When people start to work on themselves spiritually or psychologically it is usually because they want to feel better than they currently do. But wanting inevitably involves a time other than now–a time in which you hope to have your want filled. Therefore it is impossible to be in a state of wanting and to simultaneously also be fully present in the now.
People find this easier to grasp when they think of trying to not want foods that aren’t good for them, or from spending too much, or any other thing they’ve done for years. Those are pretty material, physical things that we can imagine doing and stopping. So we can want a million dollars, but we learn if we can’t have it in this moment then we’re better to stop wanting it because the wanting will create our suffering.
The trickier wants to prevent and stop are the ones you don’t see as wants. Things like wanting to be loved, wanting to be understood, wanting to understand, wanting to know what happened, wanting to be somewhere else, wanting to be with someone else, wanting to feel better, wanting spiritual growth–these are the ones that eat away at our lives.
Jealousy, envy, comparison, worry, stress, longing, frustration, anger–these all require wanting. Wanting someone to date you instead of someone else, wanting to have a particular waistline, wanting to know who’s getting laid-off, wanting to have your career progress more quickly, wanting something to stop, wanting something to start, wanting a different history or a different future, wanting to be enlightened–these are all just variations on optional suffering.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering simply arises because of our wanting. Modern life, elements of language and the complexities of large-scale social structures have created environments that can leave us feeling inadequate when really we’re just being asked to be good at too many different things.
We all know people that are good with their hands or others who are great at calculation, or others who are physically strong or brave. Yet we built a world in which each us us is expected to be good at all of these things. This is what ultimately leads to us turning our thoughts against ourselves in our desire to be a version of complete that was never intended by nature. It imagined us working together, not each of us trying to be everything to everyone.
Understandably, under constant stress to be too many things, we either want changes to other people or changes to ourselves. So rather than flow with life and turn our attention to the many gifts life always brings, instead we time travel, scanning and searching our future and past for any damaged caused or potentially caused by our inadequacies. Too few people see avenues of intense interest. Most are navigating through their fears.
Be free instead. Watch for your wanting today. Note how it’s always there when you’re suffering. Remove the desire, remove the want. They’re only made of thoughts. Refocus them elsewhere. It’s really easy. All you have to do is practice. Will you?
Have a wonderful day everyone.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.