The popular idea put out about reaching this state of not wanting stuff is that it is hard. Instead of calling it “Not-wanting-stuff” big ominous words like enlightenment, nirvana and awakening have been used. The business of not wanting stuff is popularly portrayed as serious stuff.
One of the most popular images out there concerning the path to not-wanting-stuff is that of renunciation. Before one can become enlightened one must undergo serious privations. You cannot eat certain foods; in fact it’s best not to eat for most of the time. You have to sit and meditate for long hours every day. You have to undergo extreme physical regimens. Basically the whole idea that is put out in a lot of the kung-fu movies. What’s the most common image that comes to mind when you think of enlightenment? Isn’t it some Asiatic monk in yellow robes meditating in an uncomfortable position.
The problem with this way of attaining not-wanting is that it isn’t really not-wanting. You are acting on the desire to not desire. You engage the rational mind and it comes up with the instructions “To stop wanting things you must wean yourself off of things. Have no things. If you like it do not have it. If you do not like it have it”. The problem is that this is really the 1st way (which is really no way) of stopping suffering. This is really a way that entails controlling phenomena so that you no longer experience happenings that you don’t want to experience. It’s subtle but once you see that this activity is no different to attempting to control your experience it is quite evident. I mean look at the life-style and the isolation that the monks have to set up for themselves in order to attain the end of this path.
Mindfulness is a much better way. With mindfulness we don’t seek to control experience at all. We just watch it. As one practices this things that bothered us stop bothering us. For example I had a migraine for 3 days a couple of days ago. In the past I would have tried to distract myself from it. Push it away from myself. But this time I just watched it and it became pleasant. It was still painful but the watching of the experience was satisfying and interesting. The same method is used with pleasant experiences. Instead of avoiding, of controlling WATCH!