Desire versus Gratitude: Which is dominant in your life?

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Xkeken Cenote, Mexico
Photograph by John Stanmeyer, National Geographic

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Let us take stock, how many things are we grateful for and how many things do we desire?
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What dominates our waking moments, desires or gratitude?
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Fact: Less desire and more gratitude is optimal!
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How much time do we spend on each endeavor?
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How much emotion is involved with desire, with gratitude?
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Do we feel loss when certain desires go unfulfilled?
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Are we missing things, small mundane things that warrant gratitude, thankfulness?
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All the sages say that gratitude leads to giving, more compassion and a happier existence.
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Ricard: past, future and the present

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“The past no longer exists, the future hasn’t arisen yet, and the present is paradoxically both ungraspable and unchanging.
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It is ungraspable because it never stays still, and it is unchanging because, in the words of the physicist Erwin Schrödinger,
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“The present is the only thing that has no end.”
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We spend most of our waking lives in a dissociative state, worrying about the past or fretting about the future.

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Happiness only exists in the present moment!

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The Undefeated Mind: Pain

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A Tranquil Trek
Photograph by Aaron Huey
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“Though the experience of physical pain and emotional pain are clearly different, functional imaging studies show that, with few exceptions, the regions of the brain that these types of pain activate are identical.
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These include not only the regions responsible for giving pain its unpleasant character, but also those responsible for regulating its size, location, and intensity (perhaps partially explaining the startling finding that Tylenol, a centrally acting pain reliever, alleviates not only the pain of a smashed finger but also the pain of hurt feelings.)
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No wonder, then, that physical and emotional pain produce the same reaction: a strong desire to avoid the things that cause them.
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“Suffer what there is to suffer.
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Enjoy what there is to enjoy.
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Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life,” wrote Nichiren Daishonin.
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Yet most of us clearly don’t.
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Unfortunately, the strategies we use to avoid emotional pain often cause more harm than does the experience of emotional pain itself:
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more harm results, for example, from excessive drinking or drug use than from the anxiety they’re often used to anesthetize;
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more harm results from relationship sabotage than from the fear of intimacy that often drives it.
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Desire and Acceptance: Approval

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Australian Sundew
Photograph by Helene Schmitz
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We all desire to fulfill Maslov’s hierarchy of needs (food, clothing, shelter, security, interpersonal relationships, etc).
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After basic need are met, acceptance and gratitude decide if we have a chance at happiness.
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Our relationship with desires play an important role.
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Can we accept what we have as plenty or do we covet more as necessity.
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How powerful is our need for approval.
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Our need for approval is proportionate to our self worth.
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Approval is external and can be fleeting.
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Consider how dependent we can be on external stimulus.
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If approval is so important, then disapproval can be devastating.
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Approval can change and become disapproval from the same source or sources.
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Again, happiness is an internal state.
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Ricard: desire again

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Bright Eye
Photograph by Joe Motohashi, National Geographic Your Shot
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“Everyone would agree that desire is natural and plays an essential role in helping us to realize our aspirations.
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But desire is only a blind force that in itself is neither helpful nor harmful.
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Everything depends on what kind of influence it has over us.
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It is capable of either providing inspiration to our lives or poisoning them.
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It can encourage us to act in a way that is constructive for ourselves and others, but it can also bring about intense pain.
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When desire becomes a possessive and pervasive craving, pain results.
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Desire then forces us to become dependent on the very causes of suffering.
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In that case it is a source of unhappiness, and there is no advantage in continuing to be ruled by it.
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The antidote to a desire that causes suffering is inner freedom.”
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Desire never ends!

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Water
Photograph by Peter Lik: National Geographic
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Desires attach to emotions, creating urgency, thus becoming a need.
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Needs eliminate our sense of gratitude because we feel loss.
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Hard to be grateful when we are deprived of a perceived necessity, a missed satisfaction.
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Modern society bombards us with products which are seen as necessity.
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Explore Maslov’s hierarchy of needs.
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After basic food, water, shelter, and personal interaction, more possessions do not always correlate with improved happiness.
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To be happy, desires have to be in perspective, in balance.
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How can we be grateful, when we live with urgent desire?
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Gratitude does not flow from desire.
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Matthieu Ricard: If you are the victim of a strong desire

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From Above
Photograph by Craig Goodwin, National Geographic Your Shot
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If you are the victim of a strong desire that is troubling you and won’t leave you alone, begin by examining its main characteristics and identifying the appropriate antidotes.
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One aspect of desire is urgency.
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To counter that urgency, calm your thoughts and observe the coming and going of the breath as described earlier.
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Desire also has a restrictive and disturbing aspect.
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As an antidote to this, imagine the comforting and soothing quality of inner freedom.
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Spend a few moments allowing a feeling of freedom to arise and grow.
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Desire tends to distort reality and make you view its object as fundamentally desirable.
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In order to regain a more accurate view of things, take the time to examine all aspects of the object of your desire, and meditate for a few moments on its less attractive and less desirable sides.
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Finally, let your mind relax into the peace of awareness, free from hope and fear, and appreciate the freshness of the present moment, which acts like a balm to the burning of desire.
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