Freedom from Desire and Satisfaction


Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
lotusrainfive's picture

Im coming in late to the retreat, but i look forward to the rest. Thank you for this gift of Dharma _/|\_'s picture

welcome! look forward to practicing with you!

checlita1982's picture

Hi, i am just catching up with the retreat and have to thank you for this wonderful way of having us reflect about what our desires are and from which place do they come from.
I am a Yoga Teacher in the Washington DC and have recently been injured. As a result of this, i have had to take it easy with my personal yoga practice which has been creating frustration due to the fact that the muscle strain i experienced is taking longer than usual to heal and is making me question whether or not i will heal at all. I do have a very intense daily yoga practice which keeps me balanced, happy, and content with my life and i think one of my worst fears is that i won't be able to practice like i used to. So, this retreat will serve me a lot in just letting go of this fear/desire of how i want my practice to be while examining how attached to my practice i am and why. I am dealing with strong feelings of frustration and disappointment right now that as you said are not helping me be totally present and maybe focus in other aspects of my yoga practice. I think it is not serving me to keep asking myself when will i be able to practice like i used to since this is not helping me enjoy the time off that i very rarely take off from practice.
I am very thankful for this retreat.'s picture

Hello! Thank you for sharing your struggle and challenges. In my experience of injuries (knees, feet) they have been such strong teachers. As our friend Marie often says, the most terrible thing comes not how we expect it. So true. In my experience, these moments of difficulties have been painful because I have had to look at my personal attachment to the form in a particular way. "If I don't practice in such and such way, that isn't real." This was the basis of my inquiry, and at some point, freedom and spaciousness. How about you? Sending you blessings and encouragement to keep entering right where you are. I will too! Bows, Koshin

rory.corsiglia's picture

I enjoy your talk very much. On all this. I been sober for 16 years. In A.A. 12 step work & put Zen together for all this time. What a wonderful life it's. Love & compassion, kindness to you both.To be at peace with my life & what I have. A life of A.A.Zen. An the 8 fold path 4 noble truth. A life of no desire. To breath. Thank you. Rory in San Mateo,CA's picture

Wonderful to practice with you Rory.



lashamrock's picture

Thanks for the retreat and the comments.

This morning I realized that my Pay Pal account had been hacked by someone in Australia to the tune of $320. I called Pay Pal and my bank to alert them to the fraud, and then I went to my water therapy class.
What else could I do? This is the first time I've been hacked, and though I know it's common, it hurts more when it hits home.

I wish I could have had Hakuin's equanimity! Is that so???

Gassho, dina's picture

Dear Dina, Nice to hear from you. It is also so that sometimes it just sucks, too! What I love about the story of Hakuin is that I imagine he was able to feel the pain and the equanimity at the same time. For me, this is what practice teaches me: to hold the mind in a spacious way.



Shelley's picture

One of my favorite quotes about desire that I turn to again and again is this by Epicurus: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
It kind of puts things in perspective and reminds us: past, future, it's all relative, but it's only in this moment now that we can be freed from this sort of never-ending wheel. But above all I love how it reminds us that we could spend our life always wanting more and never appreciating the fact that what we think now is "less" was, quite possibly at some point in our past, the thing that we thought was "more." Kind of proving how futile the whole desire cycle is, and how important it can be to cultivate appreciation for what we have.'s picture


agatwood's picture

Wow Shelley. What a powerful and succinct statement. Thank you.

Mike Nielsen's picture

I guess one manifestation of desire in my life is the multitasking fetish. Will I watch you two teachers on my iPad while slurping my breakfast or will I eat when I eat and listen to the dharma with full attention afterwards? I am slowly but surely getting true satisfaction by returning to the immediate moment.

Robert Jusei Chodo Campbell's picture

I spent this morning with a patient who was transferred to hospice after a very rapid decline which has shocked both the nursing staff and his family. The sadness in the room was palpable, the question I have heard so many times " How did this happen? he was fine two days ago"." We knew it was serious but we wanted to have one last vacation with the family" The wife praying "Please God give him one more week I'm not ready to lose him". In my role as the priest to this family I try to bring comfort to assure them that this process he is going through is painless (for him) he is not suffocating, he is not drowning his body is simply dying.
As I looked at this man who is younger than I how could I not wish it could be different for him, for his children? Yes, things are as they are and everything is impermanent and we always have all that we need and....... right now it's not ringing true.
I noticed as I read your comment how at the same time I was attempting to download a TV episode from I tunes, fussing with one of my Maine Coon Cats and wondering what to do about dinner (even though I have just returned from a wonderful lunch )
When I left the hospice to meet my friend for lunch, I felt as I often do in these circumstances, really really fortunate. And the thought crossed my mind I don't want to die like that, how I want it is.................and when I want it is............ and now here I am reaching for the mouse to click on "Yes I want to download" because I don't want to be with my sadness right now.

