Category Archives: Desire

Reflection: Pausing and Deepening Attention in the Face of Attachment (10:48 min.)



In this short reflection, we explore how we can bring mindfulness and self-compassion to the habits of obsessing, over-consuming and hurting ourselves and others that keep us from true happiness, connectedness and peace.

The happiness we seek is available in the moments when there is really no clinging, there is simply openness and presence and ease.

Listen to the full talk, “The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachments and Addictions.”

Without desire everything is sufficient.
With seeking myriad things are impoverished.
Plain vegetables can soothe hunger.
A patched robe is enough to cover this bent old body.
Alone I hike with the deer.
Cheerfully I sing with village children.
The stream under the cliff cleanses my ears.
The pine on the mountain top fits my heart

Zen Poet, Ryokan


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Desire: A Current of Homecoming



Desire is intrinsic to our aliveness, yet when we have unmet needs, it can possess us. This talk explores how to relax open the grip of wanting and heal the suffering of addiction. You will learn how to bring mindfulness and compassion to the roots of desire, and be carried home to open loving presence (a favorite from the archives).

For us addicts, recovery is more than just taking a pill or maybe getting a shot. Recovery is also about the spirit, about dealing with that hole in the soul.
~ William Moyers

You might also enjoy Tara’s online course, curated from this talk, plus several of her others: Freeing Ourselves with Mindfulness: Using mindfulness and meditation to heal harmful habits, attachments, and addictions. Register at any time. Link includes discounted price.


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Realizing Your Deepest Desires



This talk differentiates between egoic intentions (driven by wants and fears), and our true aspiration (deepest desires) to manifest our full potential for awake awareness and love. We explore ways to realize and open to our deepest desires when we are stuck in self-promotion, grasping and conflict, so that our aspiration becomes a compass of the heart that can guide us in living with wisdom and compassion.

“What’s my deepest intention. What really matters?”

“Mary Oliver in one of her poems describes kneeling in prayer in a field contemplating with wonder a grasshopper who’s gazing around with enormous complicated eyes and she writes: Tell me what else should I have done. Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon. Tell me what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Enjoy the reflections at the end of the talk: Reflection: The Compass of the Heart

image: geralt/pixabay.com


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Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachments and Addictions



In Buddhist cosmology the torment of intense desire that can never really be satisfied is depicted as the realm of Hungry Ghosts. This talk explores the attachments and addictions that so many of us struggle with, and the teachings and practices that can liberate us.

Listen to the final reflection: Reflection: Pausing and Deepening Attention in the Face of Attachment (10:48 min.)

Original talk on 2015-07-29

photo: Jon McRay


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Desire: A Current of Homecoming



Desire is intrinsic to our aliveness, yet when we have unmet needs, it can possess us. This talk explores how to relax open the grip of wanting and heal the suffering of addiction. You will learn how to bring mindfulness and compassion to the roots of desire, and be carried home to open loving presence.

“Recovery is also about spirit – about dealing with that ‘hole in the soul’ … so how does this hole get filled and become holy space?”


Play
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Blog: The Suffering of Rejecting Desire



“We have been raised to fear…our deepest cravings. And the fear of our deepest cravings keeps them suspect, keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, and leads us to settle for…many facets of our own oppression.” – Audre Lourde

In the myth of Eden, God created the garden and dropped the tree of knowledge, with its delicious and dangerous fruits, right smack dab in the middle. He then deposited some humans close by and forbade these curious, fruit-loving creatures from taking a taste. It was a set up. Eve naturally grasped at the fruit and then was shamed and punished for having done so.

We experience this situation daily inside our own psyche. We are encouraged by our culture to keep ourselves comfortable, to be right, to possess things, to be better than others, to look good, to be admired. We are also told that we should feel ashamed of our selfishness, that we are flawed for being so self-centered, sinful when we are indulgent.

Most mainstream religions—Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian—teach that our wanting, passion, and greed cause suffering. While this certainly can be true, their blanket teachings about the dangers of desire often deepen self-hatred. We are counseled to transcend, overcome or somehow manage the hungers of our physical and emotional being. We are taught to mistrust the wildness and intensity of our natural passions, to fear being out of control.

Equating spiritual purity with elimination of desire is a common misunderstanding I also see in students on the Buddhist path. This is not just a contemporary issue. The struggle to understand the relationship between awakening and desire in the context of the Buddhist teachings has gone on since the time of the Buddha himself.

A classical Chinese Zen tale brings this to light: An old woman had supported a monk for twenty years, letting him live in a hut on her land. After all this time she figured the monk, now a man in the prime of life, must have attained some degree of enlightenment. So she decided to test him.

Rather than taking his daily meal to him herself, she asked a beautiful young girl to deliver it. She instructed the girl to embrace the monk warmly—and then to report back to her how he responded. When the girl returned, she said that the monk had simply stood stock still, as if frozen.

The old woman then headed for the monk’s hut. What was it like, she asked him, when he felt the girl’s warm body against his? With some bitterness he answered, “Like a withering tree on a rock in winter, utterly without warmth.” Furious, the old woman threw him out and burned down his hut, exclaiming, “How could I have wasted all these years on such a fraud.”

To some the monk’s response might seem virtuous. After all, he resisted temptation, he even seemed to have pulled desire out by the roots. Still the old woman considered him a fraud. Is his way of experiencing the young girl—“like a withering tree on a rock in winter”—the point of spiritual practice? Instead of appreciating the girl’s youth and loveliness, instead of noting the arising of a natural sexual response and its passing away without acting on it, the monk shut down. This is not enlightenment.

I have worked with many meditation students who have gotten the message that experiencing desire is a sign of being spiritually undeveloped. While it is true that withdrawing attention from certain impulses can diminish their strength, the continued desire for simple pleasures—delicious foods, play, entertainment or sexual gratification—need not be embarrassing evidence of being trapped in lower impulses.

Those same students also assume that “spiritual people” are supposed to call on inner resources as their only refuge, and so they rarely ask for comfort or help from their friends and teachers. I’ve talked with some who have been practicing spiritual disciplines for years, yet have never let themselves acknowledge that they are lonely and long for intimacy.

As the monk in the Zen tale shows, if we push away desire, we disconnect from our tenderness and we harden against life. We become like a “rock in winter.” When we reject desire, we reject the very source of our love and aliveness.

Adapted from: Radical Acceptance (2003)

For more information go to: www.tarabrach.com

Photo Credit: Shell Fischer