Craving for More

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

blue bmw sedan near green lawn grass

Dave had been dreaming of a new expensive car. He has been driving his old car given to him by his father for a number of years now and he wants to make a big change now that he has recently earned himself a promotion. Eventually, he did buy the car. As he reflected back at the entire event, he felt that he was much happier when he was looking to buy the car and now that he owns the car, he feels neutral. However, now he is worried of his car being stolen and he cannot park his car as freely as he used to. He had to spend a big sum of money to purchase a car lock he could trust. When it was time to renew his car insurance and road tax, he realized that he forgot to budget for the additional costs. The ‘imaginary happiness’ he had before he purchased the car was just that – imaginary.

MG Satchidananda wrote, “As the wise have discovered, desires just feed upon themselves, creating ever new desires, and locking one into a vicious circle of ever new desires. The end result is always suffering, whether one gets what one wants or not. If one doesn’t, one becomes frustrated and confused. If one gets it, one becomes afraid of losing it, or it eventually loses its appeal and becomes boring.”

When we catch ourselves craving for something or someone, we place our awareness on the images we create in our minds. For example, if one is craving for a new car, one may picture oneself driving comfortably, singing along with the radio and others looking with envy. We look at the images and give them our full attention. These images crave our attention and when we give them attention, they stop crying out for more. They start to lose their emotional charge and control over us. When we crave for something, our views are very narrow. We only see the pleasant aspects. We do not see the additional costs and insecurities that come along with the object. There is often a misconception that the object craved for is critical for one’s happiness, that is, one cannot be happy until the object is obtained. This is clearly not true.

Desire is the strongest chain that binds us to our ego. The ego loves to accumulate material things. The more things one own, the more things the ego can identify with. To market a product, just create an image which the ego can associate with and the product will sell very well. Branded clothes sell well because of the image the owner can project rather than the quality per se. Once a friend told me that she used to buy a particular brand of clothing until she found out that it was a local brand! Suddenly, the brand did not appeal to her anymore.

When we crave for something, our minds will always be thinking how to get it and how miserable we are because we do not have it, and how happy we will be when we get it. It creates a projection of happiness into the future. The picture of joy we have when we finally own the desired object is crystal clear, coupled with the feeling of excitement.

When something comes in the way, anger will arise to torment us.  Rudra Shivananda wrote, “When we are unable to satisfy a desire or our attempts to satisfy a desire is thwarted, the emotion of anger arises. We become angry and strike out at everyone around us. We also become angry at ourselves for the failure to gratify ourselves. Anger becomes an automatic reaction to the inability to satisfy a desire and so we oscillate between desire, satisfaction or pleasure and anger, sometimes spending much more time and energy in the desire and anger phases then the actual enjoyment phase” [1].

Often, the actual enjoyment of the desired object is not as pleasurable as we initially imagined it to be and in a short time, we lose interest in the object and look to fulfill other desires in an unending cycle. Reducing our desires is like removing the DVD from the player. The player cannot function because there is nothing to play. It just remains still. Our minds are like the player. It is always on a lookout for DVDs to play.

We have been chasing after wealth and power for many lifetimes. Why do we do that? They are merely conditions of the mind and the joy they give last only for a brief moment. After that, the feeling turns into worry of losing them. Recognize that when we crave for something, we are suffering and when we get the thing we crave for, we still suffer except that the suffering changes form; into worrying about losing the object. Our minds are then preoccupied with securing or protecting the object. When craving arises, recognize that feeling. Recognize that it is a form of suffering and also think about the suffering that will come with getting the things craved.

Nowadays, there are many books on financial freedom and everybody is talking about it. Essentially, the books teach us to save and accumulate enough investments so as to generate sufficient passive income to maintain our lifestyles. But if we look at our nature, how much is enough? We think we are not financially well off because we always compare ourselves to those who are richer. If we compare ourselves to the bigger world, we will see that we are in heaven.

There is an easier and more effective way to achieve financial freedom. This method can also be easily taught to our children by modelling our lives around this method. The method is to live simply and reduce our wants. A swami who has nothing to his name and wants nothing is truly the richest man in the world. He knows that he has everything that he needs for his happiness and is therefore free from desires. We should not live in luxury now at the expense of our future years. We do not want to put ourselves in a position that makes us dependent on anything. Live simply. Striving for things and planning how to get them steals our awareness. We try to reduce our toys as they only take up the time that can be better used for our spiritual practices; to read, meditate and volunteer for charitable work. We put all our energy into our practice. We only need to depend on the Divine.

One of the classic ways the ego justify craving for more money is that one can do more charity when one is rich. A good friend shared a paradox with me; why must God give money to a person so that he could give to the needy, instead of giving the money to the needy directly. The act of charity is to help ourselves develop the habit of selflessness. The amount is not important. It is the joy we feel when we give that is important. Whenever, we make a donation, let us send out thoughts of love to all beings. We pray, ‘by this act of charity, may all beings have happiness.’ The thought of love at that point will be very powerful.

We already have what we are seeking. If we just separate the seer from the seen, we can remain in inner peace and bliss. This is true happiness. Isn’t this what all of us are seeking; happiness? Don’t we already have it? By seeking it in the “seen”, we lose sight of the happiness that we are born with. Take the witness perspective and immediately, inner peace and ease comes to us again.

We perceive that the material things that we are after will bring us happiness. That means, our true goal is happiness. Choose the direct approach to happiness by cultivating the witness perspective. We use our awareness to see how our desires take control of us. Very often it takes the form of a picture in our head of how we will enjoy the object craved for. Very often, the enjoyment is exaggerated and the negative aspects are blocked out. We watch our emotions and the sensations in our bodies. As with other emotions, desires will fade. Once they fade, we can begin to think rationally and decide if the desired object is worth our effort and time.

Material progress is secondary to spiritual progress. Spiritual progress can bring us peace and happiness and we can share that peace and happiness with our loved ones. This is the creative power of intention. Material progress creates stress, fear and worry. Our experience tells us that and it is not a case of sour grapes. We are tired of chasing after material achievements and that is why we are seeking for something that is beyond this world of duality. Once we achieve our material goals, we only end up craving for more. We have all that we need now; we do not need anything more. That does not mean that we turn away from material progress. No, let wealth come without us craving for it. Let it come as a by-product of our contentment.

Imagine that an enlightened person is willing to grant you anything that you wish for and ask you, “What do you want?” You are given only one wish. What DO YOU WANT?

[1] “Non-attachment”, May Journal, by Rudra Shivananda.

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