Last week we looked at an overview of the five traditional hindrances to meditation. These are five challenges that often come up, and seem to get in the way of our meditation practice. These are: craving and desire; anger and ill-will; restlessness and anxiety; sloth and torpor; and doubt and indecision.
This week we will be looking at craving and desire in more detail.
This is the experience of wanting our experience to be different during meditation. It might take the form of a physical hunger, particularly if you are meditating just before lunch! Or it might take the form of a fantasy. These can be very seductive and pleasurable but may also take us away from the moment. In mindfulness practice we spend a lot of time looking at what we do with our unpleasant experience. However, it may be just as important to notice what happens when we experience or crave something pleasant. Be fascinated about how this feels in the body and use this to inform your practice.
Firstly, as with all experiences in meditation, it is important to remember that craving and desire is normal. We are human and have bodies that crave sensual experience. We also have minds that are able to fantasize and plan future pleasures. However, in meditation, this can become a distraction.
1. Find pleasure in your meditation.
We experience craving because we are looking for an experience that is different to the one we are currently having. It is normal to seek pleasure. However, meditation itself can be pleasurable but those pleasures are often more subtle then the pleasure of, say, a bar of chocolate. See if you can seek out pleasurable sensations in your present moment experience, particularly in your experience of the breath. Can you appreciate the sensations of breathing?
2. Remind yourself of your motivation.
Why are you meditating in the first place? What benefits have you already experienced? By reminding yourself of the benefit of your practice, this might motivate you to continue with your meditation, rather than becoming distracted by fulfilling a short-lived sensual desire.
3. Reflect on the consequences of craving and desire.
What might happen when you indulge your fantasies? Does it feel pleasant or unpleasant? Perhaps it leads to further distraction? Perhaps, if we don’t get what we want, it leads to unhappiness?
4. Acknowledge without judgement.
Here we return to the first point. It is normal to experience craving and desire. It doesn’t mean that we are doing anything wrong! Notice the felt sensations in the body, with curiosity; notice the thoughts in the mind with curiosity – and then let them pass. Notice how your experience constantly changes, moment-by-moment. You might imagine that your mind is like the blue sky and your thoughts are like clouds passing through the sky.