Dealing with craving

By Matthieu Ricard on July 07, 2011

Desire is a mainly a drive. You may desire to save the planet or to free all sentient beings from suffering. But when desires become entangled with craving and powerful attachments, our experience shows that they lead to suffering.

Desire usually starts with an image. If the image is enticing and promises pleasure, it triggers a chain reaction. There is a thirst to attract or to obtain the object seen in the mental image. From that point, we begin superimposing on reality and perceiving only the desirable qualities of the object. Soon, all its negative aspects and consequences become invisible.
Pleasant experiences often triggers further craving, since one wants to renew the pleasant sensation. This gradually establishes a pattern of wanting. At some point, the pleasure can wane and yet the wanting persists. When one builds up a strong wanting for something that is no more enjoyable, one is really caught.
We cannot hope for some magic solution that will rid us suddenly of all our cravings, since they have build up over time. But a perseverant training of the mind can gradually erode these strong tendencies.

One way to do so it to stop identification with our craving. Usually we identify with our emotions completely. When we are overcome by desire, we are at one with that feeling. It is omnipresent in our mind. The mind, however, is always capable of examining what is happening within it. All we need to do is observe our emotions in the same way we would observe an external event taking place in front of us. The part of our mind that is aware of desire is just simply aware—it is not craving. We can step back, realize that this craving has no solidity, and allow enough space for it to dissolve by itself. Let our mind relax into the peace of awareness, free from hope and fear, and appreciate the freshness of the present moment, which acts like a balm to the burning of desire.