Hi everyone. Sorry to jump into this discussion so late in the day. But for anyone still listening...
I think the common notion that Buddhism advises "turning away from" or "denying" or "suppressing" desire is completely misguided. Or at least a big misunderstanding of the teachings. Every practicing Buddhist I've spoken with on this point-- and every text I've read-- have stated quite clearly that the goal is not to avoid or deny desire, but to experience it FULLY. To hold it in one's awareness and really attend to it, explore it, feel it out.
So the idea is not to avoid feeling desire or suffering or hunger or loss, but to lean into them, as it were. All these feelings are ones which we usually react to in a habitual way (maybe by immediately acting on the desires, or immediately fleeing from the pain). But by holding them in the space of "bare attention" (which sounds a lot like awareness), we can actually choose how to respond. It opens up new worlds of choice. We don't have to immediately act to gratify, we don't have to immediately turn away, we don't have to immediately reach for a drink. Both Buddhism and gestalt teach that we can actually IDENTIFY with desire, not disidentify with it. We can come to accept the experience: Isee that at this moment, I AM this feeling of desire. I am not some abstraction called an ego, I am this very real immediate experience of desiring.
Both practices encourage us to feel precisely what we're feeling with no holds barred. The big deal about this acvice is that when we follow it we come to see that the feelings of pain or joy or loss are not what we imagined they might be. In the first place, they're not enduring. They come and go. Secondly, we realize that we can survive them-- we needn't expend our energies distracting ourselves from them, or rushing to satisfy them-- or anything else-- out of fear that to simply feel them would be overwhelming. To use the feeling of loss, as an example: if I slow down, turn to face this feeling and explore it-- yes, I will feel it deeply and it will probably hurt. But it will be my hurt, unique, fully owned, and probably even interesting. And from this position I can truly make decisions with awareness. I'm not limited by my reflexive, conditioned responses to my feelings of loss.
Thanks for hearing me out. Best to everyone--