They want to be fed when they’re hungry.
They want to be changed when they are wet.
They want to be held.
And as their vision improves, they want to touch the shiny things.
I have never met a baby yet that doesn’t want.
It’s part of how they survive, right? They want their needs to be met in specific ways (that last phrase has driven many a new parent completely insane).
We don’t tell them that they are not allowed to want when they are hungry, to be held when they need comfort. We don’t get upset when they want to touch the shiny things.
That all comes later.
At least it does for some of us.
I was raised to not want. I was raised to not want money, to not want nice clothes, to not want more than my share, to not covet, to not desire, and perhaps more importantly – not to express my wanting, my coveting, my desires. My wanting was pressure on a parental structure that was already maxed out. My wanting was a problem for other people and a personal character flaw of mine.
I should be happy that I had anything at all – don’t I know about the people in ________ (insert developing country in the news)? I’m not sure they ever actually said any of that. But the message came through loud and clear – at least it did to me. Christmas lists were requested and then bemoaned. Preferences were investigated and then judged. Being asked what you wanted became a trap. The best answer was nothing. I am perfectly content with everything just as it is. I imagine at least 50% of this story I had going was inferred. I heard it; I interpreted it. I determined what behavior would serve me best and intuited the reasons behind it. Given how all of the members of my family have changed and grown now I can’t possibly honestly say whether or not any of the story I have is accurate. The point isn’t whether or not it was true, but that it was true for me.
There are a lot of references to want in all of the great spiritual teachings and there seems to be some degree of consensus on the the fact that wanting is not necessary, that increased faith, belief, devotion – whatever – will help you to NOT want. This was not the version of not wanting that was part of my childhood endeavor. The version I was participating in was when you see that you do actually have a want and decide that it is a problem so you jam it down in a little mental box. You shame yourself for that desire. You lock it up somewhere internally and feel guilty. This is not a practice that leads to freedom or enlightenment. This is the version of not wanting that is born in, and regenerative of, fear, lack, smallness, and scarcity.
Having done a great deal of work and given it some thought, I now have two reactions to want that I think are equally important, at least to me.
The first reaction is based in the idea that rather than being fundamentally flawed or maybe even a little evil naturally, I am actually pretty wonderful. I am good. I am part of the goodness that exists in the world and my motives, when I don’t start thinking weird things and injecting them with insecurity and fear, are all pretty pure. My wants don’t make me a bad person. We like shiny things. We crave things. We seek experiences. And all of those are clues about who I am, what I am up to, where my path lies and how I can grow. When I am honest with myself about how I feel and who I am my wants are guideposts for the future rather than a rescue ladder for the past. My wants are a dance of imagination, play, and joyful experimentation with the laws of the universe and the will of the Divine.
The second reaction that I have now sees a different path to not wanting – one that is born in gratitude, awareness, awareness and recognition. I shall not want, not because I have no desires, but because I am so deeply aware of the blessings that are already mine. My clarity about the gifts of my life eases my grasping, slows my breathing and enlivens my grateful and great full heart.
I shall not want all of the time because I see the blessings around me. When I DO want, I will pay attention and see what direction my heart is attempting to lead me in. There is no shame in wanting and, in fact just as it does when we are infants, the fullest highest expression of my life may depend on it.
I shall not want is inadequate on its own. It is not a standalone piece of wisdom. I shall not want as a way to hide from my feelings. I shall not want as a way to cover my pain. I shall not want without reminding myself to look for blessings. I shall not create rules for myself that close the doors to joy, beauty, and new ways of being. I shall listen to the whispers of my heart and soul. I shall remain open even when fear screams that I should watch my step. I shall honor all of the pieces of me from a place of recognition of just how precious this moment, and all of my moments are. I will want shiny things and I will see all of the ones right there in front of me.
In love and gratitude,