Sophie3's picture

I am also interested to hear different perspectives on when having no desires turns into something like either apathy or not taking responsibility. As another person asked (Evan, I think) sometimes dissatisfaction will spur action and reform. Surely this is a good thing?

I have seen people in desperate situations without the support, energy and health to do anything about it - they slip into apathy and breed apathy within their community. It becomes endemic. I do believe they are essentially a satisfied people, but they are dying young and experiencing such terrible poverty and trauma in their lives. I desire more for them. I am dissatisfied with this situation. I feel the desire for something better - and I feel it for them - as they are numb to even the possibility now.

Are they desire-less when they choose unhealthy behaviors, choose not to work towards a better future - or is it powerless? Is it apathy?

I don't know.
I do know that anyone reading this is lucky enough to have the time and brain space to ponder these things. We here participating have the amazing privilege of being able to read, we have time to reply and to sit, we decide how to educate ourselves, and we have power over what and when we eat. And maybe it is us who need these teachings, not the people living in poverty on our doorstep. If we can truly feel our satisfaction, the lives of those around us are brought into a more loving space and we are better prepared to give what we can.

Thoughts?'s picture

Dear Sophie,

Such wonderful questions! My sense is that desire naturally arises and falls, and it is the grasping and clinging to this feeling that gets into disharmony with ourselves and the world. And sometimes clinging is the best thing too! I think of a young parent clinging to a child's arm so they don't move into danger. So, so much depends upon the time degree and condition.

Yes, dissatisfaction and desire can bear beautiful fruits, too. When they are used as skillful means, these experiences change the world. Each barrier can be a Dharma Gate. Each Dharma Gate can become a barrier. So much depends!



noel white's picture

I think it begins with gratitude - somehow if you don't recognize that at first click then you slip in to apathy and despair.

Jillian Lauren's picture

Thank you Koshin and Chodo for this months retreat. I am looking forward to the rest of the month and the teachings/gifts which you share!'s picture

What a pleasure to share this with you! We look forward to exploring this practice together! Bows, Koshin

ebredberg's picture

Interesting discussion, and one for which I'm grateful. Somehow, I feel it's right and necessary for me to say of myself, that whatever I have is enough, but I don't feel justified in saying that everyone else --the mother who can't feed her kids, etc.--has enough. I remain unhappy with Christians who quote their teacher with "the poor you have always with you," and drive off in their Mercedeses. I guess maybe I should just look to my own sense of desire and attend the needs of others as part of interdependence...?

celticpassage's picture

I think your caricature of Christians is unfair since Christian organizations have done more for the world's poor both historically and in the present than Buddhist organizations ever have.

I think many or even most Christians and Christian organizations see the teaching that 'we will always have the poor with us', to be opportunities to show God's love in action rather than an excuse to ignore them.

The Pope has recently underscored this point by saying that even wasting your own food is stealing from the poor.

ebredberg's picture

Please accept my apologies for misrepresenting Christianity. I actually meant to say "those Christians who ...etc." And I stand by that formulation. I've certainly found myself among Christians (and others) who used that quote as a justification to ignore poverty in the world. I certainly admire the new Pope's stance on poverty, and hope that it is well heard.

celticpassage's picture

No apology necessary ebredberg.
I just wanted to point out that's it's easy to characterize groups based on our own experience, or what the media likes to show.'s picture

Thank you both for staying connected! So wonderful to not just turn away! Bows, Koshin

beatrice's picture

Thank you both.
It is always good to have somene(s) remind us of the Way and to be human in their struggle on it as well.
This is a difficilt planet to be on with the extreme suffering and the affluence. Not to be burdened by the former that is tears my peace apart. Only surrendering, doing what I can and bringing myself back to the moment brings me depth and peace. Of course, that is the work!!!
Namaste''s picture

