to be loved or seen or appreciated - pretty normal human wishes. When I let myself soften and offer some compassion for the parts of myself that had not been loved or seen or appreciated, I noticed the desire begin to dissolve. I recalled times in the past when, without any awareness, this pattern of need had been acted out, times when I could not mindfully speak up for what I wanted or needed so that instead I became edgy and used harsh speech. You may also find it helpful and interesting to watch desire. It is quite likely you will see it in yourself and others.
It seems to me that need unrealized easily becomes greed. Greed acted upon grows into more greed. So I ask myself a question: What is enough? Am I enough? For what? And for who? And do I have enough? The unfortunate answer is, I have too much. The great American culture of do more, have more, get more, be more, has led us to supersize even ourselves.
When a sense of grasping and leaning forward with constriction arises, I notice suffering in my body and mind. This felt sense of desire is my signal to pause. In that pause I find the opportunity to see the suffering caused by “not enough”. And then there is a choice to soften the body, acknowledge the greed or become aware of a true need.
In his poem “Enough” David Whyte talks of “opening to the life we have refused again and again…” This seems to me a key practice when the mind is affected by greed.
As I look around at the world, I see people suffering from war and greed. And, I see how each action of desire or greed contributes to this misguided belief that we need more. Wise action is called for. I am finding it helpful to watch greed/desire arise in myself and ride its wave of “I want” “I need”. Then, I then rest in the trough of the wave. It’s peaceful.
How do you practice when desire affects your heart and mind?