Things over and above our basic needs are our ‘wants.’ Losing things we ‘want’ to have is already a challenging experience for most human egos. But losing things we ‘need’ is when we really benefit by having our wits about us.
Losing a ‘want’ just moves us closer to level ground. In those cases we’re not actually in a negative situation. But we can think we are if we compare ourselves to our past. But, in thinking like that, we lose the advantage of the wants and needs we still have. To maximize those we must actively appreciate their existence.
In contrast, losing a ‘need’ is when we have shifted from the relative safety of treading water, to actually being ‘pushed under’ to whatever degree. This is when life gets more perilous, and too much mental thrashing can burn up oxygen and lower our odds of literal survival.
One of the times we’ll often thrash the most is when we’re waiting for answers about our ‘need.’ When the outcome is serious, for many people, ‘waiting’ is defined as the endless replaying of various possible outcomes, each of which presents the thinker with a roller coaster of emotions.
In general, riding that roller coaster accomplishes nothing. As anyone who’s waited for their cancer screening results can tell us: it is energetically expensive to over-think it. Rather than use our life force on wild, useless swings this way and that, we are better to learn to calm ourselves in ways that increase our odds of resurfacing, where we can breathe a little easier.
Our choices are that we can make our waiting into ruminating; then our busy minds will whirl out emotions for us to ride. Or, we can convert our ‘waiting’ into ‘original time,’ during which we are free to do anything. Including things that help us in other ways, or that just help us feel better.
Obviously, when the stakes are very high (life and death, financial ruin, public shame etc.), it is very compelling to think of the possible outcomes. And it’s not unwise to think of those scenarios for the purposes of formulating basic responses to them. But how much thought?
If something is a huge ‘need’ issue, it’ll usually include so many unknowns that there isn’t a lot of point in investing a lot of thought in planning. Once we’ve given an issue focused, earnest consideration, and our potential responses are prepared, further thought on a subject is wasted.
We can think of ourselves like some ancient hunter. If we are starving and in need, we might prepare a trap for an animal. Once the trap is set, we can endlessly worry about whether it was the right trap, in the right place, at the right time, or…
We can see our time ‘waiting’ as ‘original time.’ We don’t have to tie it to earlier moments regarding our trap and our need. We can take that same time to look for some fruit or berries, which does increase our odds of success, and it gives us a sense of moving forward, which helps.
It is important to note that we can absently ‘pick berries.’ We can busy ourselves with other things while still filling our heads with worries about our need. But the real wisdom is found by becoming intimate with the present moment. That’s when our thinking subsides and our consciousness is filled with becoming an action. In those moments we are psychologically free from our need.
If ‘waiting’ is what we are doing, then it is likely to be psychologically painful. But, if we are busy doing things while some answer is pending, then we are simply living life. Neither thing is likely to change the outcome anyway. So why not do the thing that feels better?
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.