The Root of all Craving – Chapter Nine

The Root of all Craving – Chapter Nine

Image 1All craving comes from wants.


I was once told that 50,000 thoughts are bubbling up in a person’s mind each day and many of these thoughts are the same thoughts. I don’t know how anyone managed to count them but the figure is irrelevant. We have thoughts bubbling up into our consciousness on a continuing basis. The thoughts are meaningless until we make a judgement about them and create a want. Wet, cold weather is the example we turn to again. Weather is not good or bad unless the mind perceives it as so. We have positive and negative thoughts arising and passing away. When we attach ourselves to a thought, we perpetuate it and strengthen it by thinking about it. We give it energy, we are feeding that thought.

Image 1The ego wants us to be a victim.


Positive and negative thoughts bubble up. They have no real impact upon the way we feel until we start thinking about them. If we make a negative judgement we create a want for something different – we fear we are lacking something. This fear releases adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol as a fear response to a threat thus creating uncomfortable feelings. These feelings perpetuate more thoughts as the mind continues to resolve a threat which in turn perpetuates more feelings. The cycle of the thought/feeling system creates a craving for relief. This cycle can turn anxiety into panic attacks or frustration into anger. It can overwhelm us. Now we can understand the Buddha’s statement that all of life is suffering and all suffering comes from craving. Stuck in our heads we go off to the future with a want for control, approval and security – thus creating anxiety. Or off we go to the past with regret, disappointment and guilt – creating depression. We are not living in the moment and the ego tells us we have every right to feel depressed. This is the stubbornness of the ego and the resistance to letting go. The ego wants us to be a victim – only as a victim can it survive. Its role is to protect us from being a victim, so we need to be a victim to require its protection. It was created from a victim mentality and much of it was formed prior to the development of a rational logical mind. The mind of a child is like a sponge. It is vulnerable to soaking up negative comments and taking them personally. What might seem a fair punishment for an adult, will often be seen as a personal attack by a child who has yet to develop a fully rational and logical mind.

It is the reaction, with aImage 1 liking or disliking, craving or an aversion, that creates our suffering – our craving for more or less.


The sense organs are lifeless unless consciousness comes into contact with them. The function of consciousness is just to know without differentiating. Then the next part of the mind starts working – perception. Our judgement of good or bad is based on memories of past experience. Next, the third part of the mind starts working with the creation of sensations. The judgement that it is good for us will create pleasant sensations and the judgement that it is bad for us will create unpleasant sensations. These sensations arise in the body and are felt by the mind. The fourth part of the mind now begins to work – reaction. Someone says something nice to us and the pleasant sensations arise. We like them and crave more. Someone says something nasty to us and we create unpleasant sensations and we start disliking them. We have an aversion to them and crave freedom from them. It is the reaction, with a liking or disliking, craving or an aversion, that creates our suffering – our craving for more or less.

Let’s take the example of a smoker to understand craving. Smokers start to smoke usually at an early age because they want to feel connected to other smokers. They want to feel empowered, important, grown up and cool. Most don’t enjoy that first cigarette – not at all – but they persist until years later, all that is left is the habit of wanting a cigarette twenty or thirty times a day. The mind thinks of the cigarette and perceives a lack. Sensations arise in the body from the judgement that a cigarette would be good for me and the lack of a cigarette would be bad for me and the reaction is a craving for it. Once we get what we want the craving subsides. Now the smoker is off to the airport to go to Singapore. First the bags are checked in then it’s quickly outside for a smoke. This cigarette isn’t doing much to satisfy the cravings because the mind is thinking about the next nine hours without a cigarette. The want to control the next nine hours is beyond the smoker’s control. The smoker is chain smoking outside the airport – the craving unsatisfied.

But sooner or later the smoker must board the plane. Do the thoughts stop? No. One hour into the flight and the mind pops up the thought, ‘I could really do with a cigarette.’ It’s a pointless thought because you can’t get what you want so the thought is dismissed, ignored, forgotten about and the craving disappears. This isn’t the end of it though. There are triggers. The smoker likes a cigarette after a meal and this triggers the want for one. This again is dismissed. It’s pointless wanting something you can’t have. The craving is less on the plane than it was while chain smoking outside the airport. If it isn’t in your awareness you won’t crave it. The craving subsides until the smoker gets close to their destination where the possibility of getting a cigarette gets greater. The longest part of the trip for a smoker is often at the baggage carousel waiting for the bags to come out at the end of their journey. Once outside the airport smokers can return to their twenty a day habit of wanting – creating a want then satisfying it. Now we can see at the point of perception we can dismiss, ignore and forget the wanting and with it the reaction – the craving.

