Week 16: Desire



In this session, Joseph will introduce Mindfulness of Dhammas, as the fourth foundation of mindfulness.  After succinctly outlining how our personal investigation of Dhammas starts with an awareness of the five hindrances, Joseph focuses this week on desire.  He explains how the hindrances impact the mind and then meticulously leads us through a five step process for working with hindrances such as desire in our practice. 


1. With thoughts of sensual desire, have you noticed thought patterns that have become so familiar that you dont even really notice them, theyve just become part of the landscape of your mind?

2. Have you had the experience of getting what you wanted and realizing it didnt make you happy or the happiness was short lived? 

3. The buddha lays out steps to practice working to abandon the hindrances without suppression, aversion or self-judgment.  What ways have you tried before coming to this practice (or even after coming to this practice) to rid yourself of desire?  In other words, what ways haven’t worked? 

4. How does being mindful of the hindrance (in this case desire) make it abate?

5. How can you tell the difference between being mindful and just thinking about something?  This is easier on the cushion, but in daily life, what are some ways you can drop from thinking into mindfulness?


These are the five steps the Buddha lays out to abandon the hindrances and some suggested practices.

1.  Recognize desire when it is present

In the moment of being mindful that desire has arisen we are no longer lost in it or feeding it and we begin to see its impermanent, impersonal and insubstantial nature.  This week try to be mindful when desire arises and really examine how it manifests in your body and in your mind — with friendly curiosity. 

2.  Know when desire is absent

Pay attention to moments of transition - being lost in a hindrance to being mindful of it.

Pick several recurrent desires (sugar, mindless entertainment, shopping, surfing the internet, etc.).  Notice the moments when weve been caught up then when were free, really noticing the difference in the qualities of mind.  Not just an acknowledgment but reveling in the freedom of the absence of desire, creating a sort of imprint or bookmark that your mind can return to.

 3.  Know what conditions underlie the presence or absence of desire

These are often deep-rooted beliefs or patterns of thinking that go unnoticed.  Try to be aware of these beliefs and how they cause you suffering.

4.  Know what conditions underlie the removal of desire.

If mindfulness is not yet strong enough to disentangle us from desire, we can use wise reflection to weaken its hold.  Joseph calls this mindful reflection the inner dharma coach which helps us reflect on the teachings right at the moment we need them.  When sensual pleasure arises, what is a wise reflection about it?

5.  Avoid future arisings of desire

By knowing how it arises, we can practice taking some wise preventative measures— that is, taking care of our mental health and wellbeing in the same way we take care of our physical health.  What are some ways you can avoid arisings of persistent desires?