To need and to want

I was reminded today, by someone very close to me, of the many things I had started or tried in the past year, that I ended up abandoning and giving up. One particular example immediately came to mind. Few weeks ago I signed for lessons in Swing dancing, a pursuit that has now come to an end.

Learning to dance is something I had always wanted, having always been a complete klutz on the dance floor, looking like a fool with two left feet. I’ve had a great deal of admiration for those people who can simply glide across the floor, marveling at, and yes envying, the ease with which they spin the most complex steps. It made me want to be like them, to be capable of happily enjoying a dance without embarrassment, and even maybe find myself the subject of admiration and applause.

So I signed up for something I wanted. And almost from the very beginning, I realized it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t who I was. I felt no joy at the mindless jumping up and down, that was anything but beautiful and graceful looked from the side. The constant change of partners in the class left me uncomfortable and unsettled, with a different stranger touching my hand, finding myself unable to find harmony and comfort with the ever changing hands that held mine.

So I gave it up. And today, following the remark about my inconsistency, it got me thinking. Why is it that we always want so many things, yet the moment we get them, we don’t want them anymore?

One of the first things I learned from my meditation teacher more than 15 years ago, was about the eternal battle each of us face, between the pursuit of our wants and the fulfillment of our needs. His words of warning – “We decide we want something and we go after it. And when we get it, we want it no more, now we want something else. So by design and definition, our wants can never be met. Our needs, on the other hand, always will be”.

But where do our wants and needs spring from? Our wants come from our ego, that pushes us to always want more. This is how it makes itself useful, it justifies its existence. We get it in our heads that we want something, we achieve it by will, work or sacrifice, and it brings no happiness or joy. We think we’ve wasted our time. So the ego jumps back up, putting a new batch of thoughts in our heads, making us want the next thing. And off we go… But it’s a losing battle we fight. It’s like building a cabin of straw on a windy beach, and every time we complete it, the tide comes in and washes it away. And we have to start from scratch. Giving into the illusion that the constant ‘building’ gives our life a purpose. Except that it doesn’t. We are wasting time and energy we don’t have, to build something we don’t need, to impress an ego that doesn’t serve us. And where is all of this rooted? Our ego lives in the past. It is the sum of all of our fears, pains and disappointments. We are trying to solve problems that no longer exist, because we have long grown past them. We no longer need the cabin of straw. We now need a castle of stone.

And this is where our needs come in. They come from the soul. From the path we have charted for ourselves for this life, before we even started it. Our soul doesn’t need the pursuit of momentary happiness, fleeting pleasure or instant gratification. It needs no cabin of straw. The soul’s work is to build a castle. Something solid, unshakable, indestructible. A sustainable foundation, on which we can base the next layer of growth and evolution on our path. A home, where we can find shelter from the harshest storms, where we revive and recharge ourselves after each of life’s challenges. It takes time, and the building stones are often heavy, but the reward is greater than we could possibly imagine.

The ego bombards us with thoughts and fears and doubts every minute of every day. That’s all we hear – what we don’t have, what we can’t achieve, how we must get this, do that, be something else. Surrounded by unconcerned faces, deafened by the news on TV and the mindless chatter of social media, manipulated by false admirers and ‘friends’ with hidden agendas, the voice of our soul – quiet, subtle and unobtrusive – is drowned out by the shouts of our ego.It speaks to us through our feelings, but how often do we silence our feelings and our intuition, to follow the voice of ‘common sense and logic’? How often do we convince ourselves that the right choice IS the right choice, even when deep down it feels anything but right?

This is where all of our pain and misery come from. From the conflict of doing what we want, instead of getting what we need. From not living in our truth but putting on a show, for the world and our ego to see. Following the voice of our ego will lead us down a path of emptiness and disappointment. We will find admiration, but not true love. We will find followers, but not partners, we will find success , but not fulfillment. The voice of the soul, however, leads us back to ourselves, to the things that matter the most, the only things that are truly real.

The voice of the soul can only be heard in silence, solitude and stillness. When we disconnect from the world, when we stop looking without, and we start searching within. So find a quiet place, sit down with your eyes closed, and just be. And ask yourself the questions that trouble you the most. Let your thought flow freely. If an answer comes to you and it leaves you feeling unsettled and sad or angry, it’s not the right one, move on. The right answer will leave you feeling happy, balanced, it will leave you feeling ‘right’.

Your life is not a business deal, you are not running a corporation. Your job is not to ‘do the right thing’. Your job is to be blissfully happy, fulfilled, and to feel at home, no matter where you are. So go on, sit in silence and find your home.

