Desire, in the context of meditation or yoga practice, is the clinging to pleasant thoughts or sensations. Similar to raga in yoga, desire can create attachment, which causes suffering. It is not the pleasure that is the problem, but rather our craving for pleasure that enslaves us. When we try to hang on to pleasant moments, ignoring the fact that everything changes, we create a fear internally, the fear of the moment ending. Of course, the moment passes and the pleasure ends. This is one of the realities the Buddha talked about constantly. He called it “anicca,” or impermanence. Everything ends; good times and bad times all have their time, and they pass away. So even if we attain our heart’s desire, even when we are basking in pleasant feelings or situations, this kind of pleasure is an illusion because it is transient. Desire creates suffering, and hinders us from realizing the true joy of being.
Desire can be watched. In our yoga practice we will experience pleasant sensations frequently. Coming out of a long-held Yin Yoga pose can often create sensations that are extremely pleasurable. Enjoy these sensations when they arise, but don’t cling to them. At the end of the practice there is also a very pleasurable buzz throughout the body. This good feeling may last for hours afterward. For many people this is the reason they return to the practice; they want to feel that sense of well-being over and over again. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the feeling, and if that is the motivation you need to keep doing your practice, that too is perfectly fine and all right. However, just recognize that this is a craving, this is an addiction. Watch these desires come into existence – don’t react to them; just notice them. Eventually the desires will recede, and you will be able to enjoy the sensations of pleasure when they arise without the clinging or the hidden fear of their passing.