Get behind wants, desires & distractions to your real needs

Posted on: November 22, 2008


Here is a wonderful take on

distractions in meditation

retail therapy


If you are intrigued as you read the start of this article click on read more to get the whole story. It is a great read; I found it empathic and useful for my daily practice.

Mark Twain: “Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol…”

Bodhipaksa (November 21, 2008)

Mark Twain

Bodhipaksa explores the relationship between hats, iPods, desires, and needs. And also figures out what the Pali for “Palm Pilot” is. Oh, and he also offers a radical approach to dealing with distraction in meditation.

“Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.”

In a piece called “What Is Man?” Twain wrote: “Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.”

Twain argues that when you find yourself desiring, say, a hat, it’s not actually the physical object that you want but something else: perhaps something like the admiration you’ll get from your friends for having such a fine hat. If it turns out that your friends don’t like the hat and think it makes you look stupid, then it’s likely that you won’t think the hat is so splendid after all. The hat hasn’t changed, but its meaning has.

We need to learn to identify what our needs are (and the insights of Nonviolent Communication are very useful here), and we need to learn or find ways to meet our needs. But I believe that this approach to meditation offers a powerful tool for finding inner peace, and for letting go of the idea that there is some “thing” we need that will bring happiness. Happiness comes not from having the right things, but from having the right kind of relationship to our experience.

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