Mind fields of desire

By Sal Barba, Ph.D. | May 16, 2012

“The awakened are few and not easy to find. Happy is a family in which such a sage is born!” -The Dhammapada

In meditation, study and practice it helps us to learn how to just be with our experience without the constant commentary or judging. This requires learning how to settle into the body to attend the subtleties of sensations, feeling, thought and so many other nuances related to our patterns.

Compassion greatly helps us to pursue what is true, as well as what is difficult to look at within us; particularly gross and subtle patterns. Our patterns can be quite invisible to ourselves, and to others.

They can also be insidious – constantly pushing us into one desire after another. However, compassion further helps us to develop a context of right understanding, by giving us a little oasis to rest upon as we pull ourselves out from the swamp of our desires.

In the past several weeks I have come back to re-examine my own patterns. I believe desire underlies all human motivation and suffering. Base desire can be transformed from our limited identification with the raw prima materia of the body, to the awakened state of a Buddha.

When we contemplate the preciousness of our human birth, we appreciate more vividly the richness of our life. We can learn to refrain from the haunted land minds of distracting desires.

Aura Glaser, a depth psychologist, puts it this way: “Eros seeks increase, success, growth, transformation, connection and satisfaction, whereas Death yearns to resolve, to disperse, to erode to numb, to remain forever in the still perfection of unchangeability. Eros seeks happiness, meaning, and fulfillment, and Death seeks relief from disappointment and despair.”

We may call Eros and Death two opposing features of our psyche’s instincts, but they are really the faces of our own desire.

When we do not enter a deeper process of understanding our desires, there can be no transformation and our desires spiral out of control. If we do not integrate the right view with our meditation practice there too will be no transformation.

It is important to understand our motivation/desire to meditate. Our wanting will only temporarily satisfy us when we do not understand our desire for this or that. However, we can’t just wish our desires away, nor can we ignore them.

Desire always comes with something in all of us that feels a lack – nobody ever seeks what they already have! Fundamentally, desire reminds us that we are “forever wishing for fulfillment, while remaining forever wedded to discontent!”

We are haunted by our desire because desire ignites our lives in every aspect. It is so adaptable that “it takes anything as its object of yearning.”

On one end of the human spectrum desire can retain all of the difficulties that arise in our practice, as well as in our life. Desire underlies the body’s urge for homeostasis such as satiation after a good meal, sexual gratification, comfort, the heart’s longing for embrace or release, for “boundless compassion,” and “Desire can be devouring and capricious!”

There is an alchemical clue here that can help us cut right through troubling patterns.

In Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in the Dzogchen practices, we look deeply into the nature of desire (without impulsively acting from it) as it arises from the myriad of forms desire assumes.

However, as much as we have the propensity to become drawn into many forms of desire that arises and dissolves in the body, we simply observe them at first. Just by looking at whatever phenomena arise in the body-mind process can deconstruct any form of desire and fear.

What we will notice when we investigate phenomena when it arises from our body-self is space within and around our pain, feeling, and sensation. The space we see within and surrounding our desire can reveal space inside the object of our senses. This has potential to transform our destructive patterns.

In Dzogchen practices we refrain from commentary and just relax, let go and let the space be revealed. In Western depth psychology, we can see a similarity in the practice known as sublimation.

Sublimation is an important key to the transformation of base desire into refined or higher desire. Modification and transformation underlies sublimation. Sublimation distinguishes us from the animal realm.

There are many ways that sublimation can transform desire. Just a few examples of how sublimation can transform us would be when we delay a desire to harm someone we then realize our remorse, from copulation to a desire to make love, from instant gratification of the body for “the delayed gratification of future achievement and reward!”

Sublimation is like refraining. We refrain from judging, commenting when we sit in meditation practice. However, we need to contemplate upon our patterns, and our desires.

As human beings we are inclined to think that the images we create of ourselves and others is solid. This idea of a self is a charade. The mind can be like a wild horse when it becomes panicked and confused.

Since you are the rider, your mind horse needs your reassurance so that it can calm down. In that calmness mindfulness can slow down our propensity to speed up from one desire to the next.

Until the next column, reflect upon what your desires and patterns are, slow down the wild horse of your mind, stop the commentary when resting your awareness into your body, and by all means please be kind to yourself as you practice the art and science of this marvelous form of sublimating your ordinary desires into extraordinary ones.





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