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Blog: When Desire Fades

August 12, 2013

Have you ever felt all your desires thin out and dissolve like mist in the morning sun? You still like peanut butter, chocolate, walks in the woods, and prefer the neighbor’s dog doesn’t bark all night. But they don’t matter any more. You are as content having as not having these. Do you know that place? If so, I’d love to hear your stories.

Here’s one of mine:

On the fifth morning of a meditation retreat I noticed a quiet glow in the back of my consciousness. I had been deliberately ignoring it, which seemed odd. So I relaxed. Gradually my mind-heart became luminous, soft, and permeated with more kindness than I had imagined possible. I had never been that expansive. I wondered, “Why would anyone ever want something they didn’t have or to be rid of something they did have? Those are fools errands. Reality is what it is. It is indifferent to our preferences. When we fight it, it wins and we lose. Desire and aversion are silly.”

I realized that all my life I hadn’t even liked my mind. Meditation was a way to stop it from pestering me. Now I was content for it to be what ever is was. “I don’t even care if I exist,” I realized. “I could drift off into this kindness and evaporate. That would be just fine.”

My mind-heart was free of worry – my old companion. Without wanting to change anything, there was nothing to fear. My compulsions were gone. Whatever happened was okay.

After lunch I spoke with Bhante. He was pleased with the depth of my dispassion. One of the marks of an anagami (the third of four phases of the traditional description of awakening) is the absence of desire and aversion. So I asked him about this.

“It’s subtle,” he said. “I suspect you’re not there yet. But you can test yourself. Go back to your kuti and think about something you used to really like and something you used to really dislike. Reflect on them. See if there is any desire or aversion.”

“I won’t pass that test,” I said. “I didn’t think I was there either. But what was it I felt?”

“A preview,” he said.

Before that day I couldn’t imagine what it might be like to have no desire or aversion. Now I knew what it might be like to be an anagami.

I never did test myself. But several days later, as I left my kuti for a shower, the monk in the next kuti walked ahead of me with a towel in his arms. There was only one shower. I’d have to wait. It made me mad.

I bided my time in a screened gazebo. “Hmmm, anger.” I thought. “Why would I want something I don’t have?”

My mind shot back a feeling: “Hush. I’m mad. Don’t pester me.”