Shambhala Sun Home Free Gift with Order Current Issue Subscribe & Save Half Give a Gift Renew Current Text
spacer spacer spacer


spacer spacer
Having a fixation also includes the tendency of the mind to embellish the desirable qualities of what you want, while ignoring the “downside,” the undesirable aspects or the future consequences. By using conscious awareness to break your fixation of attention, you can separate wanting from getting. Imagine your child is being carried out to sea by a strong undertow. You would not try to fight with the undertow (the object) but would grab your child (your attention) and pull her back to shore. If you practice becoming more aware of your attention as an aspect of your mind that you can actually take charge of and use as a support, you can notice when it has been kidnapped and deliberately take it back. The breath-centered meditation practices, such as shamatha, are very good for training your attention not to wander. When you notice your mind has gone astray, has been “carried out to sea,” you simply bring it back to the neutral object of attention, in this case the breath.

Making Offerings

Another way of loosening fixation is to offer the object of your desire. I have made it a practice to leave a small portion of food on my plate and I mentally offer it at the end of the meal, saying something like “May all beings have enough to eat.” I’ve noticed that this has several results. First, it reduces my speedy and mindless eating tendencies. Second, it makes every meal feel like a shared universal experience. Additionally, when I actually offer the food I feel warmth in my heart, a momentary radiance of compassion that both softens and uplifts my own state of mind. By starting with our own mind, we can begin to reverse the craving that often drives our behaviors.

You can do an offering practice with anything that has aroused your craving state of mind. With food, setting aside a small portion before eating as an offering will slow the speed and interrupt the habitual patterns that often drive overeating. Offering this portion of food at the end of the meal by placing it outside can signal that you are finished eating, and prevent mindlessly continuing. When you notice craving arise while shopping, you might wish that all beings have the warmth and comfort of the cashmere sweater you crave, and actually open your hand in a gesture of offering it to them. This can cause an actual shift in brain activity from a narrow “me” focus to a more connected and empathic part of the brain. Test this for yourself. Most people feel happier when released from the “I want” state of mind into the more openhearted feelings arising from kindness and generosity.

The next time you find yourself “standing at the refrigerator door,” stop and notice. What am I doing here? What do I feel in my chest, my heart? Can I give it a name? Recognize your attention has gone in search of an object for your wanting, has fixated on something external to try to quell the pain of your longing and dissatisfaction. Bring your attention back to simply being present with what you are experiencing. Sit down for a moment and hold that feeling in compassion. Be fully present with this wanting, as it is, with an open heart. Perhaps put a comforting hand on your chest. Then you can offer whatever you are struggling with by saying something like, “May everyone have the food they need, the happiness they seek, and may they attain relief from the suffering of a dissatisfied mind.”

Freeing yourself from grasping can actually increase the pleasure you can experience from the objects around you, whether you own them or not. You can recognize attraction itself, and relax into it as an experience of appreciation rather than of wanting. The object is all the more precious if it is then let go, freeing you to continue experiencing your world without getting stuck. Attraction is not a problem, trying to glue yourself to the object of your attraction is where the pain arises.

In summary, there are three steps to reduce craving and lead a more satisfying life: recognize the wanting mind; relax your fixated attention; and offer the object of your desire — psychologically, physically, or both. As individuals, we have the opportunity to redirect the momentum of wanting into one of generosity and caring. This will go a long way toward transforming your mind and relieving the intense dissatisfaction that drives your craving.

Sasha T. Loring is a psychotherapist and mindfulness retreat leader who has been teaching meditation for more than thirty years. She is the author of
Eating with Fierce Kindness: A Mindful and Compassionate Guide for Losing Weight.

Originally published in the July 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

Subscribe | Current Issue | Search Archives | Contact Us | Spotlight | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Employment
© 2008 Shambhala Sun | Email: | Tel: 902.422.8404 | Published by Shambhala Sun Foundation