How Desires Cause Suffering

 How Desires Cause Suffering

 Desires do not cause suffering. Desires come and go. They arise in the mind and then disappear. If that were all that happened, there would be no suffering. However, something else happens: attachment. Attachment happens as a result of a story we tell ourselves about a desire: “I will be happy when….” Desire is a drive, an impulse, which comes and goes; attachment gives that impulse fuel and makes it burn: “I want this because….” Thus, the story is born. The general story is that fulfilling our desires will make us happy and not doing that will make us unhappy.

 This becomes the prescription for happiness. The trouble is that the drug being prescribed is addictive and has little lasting effect. All we are left with is more craving. The more we pursue egoic desires, the emptier we feel and the more we think we need to fill that hole. All we really want is happiness, but we look for it in all the wrong places. We look for it in the fulfillment of our desires, but that only leaves us wanting more.

 We become addicted to wanting and never question its value. We are so sure that something is going to satisfy us sometime, even if it hasn’t yet: “The next million dollars will do it.” Like a heroin addict, what we really want is our craving to end. We want an end to all this wanting and never feeling satisfied, but that will never happen by continuing to pursue our desires. It can take lifetimes of seeking pleasures, money, fame, love, beauty, success, perfection, and ideals before we are exhausted and see this.

 The suffering from this endless seeking and never getting enough is what eventually wakes us up from the illusion, which so often feels like a nightmare. Thus, desires play two roles in the illusion: Following them creates the illusion (the story) through which the ego learns and evolves, and disillusionment with them dissolves the illusion.

 When we finally see the truth about our desires, we surrender. At first, this may feel more like giving up after being defeated. Eventually, this surrender is experienced more like a dropping into the moment, into the Real. When we finally give up on our desires, we send our mind into retirement. What else does it have to do if we are not listening to its prescription for happiness?

Exercise: Examining Your Desires

This inquiry will help free you from the suffering caused by desiring.

What is something you desire right now? What is it you are telling yourself about this desire, that is, what do you believe fulfilling it will do for you? Is it possible that you already have that right now even without fulfilling your desire? You can still pursue this desire, but if you are clear that it doesn’t have the ability to give you what you really want, you won’t suffer if it doesn’t get fulfilled. We give our desires so much power: We believe that fulfilling them will make us happy, but that is not the source of true happiness.


  Excerpted from Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening by Gina Lake. (Published by iUniverse; July 2010; $13.95 U.S.; ISBN: 0-595-34833-5)     Copyright © 2010 Gina Lake

 Gina Lake has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth. In addition, she has authored several books on spirituality, including: Pathways to Self Discovery and Symbols of the Soul. She also compiled and edited Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self, based on the teachings of her husband. Together, they offer satsang (inquiry into the nature of being) and spiritual retreats.  

To order Radical Happiness or to read more excerpts, please visit

Gina is also available for astrological and channeled phone consultations that support awakening and living a conscious life. Information about her consultations is also available at

Many Blessings to you,

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