Desires are sources of concentrated energy whose impact upon us can be creative or destructive. Positive desires can draw out the best in us; negative ones can lead to self-destructiveness, addictions, and cravings for possessions, constant pleasure, and ego-expanding experiences. Satisfying one desire can lead to the frustration of another. Often we feel like St. Paul who wrote, "I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the things I want to do and I find myself doing the very things I hate." (Romans 7:15)

The two lead characters in The Fourth Noble Truth are both driven by their desires, and this mutual quest draws us into their struggle with these powerful yearnings. Rachel (Kristen Kerr) is a very attractive aspiring actress who teaches Buddhism in both private and public sessions. She knows by heart the Buddha's Eightfold Path.

A judge sends Aaron (Harry Hamlin), a famous actor, to Rachel for classes on meditation; this alternative treatment is how he can avoid imprisonment for a road-rage assault. As a celebrity who is used to having his own way and manipulating women with his charm and money, this Hollywood star is less than impressed with this anger-management program, but he keeps coming back just to see Rachel. She, in turn, is familiar with his movie career and quite intrigued by him. As she edifies him about the essentials of the Buddhist understandings of suffering, attachments, living in the present moment, karma, and impermanence, he has a hard time paying attention to what she is saying. In his mind, he is lusting after her as another conquest in his hedonistic life. Like many people during their first encounters with Buddhist teachings, the last thing he thinks he wants is to let go of his desires and the "highs" in his life.

Rachel is the one who has the most to lose by going to bed with him: it goes against all that she is teaching and violates the high ideals of the Buddhist path of equanimity. In her book Focused and Fearless, Shaila Catherine defines this important practice:

"Equanimity contains the complete willingness to behold the pleasant and the painful events of life equally. It points to a deep balance in which you are not pushed and pulled between the coercive energies of desire and aversion. Equanimity has the capacity to embrace extremes without getting thrown off balance. Equanimity takes interest in whatever is occurring simply because it is occurring. Equanimity does not include the aversive states of indifference, boredom, coldness, or hesitation. It is an expression of calm, radiant balance that takes whatever comes in stride."

The Fourth Noble Truth is directed by Gary T. McDonald who makes the most of the unusual relationship between these two very different people who share the experience of letting their desire run wild in the midst of a series of mindfulness exercises. All of us have been in tight spots like this one, and that is why this film's spiritual messages enable us to empathize with both characters.