Dear Beatrice,
Thank you for reminding us all about how important good spiritual friends are to remind us! The Buddha spoke about the whole of a spiritual life is good spiritual friends. How true! And it is amazing to me that we can use this medium to support and connect with one another. Beautiful.
Bows, Koshin

leland61's picture

As I sit in the comfort of a recliner, watching and listening to this first part of the retreat, I became aware that I certainly seem to always have enough. But, how can I say this is what the mother should think as she holds her starving child, and there is no food just around the corner; to the parent who's child is going to die because he cannot get the chemo therapy he needs because there is no money to pay for it.

It is easy for Americans who can sit in their homes, with their computers, Lattes and all of the comforts of the American Middle Class Life to say this and even mean it. But I am a privileged person because of who I am and where I live. How can I say to the starving child's mother that she has all she needs?'s picture

So well said. I once heard a homeless man say, feed me so that I have the ability to listen. How do we offer ourselves and the world respect and dignity in their/our moments of great challenge? There is no formula that works in every situation, and yet we can use our practice to the moment. i try to bring my fresh beginner's mind, bear witness and then allow loving action to flow from there.

Shelley's picture

I think this is such a relevant question to ask, especially in this time when we keep hearing over and over about the "economic crisis" and so people who are out of a job don't necessarily want to hear "what you have is enough." They might angrily respond "No it isn't because I need a job!" but from a spiritual perspective, maybe not having a job is really the "enough" that will allow the person to move forward on their spiritual path. The comment about "feed me so I can listen" is so apt. We have to work with people where they're at, not necessarily from where we're at.

lauraoc8317's picture

Thanks so much - Your closing comments "We always have enough, no matter what the situation. We always have just what we need", really struck a chord as being true, and yet the day to day experience is often of a relentless wish for things to be different. Reviewing the day, this is what i saw - cycling to work resenting a car for not pulling off when traffic lights turned green, at work wishing for tea break, digging and weeding wishing my hand/back didnt ache, and on and on....... this evening sitting at a sit & share meeting with friends aaah experiencing just sitting as enough, really feeling in every cell "we always have just what we need". Yet not long after returning home, the thought im hungry....and off again. Thanks so much for this retreat. At the end of meditation tonight, one of the group asked if next weeks topic for contemplation could be satisfaction, seeking satisfaction, looking for more. When I got home and logged on to the retreat, wow! indeed, "we always have just what we need!" thanks agin.

Robert Jusei Chodo Campbell's picture

I love this quote from Diane Arbus

(excerpt) - the world is Noah's ark on the sea of eternity containing all the endless pairs of things, irreconcilable and inseparable, and heat will always long for cold and the back for the front and smiles for tears and mutt for jeff and no for yes with the most unutterable nostalgia there is.”

This for me is a poetic version of what I experience daily.

WOW my secret, ceaseless cravings hold a lot less energy if i think of them all floating "on the sea of eternity."
They will sink, surface, sink, surface, as fleeting moments. There are moments that I look back with a certain nostalgia and think to myself I remember when that (whatever "that" is) was so important to me, it I would have done anything to get it and now it seems so silly and un-important. And I'm pretty sure I will always have longings in some form or another how lucky, I get to practice over and over.

Alcinoo's picture

wonderful! thank you so much. inclusion of everything we are as it arises seems like sanity to me's picture

Well stated! Yes!

alanbell_1969's picture


Forgive me if a simila post has has already been covered in previous posts....

I have quite a strong desire at the moment to give something of my self to others. The other day, I was reflecting on this ... And some thoughts lead to the desire to both write and teach a short course in Emotional Intelligence at the company I work, as there is so much consideration given to the cognitive aspects of development at work, and little to the emotional. I feel having some applied focus on the emotional would possibly help create a more harmonious environment in which to work.

I honestly, don't feel an inflated sense of self from wanting to realise such a desire, but actually feel simply 'it is the right thing to do' and the insight I get is that I am also 'not the doer' ....this action feels authentic to me, and makes me wonder that desire in itself is neither good nor bad, it is the motivation behind certain desires and the grasping for particular outcomes that often proves un-skillful - I know this from my own life experience.

When the desire can come from a place that wishes to relieve suffering and hopefully increase wisdom and understanding, then for me such desire has authenticity associated with it ?

