Stilling The Wanting Mind

The first feeling that many people experience in meditation is desire, or the “wanting mind.” You are sitting there, following your breath, and all of a sudden your mind says, “If only I had something to eat.” Or, “If only it were warmer.”

What do you do when the wanting mind takes charge in meditation?

The way to work with desire in meditation is not to suppress it, because when you do it comes out in some other way. On the other hand, you do not want to act on it either.

First of all, you can recognize that whatever it is saying this time, it is always just the wanting mind. Seeing this you can name it. Sense what its energy feels like. Then you have a choice: Will you meet the wanting?

Another option is to begin to use your desire for insight and understanding, and to learn from your desire how to find some freedom in your relationship to it. So when desire arises, you can sit and name it as “wanting, wanting” or “desire, desire.” You can examine it in order to feel what it is like. If it is hunger, is your belly hungry? Is your tongue hungry? Or is your hunger in your mind? Is it in your heart? Often when we are hungry it is really because our heart is lonely.

As you acknowledge desire or wanting, you can begin to see that your mind acts a little like a child at Disneyland: “I want that candy and I want to go on that ride and I want that stuffed toy.”

Another one of your options is just to continue to sit and acknowledge it.

In meditation, perhaps for the first time in your life, you are not going to try to fulfill your desire, but you are going to sit and feel it and see its nature. You will watch it arise, you will feel what it is like in your body, and you will name it. Eventually it will pass away, and then you will see the next thing rise up. You will begin to see desire’s impermanent nature, and you will also realize that you do not have to act on every thought or desire.

Adapted from Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield (Sounds True, 2006). Copyright (c) 2006 by Jack Kornfield. Reprinted by permission of Sounds True.
Adapted from Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield (Sounds True, 2006).

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Aud Nordby
Aud nordby2 years ago


Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago

thank you

FYI Sorry friends,my profile is down until I get help from care2 support

William K.
William K.3 years ago

Sort of along these lines, there is an exercise I go through nearly every work morning as I walk from the light rail station to work. I walk by several eateries serving breakfast, and the smell of the food is very enticing. For example, I smell bacon, and immediately have the desire to eat bacon. What I have learned is that the enjoyment of smelling the bacon is not really the same thing as possessing it, and eating it. I learned that it was OK to enjoy the smell of bacon, and was perfectly ok to indulge in that while walking past, without having to have the association of possessing and eating it. Often, I am not really hungry anyway.

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


Bon L.
Bon L.4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Karin Sch
Karin S.5 years ago

Thank you!

Don S.
Don S.5 years ago

Heightened awareness of the wanting mind, the silent background, the perfection and beauty always present, this is my new space.

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Rebecca A.
Rebecca A.5 years ago

Thank you for this. =]

GreenseasKat C.
kathryn cook5 years ago

need to re read this a few times wish I could still my mind