Desire is everywhere. Every living thing has the desire to stay alive. Even plants “strive” to propagate themselves. Craving is our creator. Our parents’ craving for each other and our craving for rebirth combined to create us. Even painful feelings give rise to craving. When a painful feeling arises, we do not like it. We wish to get rid of the pain, and we wish to enjoy some pleasure. Both wishes are craving.
The truth is, we don’t really want to be free from desire or to admit that clinging to the pleasures of the senses—the taste of delicious food; the sound of music, gossip, or a joke; the touch of a sexual embrace—ends unavoidably in disappointment and suffering. We don’t have to deny that pleasant feelings are pleasurable. But we must remember that like every other feeling, pleasure is impermanent. Wishing to keep any person, place, possession, or experience with us forever is hopeless!
We use mindfulness to penetrate the superficiality of our desire and reflect: “If I cling to this object, I will end up in pain.…I can’t hold on to it forever; I have no way of controlling it. If I get involved in it, I’ll lose my mindfulness. I have enjoyed many things in life…where are they now? Why should I sacrifice this precious moment for the sake of superficial satisfaction?…let me not think of it.” Because of mindfulness, our desire fades away, at least for the moment. When it disappears, we notice that it is gone. We reflect, “That desire is no longer in my mind.” We remain mindful to make sure that it does not come back.
Pleasure without pain is possible only as we progress toward higher states of mindfulness. Unlike sensory pleasure that leads only to an instant of temporary happiness, the joy we feel when we achieve deep concentration brings peace and tranquillity. This beneficial feeling is accompanied by energy and focus, along with the wholesome desire to experience the wonderful feeling of joy again and again.