How to let go of or make peace with a desire in the mind? Try to stay away from the object. Then the thought will slowly die away because the thought is not being fulfilled; the desire is not being fulfilled. Even though the desire comes in, when you don’t give it the opportunity to get fulfilled, it loses its strength. It’s something like when you throw a stone into a pool of water and it creates a ripple. If you don’t continue to throw in any more stones, that one ripple slowly fades away and the pool becomes calm and balanced again.

If you still feel that the want is there, if the thought is still waiting, then you can take the thought itself as an object for your meditation. You can ask, What is the benefit of my having this thought? Am I not disturbing my mind? Before the thought, I was happy. The moment the thought came in, it disturbed my happiness. I’m unhappy now. Without the thought, I’ll be happy again. So what is the point of having it? Analyze. Then slowly the thought will dissolve. Don’t try to reject it or suppress it. Those are not correct methods because once you suppress a thought, it will wait for another opportunity to come up.

You can also have another stronger thought, an opposite kind of thought. If you have a thought of wanting something, create another thought. Think, If I don’t want anything I’ll be happy, so let me be free from this want. This is a thought of detachment, because the want is a kind of attachment. So create a thought of detachment. This is called pratipaksha bhavana, or cultivation of an opposite, positive thought. If a thought of hatred comes, invite a thought of love. Try to build up that impression in the mind. Once the thought of love is built, the thought of hatred will slowly fade and die away.

A good example is the weed. Where I come from in South India, that is like a thorny bush. Every time you pull it out it comes up, again and again. So the best remedy is to make a small hole near the base of the weed. Plant the seed of a nice tree—a tree that can grow under all circumstances, like a banyan tree. Pour a little water there. You need not do anything with the thorny bush; you can just ignore it. Take care of this seed, and allow the banyan tree to grow. As the banyan tree grows, the roots will start sucking all the nutrients from the earth for itself, so one day the weeds will not have anything for themselves. As the tree grows up, the weeds die and the space is clear. And you will have a tree also.

We are doing something similar with pratipaksha bhavana. Just create a proper thought, a prayerful thought or a mystic word; a mantra. Any holy thought will do. When you develop it constantly, you have sown the seed of a banyan tree. As the thought grows, you won’t even think of all the petty things of the world. Nothing can bother you. All the weeds will be weeded.

What you call the weeds in nature’s jungle are your needs in the worldly jungle. All the needs will be weeded. Then there is only one strong desire that is growing. That’s why many spiritual seekers, say, God, when I started desiring You, I lost all my other desires. Because I want you and only you, I don’t have time to think of anything; I lost my taste in everything. It’s a kind of madness. In the same way, when people become mad after money, day and night they count how many dollars they have in the bank. They ask themselves, How can I add one more dollar? They don’t even think to eat. They think constantly on how to make more money. Take the case of scientists who want to invent something. Don’t you see them sitting in the lab, day and night? They go crazy. They don’t think of anything else. How many wives wanted a divorce because all the husband did was to sit around manipulating things—loosening this, tightening that. Even if she asks if he would like a coffee, he doesn’t even respond or see her. By developing the one desire to invent something, he has lost all other desires.

If you have such a strong desire towards God, it is called bhakti. When you develop that devotion, all the worldly things mean nothing to you, because in front of that sun they’re all just fireflies. That is another way to let go of worldly desires. So, either try to constantly develop a higher thought or take the disturbing thought itself and analyze it. Choose either of these according to your taste, temperament, and capacity. Neither is the better than the other. Never suppress a desire by being afraid to face it, because it will come back several fold. The more you suppress, the more it will gain strength.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda