Grasping and Wanting

Grasping and wanting are two names for the most painful aspects of desire. Because our language uses the word desire in so many ways, it is helpful to sort them out. There are beneficial desires such as the desire for the well being of others, the desire for awakening, the creative desires that express the positive aspects of passion and beauty. There are painful aspects of desire—the desires of addiction, greed, blind ambition, or unending inner hunger. Through meditative awareness we can bring an attention that can sort out and know the many forms of desire. As William Blake stated:

“Those who enter the gates of heaven are not beings who have no passions or who have curbed the passions, but those who have cultivated an understanding of them.”

In beginning to name the demons, we can especially look for the difficult sides of desire, the grasping and wanting mind. When the wanting mind first arises we may not recognize it as a demon because we are often lost in its allure. Wanting is characterized as a Hungry Ghost, a ghost with an enormous belly and tiny pinhole mouth, who can never eat enough to satisfy his endless need. When this demon or difficulty arises, simply name it as “wanting” or “grasping” and begin to study its power in your life. When we look at wanting, we experience the part of ourselves that is never content, that always says, “If only I had something more, that would make me happy”—some other relationship, some other job, some more comfortable cushion, less noise, cooler temperature, warmer temperature, more money, a little more sleep last night—“then I would be fulfilled.” In meditation the voice of wanting calls to us and says, “If only I had something to eat now, I’d eat, then I’d be satisfied, and then I could get enlightened.” The desire of wanting is the unconscious voice that can see an attractive meditator sitting nearby and imagine a whole romance fulfilled, a relationship, marriage, and divorce, and only half an hour later remember that we’re meditating. For the voice of wanting, what is here now is never enough.


This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path with Heart

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