Mastery over the mind - Understanding desire
Human life is a unique bridge spanning experiences classified as the inner (mind) and the outer (external reality). In any given moment, our awareness splits between the “indoor” mind and the “outdoor” world. With an interiorized awareness we are in a receptive mode. Generally, awareness does not travel deep enough to penetrate the inner reaches beyond the field of the mind and thought. Consequently, our receptivity is limited to what is presented to us from the subconscious mind via the vehicle of thoughts. When awareness is on the outer world, hunter-gatherer instincts are activated. This exteriorized awareness has a masculine quality of aggression. Sense organs then take an aggressive stance “entering” the objective world bringing back new experiences for the mind to interpret. Our wishes and cravings give direction to the energy of exteriorized awareness. When this energy has a target object but is unable to merge with it, it swirls within. The feeling or emotion associated with this trapped energy is what we refer to as desire.
There is a tremendous amount of creative energy in the body and the mind. In the body, all the living cells have this energy. Since it is essential for cellular survival, it is distributed throughout the body and not concentrated at one point in the body. The mind also stores this creative energy, and it may be focused at one point or on a select few thoughts. When we wish for something, a portion of this energy gets locked up in that thought. When we are always craving for one thing or another, a significant part of the mind’s creative power gets locked up, and accumulation of this energy as pent-up desires creates mental discomfort. Many desires we fulfill have more to do with relieving ourselves of this emotional discomfort and less to do with the actual wish that set in motion our creative energy. After fulfilling a desire, rarely do we stop and savor that moment of happiness. We experience it momentarily and move on to the next desire waiting for fruition.
Variety is the nature of creation, and this applies to the human mind, where we are continually creating, either actively or passively. Using our intellect to organize our thoughts towards a productive endeavor is an example of active creation. Letting our mind drift between ideas, which may then aggregate to create a composite experience as in a daydream is an example of passive mental production. This compelling dynamic creative urge within contrasts with the relatively permanent and stable nature of the outer world Since we have not developed the technique of actively filtering out impressions as they come in through the senses, it exposes us to much extraneous sensory information. The energy associated with desire may use this extraneous material that reaches mind to create experiences that closely match desires waiting to reach fruition. Often, we are not satisfied with mental objects satisfying our passions, and possessing a physical object becomes a requirement for fulfilling desires, a significant source of disappointments.
Besides external impressions being funneled in through the senses, the mind accommodates prior experiences stored in memory. We weigh everything on the scale of likes and dislikes. We consider and compare every mental image against a cumulative list of our likes or dislikes. Once experiences leave conscious awareness, they are “dried, pickled and stored” in the memory bank along with a context tag and time stamp. The prevalent intensity of the creative energy of the mind at any given point in time has access to this storage space from which it draws upon past impressions to juice up or validates a currently evolving mental experience. The conscious mind becomes a flooded confluence of the outer reality, internal memory, and images presently being fed by the senses. When enslaved creative energy hitched to many desires is added, it is virtually impossible to distill happiness from this complex mixture. It is little wonder that we are always on the lookout for the defining outer experience which brings with it lasting happiness.
Happiness, as it relates to the world, is the union between the observer (or the carrier of desires) and the observed (or the object of each particular desire). The mind is the observer for all practical purposes unless our awareness is free and independent of the mind. We observe the world through a mental lens, and since this is the defacto avenue to experience the world, our awareness over time loses its independence, and the mind assumes the mantle of being the observer on our behalf. For the energy of desire to take root and become the primary driver of how our mind operates, an essential prerequisite is a nearly constant gap between the observer and the observed.
Small desires are easily quenched and result in momentary happiness. Big aspirations may be difficult to satisfy, but they also result in temporary happiness. The union of the desire and the object of desire is an internal experience. It cannot happen outside of the physical body. We know from personal observation every mental encounter takes a brief self-limited form. The treadmill in and out of the conscious mind never stops running as long as we are awake. We may consider the fulfillment of a specific desire as a once in a lifetime experience. However powerful that knowledge may be, it cannot be taken off the mind’s treadmill and enshrined in a permanent place in our conscious mind. The gap between desires and their respective objects will always be there.
It may seem counterintuitive, but happiness does not stem from the mind. Instead, it comes as a result of the cessation of mental activity. By fulfilling desires, in that instant there is also the temporary cessation of mental activity in regards to planning, acquiring and desiring. In essence, the gap between the observer and observed temporarily closes. Having had the taste of one such moment makes us want more of those “mind free” moments. Fulfilling desires becomes a convenient way of stringing many such moments together, thereby creating a more prolonged period where the mind becomes silent or dormant. At best, fulfilling desire is an expensive hobby; however, there is a great danger of desires running riot, and we end up living for the fulfillment of desires. Happiness is not meant to be an addiction that can be fed by the satisfaction of wants. It is beyond that.
Accumulated desires, as we previously explored results in swirling pockets of energy within the mind. The intensity of this energy stabilizes through fruition of hopes and aspirations on a regular basis. However, it may not always be practical to do so. When these energies exceed a certain threshold which varies from individual to individual, welling up of anger becomes an inevitable outcome. Anger and passion is a very destructive use of the mind’s creative energy. The dormant “ire” within every desire is easily triggered when cravings go unfulfilled. The explosive outburst of energy associated with anger functions as a safety valve to quickly release bottled up mental energy. It may relieve pressure on the mind; however, it causes damage elsewhere. By expressing anger, whether through thought, word or deed we create unhappiness for ourselves and the world.
If happiness comes from the momentary cessation of the mind, then to maintain that state, we must find a way to either stop the mind or remain indifferent to its activity. When the mind becomes the observer, objects become the observed. When we free our awareness from the mind and awareness becomes the observer, the mind as a whole becomes the observed. Since the whole cascade of desires leading to anger and unhappiness stems from awareness uniting with the mind’s activity when awareness becomes the observer the instinct is not to get involved with movements of the mind. Freeing of awareness from the mind leads to a witnessing state begins. There is little or no desire in this state, except perhaps a wish to maintain and stabilize that state of awareness. The basal intensity of happiness is high in a witnessing state as the mind is tranquil. As the mind becomes progressively quieter, there is less to observe within the mind and the awareness, further freeing the observer. The desire to maintain that state of free awareness may remain, and it is a desire worth pursuing.