This exercise was to become aware of your desires as often as possible throughout the day.
I started this exercise right about the same time I started the elimination diet in preparation for my cleanse, and continued it throughout my cleanse. So I thought that most of my desires would be about food. And, certainly, some of them were. But once I began to notice my desires, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of them.
Here are just a few of the things that I desired over the past two weeks, in no particular order:
- A bigger house with a nice backyard
- A condo in a big city
- To not have any dogs
- To have a big friendly, well-behaved dog
- A cookie
- Some cheese
- To get the carpet cleaned
- Another baby
- McDonalds (What?!?!)
- New clothes
- A maxi dress
- A new hat
- The motivation to write a novel
- A kitten
- Indian food
- More money
- Less money
- To pay off my student loans
- More readers on my blog
- To get the car cleaned
- A new swimsuit
- To get the house decorated
- More time with David
- To not have to go back to work
- Someone to wash the dishes for me
- To get clients for our photography business
- A chance to go paint on my own
- To be able to sleep in
- To go sailing with my parents
- To go visit my sister
- To talk to a good friend
- A new dress for Addie
- To cuddle with my cats
- To get the backyard fixed up
- For it to be warmer outside
- For it to be cooler outside
- A nap
- To go to India
- To climb another mountain
Desires bombarded me at every turn. They snuck up on me when I was thinking about something else. They demanded my attention when I was trying to relax. They redirected my focus to what was wrong with my life.
Now don’t get me wrong. Some desire is good. It makes us aware of things we need to change: desire for a warm coat when it’s cold outside helps us stay warm and well; desire for a new job when we’re miserable gives us the motivation to make a needed change; desire for food when we’re hungry keeps us fed; desire to change the world raises skyscrapers and helps the poor.
It’s when desire takes on a life of its own that it causes trouble. When it goes beyond the necessities and the good to the unattainable and the unhealthy. At that point, desire causes suffering.
And even more than that, take another look at my list. Look at how many conflicting desires I experienced. How can you possibly know your path when your desires are taking you through a maze full of dead-ends and wrong turns?
As always with mindfulness, awareness is the first step. Most of the desires I experienced were fleeting (especially the one for McDonalds – I really have no idea about that one). The desire arose, pushed its way to the front of my mind, and then faded away with time. Knowing that your desire, whether it’s for a snack or an expensive vacation, is just a passing emotion makes it that much easier to control. But so far, the awareness hasn’t made the desires any less frequent…
This week’s exercise is “Study Suffering: pay attention to the phenomenon of suffering.”