Freedom from desire

There are a million and one ways in which we can offer resistance to what we find happening in the moment. And this can be seen as the cause of our suffering can’t it? That’s not to confuse suffering with pain. Pain happens. It’s a label for part of this human experience; an inevitable part. Suffering is really the gap between what is and the way we want things to be.

But what is is just what is. It is this way because it’s been caused to be this way. Accepting how it is, without resistance doesn’t limit our choices. In fact it creates more space and freedom in which to choose.

So much of our path can be about finding a ‘better me’ based on a set of ideals. Whether it’s our physical appearance, our conduct or the thoughts and feelings that arise, we can all at times want it to be other than it is. In a perfect world we’d have no desires, no temptations and no negative mind states. That’s more spiritual, right? To be free from all these would be to have a perfect life… or so we think.

But let’s look more closely. Look at our physical desires. We like nice things to eat because this form requires food. We’ve built up preferences around this and we like some food better than others. That’s normal isn’t it?


Hunger, thirst, sexual desire are part of this form and therefore part of this human experience. These aren’t personal things. They’re ‘hard wired’ into this form. These things arise because it’s normal for them to do so. But if we don’t see this as normal, if we don’t recognise there’s no need to see these as personal, as belonging to a ‘me’, then we can assume the position that we somehow need to get rid of them. Every time one of them arises we have a little resistance arising with it.

In the course of a day we can harbour lots of little resistances to that which arises. So by the end of the week we’re carrying all these around with us. We don’t want to look at them, we want to escape from them. So we have a little alcohol, or switch on the TV or play a video game. Or if we really can’t take any more we just crash out.

We’ve all been there. So how do we get round this?

The answer lies in mindfulness, or being present in the moment. When we become more mindful we catch ourselves on in the act of judging and resisting. It takes practice, but what this practice gives us is the chance to really see what’s happening. We see that which arises, a desire for this or that. Then we see a movement either to resist it or fulfil it.

Looking closely we see where this comes from, where the desire originates. And the more we stay in the empty awareness of seeing this happening, the less we identify with whatever is arising. Actually we see these movements as just the normal ebb and flow of action and response.

Now twinned with this, and also arising from mindfulness, we can start to see the role of the thinking mind. The less we identify with thoughts that arise, and the more we recognise thinking as simply another process happening, another movement, then the better the chance we have of realising that these thoughts are not really real. They’re not important. They’re just a commentary, and in fact we don’t need to pay attention to them.

We don’t need to turn them off either. We simply don’t elevate them to a position of importance. What we do instead is bring ourselves fully present into the moment and see how it is in direct experience. See how it is right now. Then, while thoughts can be chirping away about how we don’t need to get up, or exercise, how we need this or that, we simply get on and do.

So what is freedom from desire? Freedom is seeing that it’s perfectly normal to want to be free from desire but actually, when look more closely we see this is just another form of resistance to what is arising in the moment. Resistance to what is. And freedom is seeing that, whatever is arising in this moment – around us; within us; both – it simply is this way.

Whatever choice is made then arises from clear seeing.

One thought on “Freedom from desire

  1. As various characters say in ‘The Wire’, usually when some nasty violence is afoot, and someone asks if there is another way of dealing with the situation: ‘it is what it is!’

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