Cooped Up? A Good Time for the Eight Awarenesses – First of Eight

Have Few Desires


In late winter the sugar ants arrive, uninvited.  We first notice one or maybe two walking across our counter top, scouts checking, we are not sure just what they are checking.  Then, a few days later there are a few more boldly walking on spoons and cups waiting to be washed.  A dollop of jam left on a knife is soon covered with ants.  And when at night we are too tired to clean-up the kitchen, the morning reveals lines of marching ants…going back and forth with their booty.

The arrival of the ants is very much like the arrival of desire in our mind.  We notice a small desire…wanting more sunshine, fewer clouds, warmer weather.  These are scouts that lead to more and more desire…moving to a warmer climate, which means a new house (renting or buying) and then selling or renting the one we have and finding a moving company and giving away furniture or selling it.  On and on it goes.  Our desires swarm around things, forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses, memories, experiences, fears.  This is how we think…wanting and not wanting.  Our desires just like the ants keep coming.  And soon we are miserable.

Over the past few years we’ve tried many strategies with the ants. Most of them involved killing lots and lots of ants. The ant problem eventually gets solved with great sorrow and regret at killing so many ants, which really aren’t causing any harm.

This year, thinking about the arrival of ants and the arrival of desire in the mind we are working with a practice of simplicity and persistence.  With the ants, it is obvious:  put all food away, leave nothing on the counters.  Rinse off all silverware, dishes, cups, glasses.  Wipe the counters down every time food is prepared.  Do this all day, every day.  The ants can scout around but they won’t find anything to message home about.

Simplicity and persistence can also work with desire.  We can physically begin to simplify our life, so example:  put away everything we take out.  If what we take out doesn’t have a “home” clean out drawers and closets until there is a place to simply put away what we take out.  Do this all day every day.

With mental desires, a key is to simply catch it when it comes up…see it scouting around for other desires to latch onto.  To begin with maybe we won’t see the scout desires, we will only notice desires when they become swarms…entangled thoughts.  Persistent practice can help here…when you notice a desire filled thought,  just say “STOP” and move the mind away from the swarm.  It takes persistence to pay attention to what our mind is up to.  In fact, if we want to have few desires we must pay attention all the time…minute by minute, hour by hour.



Memorize. Repeat. Practice.


Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun


Image credits: Fly, 2020

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 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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ADVANCED TEACHING: Live Without Desire

All phenomena, the Buddha once said, are rooted in desire. Everything we think, say, or do — every experience — comes from desire. Even we come from desire. We were reborn into this life because of our desire to be. Consciously or not, our desires keep redefining our sense of who we are.

Thanisarro Bhikkhu

First, look at your mind – and study it. It is exquisite in telling you where the clouds and dust are. It uses discomfort and comfort to alert you. Where feeling arises, desire hides.

You must be willing to go beyond your old stories – those tales about yourself that you put together. Those constructions you take for granted as ‘you.’ You think those old stories are you – even those little momentary constructions of wanting something to go your way. All those stories you collected you rely on.

The mind is constantly getting a mixed message – of discomfort and comfort. When comfort boils over you get excited, thrilled and exuberant; when discomfort boils over you get hesitant and search for a fix. These two sensations are heavenly messengers. They signal, like clouds excitement of comfort and excitement of discomfort. It forecasts conflict and tells you desire is at the root of it.

The root is desire. Desire to get something or desire to get rid of something. Wanting and not wanting. Both cause vexation. Find the root desire and let it dissolve. Let the desire wind down and disappear.

Start small. Watch for desire. When you spot it don’t resist it or activate it. See it. Stay still. Let the desire dissolve. Everything is in flux, even desire. Let the natural fluctuations of change  carry the desire away. Don’t be carried away by desire.

Desire for anything stirs up the mind. We go after something on the wing of desire. We get away from something on the run. Let desire fly away. Let desire run through the mind.

I know. You think and even believe you need desire to live. You’re probably saying there is good desire and bad desire. Or perhaps telling yourself you need just a little desire otherwise  — otherwise nothing will happen. You might even die. You believe this story because you’ve been hoodwinked. You’re not alone. Most people believe you need desire. Ask yourself — what if I didn’t need desire? What if I tried to live without it for one day and see what happens. Maybe I don’t need desire. Find out.

If you think about it, wasn’t desire the whole problem in the Garden of Eden? Isn’t desire the whole problem today?

Both then and now we are taken in by desire. Here’s how it traps you. Desire arises. Fabrications in the mind follow. You begin to build a story of how to get what you want or get away from what you don’t want. The story brings the winds, the eight worldly winds: gain&loss, pleasure&pain, praise&blame, fame&disrepute. Of course we tend to focus only on one side telling ourselves that we can minimize the damage and get our reward by fulfilling our desire.

Try something else. Focus on the nature of consciousness when rapt in desire, fabrications and the eight winds. The dust is blown around with fighting, the clouds of conflict descend and rough roads appear. Impulses wreak havoc. All because you think and believe desire is real and solid and a necessity.

This is the way of the world.

The Divine work is different. When desire arises we know it is not real or solid. We see it for what it is. A figment of our imagination. OH, I know you’re going to start asking a what about question. What about desire for God. Don’t get hoodwinked by that either. That leads to lots and lots of fabrications and stories about what Divine work is and how to get a thing you call God or Peace or Liberation.

Sorry, there is a but…..
The “but” is that unless you are doing the Divine work you are full of desire….so it seems that the prudent thing is to change one of those desires into a ‘desire for the divine work.’ WRONG! Just jump in and work with all desire as unreal without even deciding whether to do Divine work or not. Just jump in. Turn away from the jumpy desire in the mind. Look at your mind. Study it in such a way you are able to spot desire rise and let it fly away.

Stay silent. Sit still. Listen. Study the mind. Watch for desire to pop in. Let it fade off. Let desire dissolve. Let it wind down. Rely on the fluctuations that are a natural, ever-present power to carry the desires away.

I bow to the Divine teacher. I offer gratitude for the teachings.
May the merit of this teaching benefit all beings in the ten directions.
Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: