Desire, problematic and not

The five hindrances are:
1. Sensory desire
2. Ill-will
3. Sloth-torpor
4. Restlessness-worry
5. Doubt

Have you ever noticed that just hearing about something can make you want it? We have an involuntary response to certain stimuli. The body/brain can lurch with desire at the sight of a television ad that involves pouring melted chocolate. Walking through the farmer’s market, some flowers or fruits prove irresistible. If a friend purchases a new car, some part of us wonders if we could justify buying a new car, too.

Not all desires are unwholesome, but most of them bear investigating. The reflexive desires described above are rarely wholesome; they are direct shots to our “greed” center. We might end up buying some chocolate or flowers or fruit, or even a car, but if we apply a little mindfulness, there will be other factors brought into consideration before the action is taken.

Just recognizing this automatic form of desire creates a powerful moment of mindfulness. Once we see our physical response for the Pavlovian reaction it is, we can take a deep breath, relax, and see that we are not compelled to act on this impulse. We can bring a bigger picture into view, one that considers our waistline, our budget, any potential regrets or repercussions, our partner’s reaction, etc. We can bring into focus not just our own immediate feelings, but the broader context of our days and weeks. This expansion of our view almost always has a relaxing effect, and the grip of desire automatically loosens a bit.

Applying a moment of mindfulness when we are pulled by desires can radically alter our path. It is the most mundane of exercises, with powerful results. Desire can become a field for practice, a cause for awakening, rather than a problem.

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