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Cravings for pleasure are never ending. Every time you try to fulfill a craving, it’s like adding more gasoline to a fire that is already burning. We can’t eliminate desires completely and we don’t need to. Desires naturally arise in the mind. They only become problematic when they develop into incessant cravings, which can lead to addictions. Each time a craving is fulfilled, it is renewed and the mind will want more and more. There is no craving about which you can say, “Oh, I’m satisfied, I don’t want that anymore.”

So, if your intention is to get rid of cravings and addictions, find out the origin, the root cause. Where does it come from and why? What is the purpose behind the desire? Ask yourself, Is it a reasonable desire; is it necessary for my survival, for my spiritual growth? Or is it just a matter of continuous sensual pleasure through the tongue, the  eyes, the nose, or any other organ? One has to analyze cravings and desires and understand that these usually don’t not serve your higher interests.

When you have a desire that is not good for you, try not to indulge it and instead continue to analyze it. Don’t give it an opportunity to continually arise. Desires will always be present, to one degree or another. Natural desires that arise and subside don’t usually create problems. However, the desires and addictions that continually resurface or remain in an endless loop of craving will continue to do so if an opportunity is given to them. You may think that by “satisfying” them they will indeed be happy and go away. Unfortunately, unhealthy cravings don’t go get satisfied or go away by fulfilling them. Instead, they wait for another opportunity to show themselves again. If you analyze them well and with conviction that they are not helpful for your spiritual growth, they can get dissolved. So, be mindful in your daily life and see that you don’t give them any reason or cause to re-occur.

One has to be cautious. Begin to understand what kind of things provoke the desire. It may be a certain type of food or clothing that kindles it up. Notice how your mind reacts to things in the environment and the people with whom you interact. Don’t think that just because you are convinced one time that a certain desire is not good for you that it is gone. So many people have said, “No, I won’t smoke anymore. Cigarettes are bad, dangerous. It’s not only the surgeon general that says so, I also know this from experience.” You are convinced, totally convinced. But then if you spend time with people who smoke, you’ll be tempted when they offer you a cigarette. And you can’t refuse because all those old traces of nicotine are still in the body. They wait for an opportunity to come up. So, if you don’t want to smoke, if you are convinced of it, stay away from people and places that encourage smoking.

But never simply force a desire down. Many people try to suppress cravings and desires. That is a terrible thing. If you suppress it, it will come back tenfold. It will gain more and more strength. It’s almost like you are pressing on a wire spring. The more you press, the more it gets tensed up. And as soon as you let go for a moment, the spring unfolds with great force. If you press on a spring lightly and release it, it will pop up only one foot high. If you press it to the very bottom and then release, it will jump ten feet. So analyze, but never suppress. Understand exactly why you want to get rid of it. Ask yourself if there is any benefit in the desire. If not, convince yourself that it is not good for you and then stay away from situations that would remind you of whatever you seem to want.

And, at the same time, put your attention on developing something that is positive. Constantly engage yourself in something else that is enjoyable and good for you. That’s the message in the proverb, “A lazy mind is a Satan’s workshop.” Most of your unwanted desires will pop up when you don’t have anything else to do. You may just want to take a little rest and that is when the desire will say, “Ah, so you don’t have anything to do. Now, I can come bother you!” But, if you really get completely tired from your activities, the minute you go to bed, you will fall asleep.

Another point is to be careful about analyzing your cravings and desires. Be careful that by analyzing it you are not also encouraging the desire. It is good to analyze, but within some limits. Sometimes, just by constantly analyzing, it can have the opposite effect because it keeps you thinking of the desire. And if you are thinking of it again and again, it may gain momentum.

Some people will say, “I’m going to fast today.” But they won’t be doing anything else except thinking of food. “What will I eat tomorrow?” The whole day they will be thinking of eating. They are not physically eating, but they are thinking of eating. When you fast, you should not even have time to think of eating. Instead, engage yourself in doing something different. A good example is a scientist who spends day and night at the office, completely forgetting to eat. It’s not that they don’t want to eat, but their mind is so interested in their research, that they forget about food until they go home.

The scientist is not starting their day thinking, I don’t want to fulfill my desires. But because of their engagement in something else, the desire temporarily drops away. Similarly, when a spiritual seeker has a deep interest in their spiritual life, all the senses get tired of waiting for an opportunity to draw their attention. It is not that you repress your senses. No. You don’t need to be thinking, “I have to control my senses.” You don’t need to control. Instead, put your mind totally on other things, and you will forget that there are any desires or cravings pulling at you. Occupy yourself in something positive that you are very interested in. When your mind is more occupied in something positive, productive and serviceful in your daily life, eventually those desires will not even arise. You will feel more and more fulfilled through your service. Your experience of inner peace will have a chance to blossom more when you are less distracted by desires, passions and cravings that pull you away from that inner peace.

In your daily life, you have to develop the habit of being engaged in thoughts and activities that are that are spiritually nourishing. It is like injecting new, clean grease into a motor and the old grease just comes right out. You can’t just pull out the old grease. By putting in the clean grease the old grease goes out. The more positive thoughts, the more spiritual practice you put in, the quicker all the old habits will go away. Then, you will begin to experience more and more and more inner peace.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda