Ep. 40: Desire and Attachment

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Today we dive deeper into how desire fits into our life when we want to continue to evolve spiritually and act in ways that are compassionate to the earth and to others.

A lot of people think of desire as this thing that we develop… but really, we have desire wired into us as humans.

The essence of what Buddhism offers and teaches through mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion, is freedom of the heart. Not “needing” things, not being attached to things. But rather inner freedom. As a result, desire and attachment are often misunderstood.

And all the practices that I’ve learned and that I teach here and in Freedom School  – all the ways that we work with our minds – are to invite that sense of true inner and outer freedom. To cultivate a release from fear, a release from all the entanglements of life.

Often the root of so much suffering is resisting what IS because we are attached to how we’d rather have it be.

So where do desire and attachment fit in when freedom is our goal?

One important thing to remember is that freedom is not a freedom to remove ourselves from the world, but to actually be more fully present and free to know, to respond, to be open to life, and to find a wholeness in each moment.

And the amazing thing is that when you meet people who have this sense of freedom, it’s contagious. You can feel it in some way. You can tell when they walk in the room. You’re like, “I want me somma that!”

Here WE are in this human incarnation. And need and desire is a real thing.

We need money for rent, and we need food, and job security, and health insurance, and a sense of belonging, right?

And yet desire also can be a weight, an entanglement, and a cause of suffering.

So how do we deal with desire in our life? Especially because it’s not just the desires we have for external things, but we can have that same unhealthy desire come into our spiritual practice as well.

Kabir, a great mystic, says, “Friend, please tell me what I can do about this world that I hold to and keep spinning around. I gave up sewn clothes and wore a robe. But one day I noticed the cloth was well-woven, so I bought some burlap. But I still throw it elegantly over my left shoulder. I pulled back my sexual longings and now I discover I’m angry a lot. I gave up rage and now I notice I’m greedy all day. I worked hard at dissolving the greed, and now I’m proud of myself.”

What does it mean to work with desire and to ease both the grasping and the attachments inwardly, or to the views and opinions that we have?

The Buddha said that those who are strongly attached to their views go around the world annoying people. Truth of that is so apparent right now.

We live in an addicted society, where consumerism is focused on keeping you busy to take the edge off your challenging emotions, and keep you busy with your fixes so you don’t actually notice the problems with racism, or with the environment and climate change, and warring nations and suffering refugees.

“Here, buy something. Drink something. Smoke something. Do do DO something. Distract yourself in some way.”

We live in a society that keeps us from actually being present for the way things are.

The misunderstanding of desire and attachment seems to be how people think there are only two choices:

1) You either abandon it and release it
2) or you grasp it –  which creates suffering

A big part of the spiritual talk you might here is about non-attachment and that we’re supposed to give up desire.

But underneath the desire is really a longing.

And the longing can be for companionship, acceptance, security, love, adventure, feeling ALIVE

There is longing that is meaningful and healthy, and also that which hooks us, right?

In this episode, we explore how there is healthy attachment and unhealthy attachment, healthy desire and unhealthy desire.

The key lies in understanding desire and attachment.

This also means we become familiar with the absence of desire and attachment,

What we often find in its absence is love, stillness, attention, care, aliveness.

In Latin, the root of “desire” is desiderare, which means “away from your star.”

Tara Brach pointed out that we can interpret that as “when there’s a longing or desire, there’s some perception that we are away from the source of what we are, what we long for and what we need.”

But we have the ability to fulfill our longing within us.

This desire + attachment?

We are …being human.

Learning the art of living in this body with all its wants and needs and desires and longings.

Mary Oliver, in her poem Wild Geese, says, “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Often, as humans, our deepest longing is that of belonging.

And we can remember that we actually become what we’re longing for when we allow it in a healthy way.

So remember: we train with not just the state of feeling desire and longing, but also the experience of what’s happening when there is no craving or resisting

What we often find is that we have…enough.

In the episode you’ll learn:

// The difference between healthy and unhealthy desire + attachment
// How to manage the guilt and shame that arise when working with desire
// How to begin understanding desire
// The life experiences available to us when attachment is absent
// What we are really longing for when we desire something
// Why we can still experience life to its fullest when we release attachment


// This episode was inspired by a training I received with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach in their Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training program.

// I’ve got a free training starting soon – How to Find Freedom When You’re Feeling Trapped
If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com and you’ll also receive notifications for the free training, as well as any future ones I do. The kit has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.

// If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next chapter of your life the best one yet, join Freedom School. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more. Go to www.JoinFreedomSchool.com