Would love to hear what you think ..

Thanks for this opportunity ...
Best Wishes, Alan's picture

Dear Alan,

The desire to act is so important. For me, I like to check in with myself and see if this is in harmony with the time, degree, condition and place or is it just about me wanting to feel a certain way. The beauty of practice is that we can keep it fresh in the moment. Writing and teaching are wonderful expressions when they are attuned. This is the place of authenticity. My two cents: check in and go forth!



EvanC's picture

Thank you very much for a wonderful retreat session. This is my first online retreat experience, and though sceptical at first, I must say I am quite impressed. I enjoyed the recorded video and I am especially enjoying the opportunity to interact. What a fantastic way to make retreats more accessible (I live in regional Australia, so this is a real treat).

I wanted to ask about satisfaction. It it possible to be apathetic by being over satisfied? My profession requires me to do a lot of advocating for people of disadvantage and I feel that if these people were in a constant state of satisfaction, they would be taken advantage of. Through my experience, the dissatisfaction of inequality often catalyses change towards more equitable conditions. I would love to know your thoughts on when dissatisfaction with the life you have been given is acceptable, especially when the dissatisfaction is used to bring about change that will ease suffering.

This is an issue that really 'throws a spanner into the works' of my practice, as I can see the advantages of being satisfied, but the dissatisfaction of disadvantaged people has often created change leading to equity.

Thank you again. I am looking forward to next week!

Evan's picture

Dear Evan,
I am glad you are enjoying this retreat as much as we are.
(We were curious too how this would be!)

We both loved your question. As Shunryu Suzuki says, (when asked what the meaning of Buddhism was), "Not always so." Sometimes being satisfied is the practice. Sometimes working with our dissatisfaction is best. It is not always one way.

And also it can be a major spiritual bypass to just focus on either side. In my experience, when I am one sided in my practice, this is the place to adjust. For me it is also about balance and harmony. How do I practice today with satisfaction? How is it arising in me today? These are the questions that lead me into curiosity and openness.


mkanaga's picture

I am interested in this question too. Similarly, I also wonder about the balance or relationship between the satisfaction being spoken of and the renunciation of samsara that the Buddha taught. Buddha seemed pretty dissatisfied with this cyclic existence. ;)

Maybe some level (or type?) of dissatisfaction is required as an impetus for both societal and personal change?'s picture

I agree! As I spoke about just above, "not always so," is a helpful way I think about it. Bows, Koshin

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

In case anyone is wondering, the poems by NY State Poet Laureate Marie Howe that Koshin has shared on this page appear in this issue's interview with her, "The Space Between":

Warm wishes,
Emma V.'s picture

Thanks Emily for the link!

Alcinoo's picture

hello and thank you so much for such a wonderful start to the retreat!

The way I am dealing with desire right now is to do with understanding the place that repression has had in the movement of my feelings desires and satisfactions and I am experimenting with just watching the energy that flows upwards and through my body = observing it and suspending all judgement. Therefore desire becomes a wonderful and enriching experience as all the confusing dialogue that used to make desire a source of conflict have purposefully gone. Its actually quite wonderful because suspending the repression that used to be enacted through judgement and the inner dialogue actually deletes the pulling and shoving that i used to equate with desire but which now I see used desire as a vehicle, like sails in the wind.
thank you again I feel very blessed's picture

This is wonderful! Great awareness! Today, I have been thinking about the difference between desire and clinging. Desire naturally arises all the time. We can watch it and learn from it. Like you said, when we do this it does sail in the wind. It just keeps moving. My sense of this awareness is more about when we cling to the desire. That's often when we can take action that can be skillful or not so skillful. This place of action is the place that I have been practicing with.
Koshin's picture

Good morning! The discussions and comments have been wonderful. There is this dynamic practice opportunity of working with "having few desires" with equanimity—or holding it with a big sky mind. Chodo and I offer you this poem by Marie that was just published in the magazine. We feel it adds to our discussion of satisfaction and having few desires. How do you work with your armies?


Standing next to my old friend I sense that his soldiers have retreated.
And mine? They’re resting their guns on their shoulders
talking quietly. I’m hungry, one says.
Cheeseburger, says another,
and they all decide to go and find some dinner.

