On vacation many years ago, I was reading the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism's holy books. It's basically a conversation between Arjuna (a charioteer about to go into battle) and a spirit. The spirit is urging Arjuna to let go of his attachment to the outcome of the battle. And all throughout the book, there is a continuous urge to let go of desires, to give up desiring.
This gave me an
idea. I was on vacation and I had plenty of time, so I decided to try an
experiment. I did a kind of meditation that lasted for several hours. I
normally fidget a lot and have a hard time sitting still for long
periods, but without any goal to sit still for so long, I was quite
content to stay sitting there for hours because what I was doing made me feel contented.
All I did the whole time was notice when I had a desire, and then decide to let that desire go.
the first time I realized I don't have any control over what I desire.
Desires come up on their own. Just sitting there, one desire after
another would pop up. I wanted to move my position. I wanted the pain in my leg to go away. I wanted to get up and have something to eat. I wanted to get rich. I wanted people to like me. I wanted things
to go well at work. I wanted I wanted I wanted. One after another, this
seemingly endless fountain of desires came forth. That part I had no
But I did have some control after that
point. I can decide on a desire or not. I may have the desire to have a
beer, but then I can decide, "Nah, I don't really want one, now that I
think about it."
In other words, I don't really control
whether or not a desire comes up. But I do control whether I hang onto
that desire or let it go (by deciding against it).
that's all I did for several hours. I payed attention to when a desire
came up, which was several per minute, and then each time, I decided to
let the desire go. I simply decided No, I don't really want that now.
achieved a kind of bliss I didn't think was possible without heavy
medication. That was one of the most deeply peaceful experiences I have
ever had in my life. I was completely at ease. I had found bliss and tranquillity.
course, most of my life is oriented toward goals, and that's the way I
like it. I don't want to simply sit still and live in peace without
doing anything worthwhile. But I now know where it comes from when I am
discontented. It comes from desires. And I know that any time I want to descend into the well of deep peace and quench my thirst for bliss, I
have a way. And now you do too.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Reliance, Translated and Principles For Personal Growth. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.