Attachment, Greed & Desire

Attachment, Greed & Desire

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the dangers and consequences of attachment, greed and desire.

First a quick update:

“Tiger Woods – the apology & The Fame Factor”
So the experts got it all wrong as they claimed Tiger is a sex addict but he admitted to what I said from the outset, being a victim of The Fame Factor and losing his faith and core values. Read the expanded transcript of the interview I gave to Russ Morley of 850 WFTL about Tiger Woods, his apology, the male ego and The Fame Factor.

Now, let’s talk about craving – attachment, greed and desire.

During the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, k.d. Lang was featured with version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah. K.d. Lang is also famous for winning a Grammy in 1993 for her biggest hit song, “Constant Craving”:

Even through the darkest phase
Be it thick or thin
Always someone marches brave
Here beneath my skin
Constant craving
Has always been

One can interpret this song to mean that we all have a constant craving and that this constant craving has always been around.

Another person that threw “craving” into the spotlight is Tiger Woods. Of course, many people are still talking about and dissecting Tiger Woods’ apology. This success newsletter is not about the apology, but it is about a powerful lesson and revelation from that apology, when Tiger Woods referred to the consequences of his craving and the link to his faith, Buddhism.

There are two key things that Tiger Woods said. First:

“I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”

And second:

“People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.”

Both paragraphs refer to the dangers of craving. Tiger Woods is saying something that I have taught and I believe that every religion and philosophy teaches – happiness does not exist outside of you – you will never find it in “stuff” – material possessions or anything else that is tangible. Yes, all the stuff and things can add to happiness but it doesn’t guarantee happiness and the pursuit of these things – the constant craving can be dangerous. That is not to say that the pursuit or desire is dangerous but the degree of desire is dangerous.

Buddhism teaches that human suffering is caused by the mind- by our thoughts. Many religions and philosophies teach this same principle. Buddhism believes that our suffering in the human experience is the result of the way our mind is constantly noisy, constantly craving; and that our pain comes from attachment, greed and desire.

In other words, when we become attached to someone or something, a person or an object we lose our power, we become victims. Attachment refers to the feeling of being bound to something or someone i.e. our happiness is bound to something outside of us. Attachment also refers to our identity. Some people believe that they are their house, car or job. Attachment also refers to an outcome. When we decide that we will only be happy when something occurs or turns out the way we want, then we become helpless victims, and our happiness is now controlled by something outside of ourselves. Of course, it is disappointing if we do not get the job promotion or achieve a goal or even get the girl we wanted, but when we let that disappointment dwell in us for a long time, then we are saying that that thing is controlling us and that we cannot he happy unless we have that thing, in the way we want and when we want. Our emotional happiness and inner peace have now become attached to something outside of us, of which, most likely, we have no real control.

The second point is greed.

Greed might be an obvious pitfall and danger, and yet how many of us have fallen into that pit? Are we not reaping the results as a society for much of our greed or the greed of others?

Interestingly, greed according the dictionary refers to “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.” I explain this as “when is enough, enough?” Again there is nothing wrong with material possessions, except for when the desire and craving for them overtakes us, when it controls us.  We then find ourselves in the spiral: we achieve, we attain and we want more, more, more. It’s similar to the person that eats and just keeps eating as if his brain has failed to say, “I am full.”

That leads to third point – desire.

The dictionary defines desire as “a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment.” Is there anything wrong with desire? Only when it controls us, when we become its slave and it becomes our master. Tiger Woods in his apology above refers to the “impulses.” It is very easy to lose control and self-restraint, and thus give into desire.

That is the point that the Dalai Lama made when he was asked to comment about Tiger Woods: restraint and self-discipline. The Dalai Lama had never heard of Tiger Woods, but when told of the Tiger Woods story, the Dalai Lama replied that “all religions have the same idea” about adultery. “Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important,” he said. “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.”

The dictionary refers to self-discipline as “Training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement.”

Every day, we are faced with a temptation of one sort or another, and it is only “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences” that gives us the power to stand strong and say “No.” Of course, in today’s narcissistic world, we have given too much focus, energy and significance to feeling good, to instant gratification, instead of focusing on long-term rewards and consequences. We can only attain self-discipline through daily practice. For Tiger Woods, he said that he strayed from his faith, he stopped practicing daily, and thus, he easily gave into the cravings and became what I call a victim of The Fame Factor: narcissism, denial, delusions of grandeur, entitlement and of course, power.

I also humbly believe that it takes a real man to admit this and to do so with sincerity; to accept self-responsibility and to decide to take action to correct what has happened. Remember, Tiger Woods could simply have tried the cop-out that others have used and are using more frequently today, with something along the lines of “I am a sex addict; there is something wrong with my brain” but instead he spoke of the truth, his truth, his failings, his desertion of his beliefs and his surrender to The Fame Factor.