But the next day, negotiating the too narrow aisles of
The Health and Harmony Food Store—when I say, Excuse me,
to the woman and her cart of organic chicken and green grapes
she pulls the cart not quite far back enough for me to pass,
and a small mob in me begins picking up the fruit to throw.

So many kingdoms,
and in each kingdom, so many people: the disinherited son, the corrupt counselor,
the courtesan, the fool. And so many gods—arguing among themselves,
over toast, through the lunch salad
and on into the long hours of the mild spring afternoon—I’m the god.
No, I’m the god. No, I’m the god.

I can hardly hear myself over their muttering.
How can I discipline my army? They’re exhausted and want more money.
How can I disarm when my enemy seems so intent?

—Marie Howe

Sarah11.11's picture

The never ending desires. Desire to relax, desire to think, desire to be somewhere else, to know different people, to forget the past, to understand, to be the best daughter, sister, partner, citizen, human being. Why is it so easy to desire everything other than what is?

Robert Jusei Chodo Campbell's picture

Aha! therein lies the rub.
Why is it so easy to desire everything other than what is?
Because our conditioning tells us that we are not enough just as we are.
Suzuki Roshi put it something like this
" You are all perfect and complete just as you are, and you need to do some work"
I love the simplicity of this statement how wonderful to know that yes even with my desires for something else I am being perfectly who I am, and I can work towards maybe being not so discontent.

ziegenhl's picture

What a wonderful teaching, and it is a joy to watch the two of you interact in the film. Rather than a solitary teacher, I can see how body language and listening is modeled in a caring and personal interaction. I look forward to the next month's videos.

I too found inspiration in the personal stories you shared. You asked for our day to day experience of desires and satisfaction. I have been struggling with being content with " just what is" and skillful goal setting. I have been desiring changes, right livelihood, a healthier community to associate with, a safer home to live in. But what is a skillful balance between motivation to better ones situation and ambition for more? I am not choosing between my next million or or a yacht, I am choosing between looking for a new job, a new roof over my head and buying food or having health insurance. Is it unskillful to have material goals (not extravagant ones) while learning to live a more spiritual life. How do you begin to frame goals for yourself without becoming attached to outcomes? I have been practicing long enough that I understand that my happiness and contentment are not determined by my situation, I can be, and often do achieve peace with what is. But I still feel desires to make changes and struggle with "letting go" of the future. Am I using "being present to how things are" as denial for changes that could be made?

Thank you for this thought provoking discussion! I am going to meditate on the wonderful North Star metaphor.

Anicca1956's picture

I could have asked this same question myself. I bet there are a lot of us struggling with these same almost survival issues.'s picture

I am so delighted that we are practicing with these awarenesses. Each week we will explore a new pair. This one of having few desires is so challenging! For me today, it was about not having too much to eat at dinner and not having too many expressed opinions when they were not useful. The sense I had today was that it is an awareness of "having few desires"—not extinguishing the arising of the feeling. Today I worked with feeling the desire arise and then check it out in terms of time, degree, condition and place. Was it the right time? Was my desire to big, small, or attuned to the moment(degree)? Were the conditions right? Was this the right place to express the desire?

You bring up such important questions that only you can answer. I am appreciating the tension that lives in the questions. This is why I practice, not to have answers, but to live in the questions.

Glad you liked the North Star. I love it too!

toonteo's picture

Hello Everybody
Thank you so much for this nice topic in the retreat of this Month,and it is also very interesting that it is presented by two great teachers new form in tricycle retreat.
For me it is very obvious that our life is easier & with few struggle if we have few desires.But I am always wonder that if all people in this world thinking like this ,then this huge achievement of mankind is not possible.and in this modern era living with few desires defently sticks the depressive mood attitude.
Would you please explain about this issue,How we can differentiate between skillful desires and unskillful ones in this modern days&do you think that this new gadgets & scientific achievement are unnecessary for joyful life.
Teo's picture

Great question! How do we distinguish between skillful and unskillful? Well, anything can be used as a tool or a hinderance—depending on how we use them. This includes iPhones, gadgets, and even health food. I know a person who was so desiring health that they only ate particular "healthy" food and became terribly sick. So, it always depends. I see gadgets and iPhones serving people in the hospital everyday. For me, the beauty is coming back to the breath and tuning in to the intimacy of the moment.