Namaste.

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When you feel the way you don’t want to feel

Feelings are tricky, no doubt. Maybe the trickiest of all human attributes. Triggered by various emotions, they can also be overwhelming to the point where you totally lose control. Over your reaction to the particular situation, but more importantly, the outcome. And whether expressed as fear, aggression, anxiety, despair, disappointment, frustration, or just blind rage, feelings could easily bring us to the very edge of sanity unless we pay close attention. But of course, we seldom do that anyway.

Realistically speaking, in most cases there isn’t much to do about how you feel. Maybe somebody has hurt you deeply and you want nothing but vengeance. Maybe somebody’s lying to you and you’ve just found out. Maybe your partner is cheating on you and you’re jealous. Or maybe somebody just gets on your nerves by breathing in the same room. Whatever the case, it ain’t easy to tame the beast within, once set free. Depending on your personality, you can either let all hell break loose and shoot to kill or suffer endlessly in silence. In fact, neither one helps. For if you directly attack the person who has inflicted your pain, you might hurt them more than expected (and in ways you’ll probably never know) and very likely, you’ll regret it later. On the other hand, silent suffering has the potential to eventually kill you. Literally and on all levels. When faced with a negative feeling and not willing to deal with the issue, oversensitive people tend to bury it as deep as possible. They push it through that Feelings door, somewhere in the gloomy dungeon of their subconsciousness, slam the rusty door and lock it three times just to make sure, shamming that feeling never aroused in the first place. But sadly enough, pretending the feeling isn’t there won’t make it disappear. It will stay buried within, waiting for the next time the emotional trigger shows up. So what to do? Eliminate the trigger.

This is not an easy task, I know. And rather frustrating too because when feelings come, they don’t normally give us a 14-day prior notice, so we could prepare in peace for what is to come. Sometimes situations just hit us, denuded and exposed, eagerly expecting our reaction. Now, any real Zen Master would keep their countenance, no matter the circumstances, but we ain’t no zen master. At least, not all the time. So what to do when storm hits? First, avoid trying to escape the feeling. It’s not really possible to not feel the way you feel. You can’t really tell your heart to stop breaking and get a grip. You are the one to get a grip. So as hard as it might seem, try to acknowledge the negative feeling. Don’t reject it. Don’t blame yourself for how you feel. There’s nothing you can do about it but accept it. If you’re having some issues on the love front, for instance, that might make you feel sad, rejected, and lonely. It might even result in you doubting yourself or your worthiness, provoking inferiority, bitterness, and depression. Any kind of betrayal hurts, yes, but ask yourself: “Who is really hurting now? My being or my feelings?” A simple, but also tricky question. Remember that we mainly hurt when our ego is affected, when we feel insulted and betrayed. Betrayal means that somebody doesn’t acknowledge our worthiness or fails to act the way we think they are supposed to act. How dare they?! We feel alienated, often raging in an attempt to prove we’re actually worthy in the eyes of others. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. If you give it a thought, you’d see that our ego is rarely satisfied and that lack of inner satisfaction, among others, leads to shame, confusion, and discourage.

In short, when the feeling hits, look at it right into the eye. Accept its presence and take a few minutes to analyze it. Avoid speaking or acting. Just observe. Split the feeling into bits and pieces and try to find its real source. Do you feel intimidated? Does your ego hurt due to rejection? Are you afraid of something? And if yes, from what? Take the time to look at the situation as objectively as possible. Finding the source is half the battle. Acceptance is the other half.

But most of all, don’t feel ashamed if you feel sad, confused, unsettled, or jealous. You are who you are and there’s nothing right or wrong with feelings. You are the only one who could label them, but why would you even want to? Feeling grateful or resentful doesn’t necessarily make you a good or a bad person. Plus, at the end of the day, emotions are well-known for their transient nature. Sometimes they make us happy, and sometimes they make us furious. Our reaction, however, depends totally on our own choice and the level of our current development. It’s very unlikely you cried because your toy truck has broke as you would when you were five. And perhaps, you won’t probably cheat on your partner now, because you know how much it hurts to be on the other side. And perhaps, you’ll get to the point of wishing your colleague well for getting that promotion instead of you (if not already). In any case, you can’t run away or hide from your feelings and it’s rather naïve to believe you could. They are only there to remind you that you are human, for better or worse. So, accept your feelings exactly as they are, not a bit more, not a bit less. And don’t let them take the lead, you are in charge. So grab the wheel and keep driving towards that better version of yourself.

Namasté!