In closing, some philosophies teach complete denial of all cravings, but I believe in balance. We need desire to drive us, to motivate us to action. A baby is born with desire for food, love and security. We can use desire to help us to strive to better ourselves and the world. Mother Teresa had a desire, a constant craving to help others, to ease the pain and suffering of others.

I sincerely believe that the state of Nirvana is attained not with a complete “cessation and extinction of craving and ignorance” but with a sense of control over our cravings – our attachments, greed and desires.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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9 replies
  1. Avatar
    Kevin Elliott says:

    Dear Patrick 🙂

    Thank you so much for your kind response. It seems to me the more love a person develops in their heart, the easier it is for them to perceive these sorts of things. That’s how I learned most of what I know.

    My mind used to be cluttered with things like thoughts of self-hatred, low self-esteem and curse words. It was sometimes very hard for me to control my own thoughts. However, by persisting in paying attention to catch those negative thoughts and replacing them with truthful, positive ones, the clutter eventually went away.

    I also believe regularly listening to some CDs of positive affirmations while I slept helped. I recorded them on my computer before burning them, so I was able to tailor them to my personal needs.

    What’s particularly interesting to me is that even when I consciously realize my mind is clear, thoughts don’t start to fill my head, whereas before, that was a cause for the clutter to come.

    The only negative thoughts I experience now are those directly linked with the emotions I’m working on.

    It seems that a combination of a clear mind and a heart connected to love opens me up to the “wisdom and understanding of the universe”, like a radio tuning in a particular station. Because I’m continually working on my remaining emotional issues though, it’s not consistent, but it seems to gradually intensify in the long run. There’s a flow, a connection, a knowing, you know? Insights become easy to both receive and express.

    I look forward to the day when humanity truly understands itself and breaks free from all its ignorance, pain and suffering. Imagine a world free from things like stress, anger, fear and anxiety… and filled with things like wisdom, unconditional love and a deep, calming peace. Instead of people going on vacation in order to “get away from it all”, they’re constantly “on vacation” 24/7 because their souls are rested.

    “Labor that you may enter into the rest.” “Do not labor for food which spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” “Be you wise as serpents (mind), yet innocent as doves (emotions).”

    Imagine a world where people are commonly knowledgeable, wise and responsible like adults yet happy, playful and carefree like innocent children! 😀

    Thanks for your time.

    Take care.
    Kevin 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Kevin Elliott says:

    Hello again, Patrick 🙂

    Yes, I agree with the point you made at the end.

    I believe a potential difference of views occurs with regards to balance of cravings and enlightenment. If I’m not mistaken, it seems you believe spiritual enlightenment (Nirvana) can be experienced, in part, through keeping our cravings in moderation. Is this true?

    I believe spiritual enlightenment comes, in part, when we take our cravings and other desires and gradually transform them into unconditional love.

    Basically, the exercise I do is I feel the emotion of “desire” for a certain amount of time while using a stopwatch. Let’s say 5 minutes. At 4 1/2 minutes I pause the stopwatch and stop feeling “desire” for a second or two. Then I reset the stopwatch and feel love-based emotions like love, peace and value for myself for the next 5 minutes, thus transforming the emotion. Then I relax for a few minutes while the changed emotion resolidifies.

    It’s kind of like taking ice, melting it into water, making it into kool aid and then freezing it into ice pops. =P

    While I definitely see the benefits of keeping things in moderation in light of the harmful consequences that can occur from taking things to the extreme, as far as spiritual enlightenment is concerned, I simplify my view of things down to the overall quality of our emotions and thoughts.

    I believe we are and have always been in Nirvana. Some may call this experience “God”. I believe this is where true love and wisdom originates. However, because humanity in general is filled with ignorance, pain and suffering, we don’t experience this. It’s like fish swimming in water without realizing it.

    By “cleaning the inside of the dish” (our negative emotions and thoughts), we in turn purify our words and actions, since they originate from within. We also open ourselves up to the experience of Nirvana, kind of like changing the radio dial to tune into the station you want to listen to. Having a pure heart and mind allow us to “tune” into the experience of God/Nirvana.

    I believe love is reality, and ignorance, pain and suffering are illusion. However, because we feel and think them, they seem real, somewhat like a dream seeming real WHILE we’re in it. Perception of reality beats reality itself. 🙂

    I’m convinced that in order to be completely open to this life-changing experience, we must first remove all the emotional and mental issues blocking the flow of love. This is where the inner transformation process comes in.

    If air is God, then a cup filled with water is empty of God, though full. If the cup is gradually emptied out, though empty, it is yet full of God. This is what I believe spiritual teachers like Jesus and the Buddha were pointing humanity towards.