It is amazing how many smokers, through just the understanding that they are not slaves to nicotine but slaves to their own habitual wants, can dismiss, ignore and forget the thoughts as they arise. In doing so, they relieve themselves of the cravings. I also tell smokers to plant a positive expectation by telling themselves they don’t want cigarettes and don’t need them. They are healthy non-smokers.

What about thinking through the heart? Now you might question how you can think through the heart. It is less about thinking and more an instinctive feeling that can precede the thoughts and balance the mind to postpone reacting negatively. This is also not about the physical heart but the essence of being in the moment, this moment now, with allowance and acceptance and a positive expectation. Expectations are positive, flexible and focus on a solution. Wants are negative, rigid and focus on a problem. Looking at people through the heart, the feelings precede the thoughts if we are in the habit of feeling love and compassion for others. This can be more an instinctive process developed through understanding. Through the head the thoughts precede the feelings: Now a little story to get a greater understanding of how it works.

My office is across the road from a major hospital. We have a lot of people who illegally park in our private car park to save the seven dollar hospital parking fee. One day I arrived to find our car park full but for one parking place. Only the surgery next door was open and I was sure the surgeon didn’t have nine clients at the same time. I concluded that many of the people parking there were from the hospital across the road.

I opened the office and headed to the front to get the mail just as a man was parking his car in the last parking space. As he headed towards the hospital I mentioned that this was private parking and I had clients coming with nowhere to park. He said he was just popping across to the hospital to pick something up then coming back for an appointment with the doctor in that office, pointing to my office. I told him that I worked there, was not a doctor and he didn’t have an appointment with me. He pointed to a second office and said it was that doctor there. I told him the person in that office was also not a doctor but an orthotics specialist and was closed for holidays. His rage erupted and I was getting called all the names under the sun before he threatened to knock my head off my shoulders. He then marched off to the hospital shouting, ‘Get the car towed you idiot, think I care.’

In previous years my ego would have bought into that. I would have met harsh words with harsh words, threats with threats. I would have taken it personally. The ego takes things personally but these days I tend to take a different approach. The disconnecting habits used by this man are the result of his feeling disconnected and disempowered in his own life. This is his problem, not mine – unless I take it personally. The ego wants to buy into this and take it personally. Have I a right to be angry? He has abused me, threatened me and lied to me. I have every right to be upset but I would rather be happy. It’s a seven dollar car park for Christ’s sake. What’s the point of losing your happiness over a seven dollar car park?
Image 1

There are many things a man can take to appease his tortured pallet, but it won’t appease his tortured soul.

I did feel a surge of adrenaline but it was soon let go through a technique we will cover in the next chapter. My first thought was ‘interesting’. Interesting is one of the best thoughts we can get into the habit of using – It make us the observer instead of the victim. A shift to the heart is next. I don’t know why this man is behaving this way but I know he is suffering. Maybe he is an angry man all the time – continually frustrated with how life has treated him. Maybe his wife is in the hospital dying of cancer or his son has been in a car crash and he has been looking for a car park for the past twenty minutes. I don’t need to know the reason for his suffering to feel compassion for him; and compassion is a form of love that comes from the heart. From the heart I feel before I think and therefore the thoughts are of love and compassion. From the heart I felt compassion – from the ego I would have felt hurt and angry. It is after all not my problem and so I leave it behind. As I looked out the window while opening the mail I saw him return to move his car. He wouldn’t even have made it to the hospital before the thoughts of his car getting towed away and the cost of getting it returned entered his head. By the time my first client arrived there were three spare parking spaces available. I could have got into a fight over a seven dollar car park for nothing. Did I give my power away? Many would suggest I did. But by not reacting I held onto it. We give our power away when we buy into the problems of others and take things personally. How could it be personal – he would have behaved like this with anyone who questioned him.

So how do we break this cycle of reaction? The next chapter will answer that.