Our Bodies—A Foreign Language

handmade greeting cards, collage artTara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, has offered me a treasure trove of learning and tools.  There’s so much, and the lessons run so deep, that I’m digesting it slowly.

Today I started the chapter on Desire and Wanting—what I’ve considered my biggest nemesis and Fatal Flaw.  Wanting turns me into someone else—ravenous, obsessive, and ultimately unworthy.  I’ve tried sitting quietly with it, holding it with curious compassion, but usually end up drowning it in whatever will make it shut up.  Of course, nothing does that for long.

Tara tells about a time when she was at the beginning of a new relationship.  She went off to a meditation retreat, looking forward to peace and rejuvenation, but all she could do was fantasize about her new boyfriend.  Here’s what she says about it:

After several days, I had a pivotal interview with my teacher.  When I described how I’d become so overwhelmed, she asked, “How are you relating to the presence of desire?”  I was startled into understanding.   For me, desire had become the enemy, and I was losing the battle.  Her questions pointed me back to the essence of mindfulness practice:  It doesn’t matter what is happening. What matters is how we are relating to our experience.  She advised me to stop fighting my experience and instead investigate the nature of wanting mind.  I could accept whatever was going on, she reminded me, but without getting lost in it.

While often uncomfortable, desire is not bad—it is natural.  The pull of desire is part of our survival equipment.  It keeps us eating, having sex, going to work, doing what we do to thrive.  Desire also motivates us to read books, listen to talks and explore spiritual practices that help us realize and inhabit loving awareness.  The same life energy that leads to suffering also provides the fuel for profound awakening.  Desire becomes a problem only when it takes over our sense of who we are.

We are mindful of desire when we experience it with an embodied awareness, recognizing the sensations and thoughts of wanting as arising and passing phenomena.  While this is not easy, as we cultivate the clear seeing and compassion of Radical Acceptance, we discover we can open fully to this natural force and remain free in its midst.

Feeling my emotions in my body is something I’ve been practicing for only a short time.  I’m more used to sitting in meditation and simply noting my physical state, not pausing in the midst of emotional pain to find it in my body.  Frankly, it’s frightening.  But the more I do it, the more I can accept whatever my body feels.  It’s hard not to jump ahead and wonder if this might be another piece in the puzzle of how to deal with my compulsive symptoms (There’s Wanting, again).  So, I just note that—feel the jittery, acid-burn of Wanting in my belly; the buzzy energy lighting up my arms and back—and breathe into the experience.

This is new, and exciting, and scary.  I want more.  But not today.  Today I’ll just stick to paying attention to what this experience feels like in my body.  That’s enough foreign language to digest for one day.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. docrob50
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 18:46:23

    Well said my friend. As I was reading this it occurred to me that you embody mindfulness in your writing and there is much beauty and wisdom there.

    On a side note I am a seasoned psychosomatic kinda guy in terms of “handling” anxiety and stuff and mindfulness of the body has been huge in letting go of much of that.


    • Sandy Sue
      Nov 05, 2013 @ 19:38:16

      Cool and Cool. I don’t know. I think I’ve heard some of this before, but wasn’t able/ready to hear it (?) You know, that thing about when you’re ready the teacher appears (or the author). Maybe…


  2. Moss Piglet
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 00:56:28

    Wanting for me is usually greed based…needing is my excuse, but the thing I really like is the discovery so often that I already have, and then I am calmed & satisfied.


  3. Littlesundog
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 08:56:27

    I like the thought of desire being part of our survival equipment. There were times in my life when I was simply doing what it took to survive, and it mattered not what anyone else thought or made judgment about. It was what I wanted and needed to do for myself. Most of the time that “buzzy energy” was all that kept me going. I seemed to know when desire took me to suffering that the experience was not working for me. I am thankful for the opportunities that desire presents in my life.


  4. Kathryn McCullough
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 11:32:02

    Wow, thanks for recommending this book–AND for framing it in terms of your experience of desire. It communicates so well!

    Hugs from Ecuador,


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