    In daily life, it is important to avoid the extremes because we can clearly see the harm they cause. This relates to our actions. However, at the same time, I believe it’s very important for people to gradually transform their cravings and other desires into love so that they can move towards having a pure heart and mind, and thus, experience continual happiness within as bright lights shining in the world.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Take care.
    Kevin 🙂

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Kevin,

      I do agree and find your examples to be quite powerful. I particularly like the analogy of the cup. Yes, often our lives seem full, but they are full of the wrong things and we miss out on filling our lives up with the meaningful things!

      Thanks Kevin for your insights, teachings and vision.
      All the best,

  3. Avatar
    Kevin Elliott says:

    Hello Patrick 🙂

    I really enjoyed reading this article and your other one on the public’s interest in celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

    You commented towards the end that you sincerely believe that ‘the state of Nirvana is attained not with a complete “cessation and extinction of craving and ignorance” but with a sense of control over our cravings – our attachments, greed and desires.’

    My opinion is that these attachments, cravings, etc. are part of the problem. I’m not saying that attaining material possessions and such are bad in and of themselves; I’m convinced the problem lies in attaining them FOR HAPPINESS’ SAKE.

    Jesus spoke that the one who hears his sayings and does them is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock. When disastrous conditions strike against it, the house stands firm. However, one who ignores Jesus’ sayings is like the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. When disastrous conditions come against the house, it falls in ruin.

    I interpret this parable to mean that when we build our happiness on things that are subject to change (not guaranteed), we suffer when things go wrong. This includes small things like being stuck in traffic and being insulted up to much larger things like losing a loved one or going through a divorce.

    When you lose or perceive losing that which you desire on some level, you suffer to that degree. When you get what you don’t want on some level, you suffer to that degree. Generally speaking, the more you want something for happiness’ sake, the more you suffer when you don’t get it, and vice versa.

    Desire and fear gives us duality, two sides of the same coin that cannot be separated. People naturally seek the things they desire (desire = happiness) and avoid the things they don’t (fear = suffering). However, because the things we desire for happiness’ sake aren’t guaranteed, we open ourselves up to potential suffering by not eliminating them.

    This is why I’m convinced the Buddha emphatically stressed the importance of eliminating our desires. No matter how happy our desires make us, they will eventually be taken from us one way or another, at least by our own physical death. However, most of us don’t come close to having things that good. 🙂

    No matter how hard you grasp the sand, it always eventually slips through your fingers.

    If we eliminate our cravings by gradually transforming them into love, it’s the same thing as taking the grains of sand and transforming them into a rock.

    Losing our cravings won’t cause us to stop doing the things in life that are good for us. The love developing in our hearts and minds will motivate us to strive both for our benefit as well as the benefit of others. The main difference is we will be happy REGARDLESS of life’s circumstances. Conditional “love” and happiness now becomes unconditional love and happiness.

    The person who truly has a pure heart of unconditional love is the one who will be able to experience and express unconditional love in ALL circumstances simply because there is no longer anything negative within them to hinder the flow of love (light).

    As a person thinks (and feels) in their heart, SO ARE THEY.

    The suffering we experience in the world today originates from the individual and collective suffering in our hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts). Only by gradually facing and resolving our inner conflicts that we move towards individual and collective “heaven on earth”.

    My MySpace profile web page is on David F. Capps’ book “The Gospel of Thomas: A Blueprint for Spiritual Growth”. It really isn’t about religion. In essence, it’s about transforming our emotional (primarily) and mental suffering into unconditional love. The end result is an individual resembling a Christ or Buddha – one made perfect in love. 🙂

    I hope my thoughts have been of help to you.

    Take care.
    Kevin 🙂

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Kevin,
      thank you for your well-thought out and insightful response.
      I wonder if we are not saying the same thing, though: balance regarding cravings.

      You are right that nothing outside of ourselves can give us permanent happiness and nothing is constant. Accordingly, we must learn to focus on love, on helping each other and not clinging to material possessions and outcomes as our source of happiness or fulfillment.

      You said: “Losing our cravings won’t cause us to stop doing the things in life that are good for us. The love developing in our hearts and minds will motivate us to strive both for our benefit as well as the benefit of others. ” I interpret that to mean that we lose the extreme urges and cravings without losing sight of goals and dreams and hope; that our goal be not allow cravings to drive us and control us and rather to focus on love – unconditional love – making a difference. Would you agree?

      All the best,

  4. Avatar
    Jennifer Rodriguez says:

    Patrick, Well-said and well-written. This entry is a good reminder of how easy it is for all of us to forget who we really are and what’s really important in life. It’s so easy to get caught up in society’s superficial ideas of success, fame and power. I hope people see the lesson in Tiger Wood’s story.

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