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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Addicted to life

Human beings are surely inclined to various types of addictions. Among others, they could easily get addicted to food, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, Internet, gaming, shopping, or work. Not to mention chaos, order, drama, other people, or sex. We get so easily attached to substances, devices and certain behavior that I’m pretty sure some alien species somewhere is laughing so hard right now at our mere idea of fun. Self-destructive fun. Yes, we do get attached. And not just attached, over-attached. Our human nature makes us overly vulnerable, but it certainly takes a human to make an addiction out of an attachment. In any case, quantitative changes usually lead to qualitative changes and most addictions have irreversible effects. Nevertheless, getting rid of a bad habit is never that easy. Quitting smoking or drinking, for example, sometimes seems like the torments of Tantalus. But why is it so hard? Paradox is, that we are given a strong free will. It’s actually strong enough to make miracles happen and yet, we often fail to deal with our own little flaws even though it’s us who have created them in the first place and we are fully aware that our little habits are slowly killing the bodies we dwell in. It doesn’t matter what type the addiction is, we are absolutely conscious of the adverse effects. But why are we slaves to our own habits and is it possible for us to regain control over our minds?

It is for a fact that some people are more susceptible to addictions than others and that for some it’s much more easier to fall into that trap. Whether it’s smoking, drinking, gambling, or else, addiction is the only prison where the locks are on the inside. Normally, there’s no one around to force us do this or that, it’s that little voice in our heads telling us that we want it. And that we want it now with an exclamation mark. This is very typical for instance when you try to quit smoking and one of the main reasons to fail. The typical pattern of behavior implies an emotional trigger. Something annoys us or makes us angry and we crave a smoke. We do believe that having that smoke will comfort us and will bring us emotional calm. So if we’re not determined enough, we have it and then we feel guilty about it, blaming ourselves for our weakness.

But let me tell you this, you are not weak. Even if you succumb to the temptation of a bad habit you’re fighting, you are not weak. But to be able to deal with it, first you need to understand how your mind works. This is crucial to avoid possible failure and that feeling of guilt that makes everything harder and even worse. So start by understanding that you have an obsession and you have that obsession because your subconscious mind thinks that certain activity that you try so hard to avoid is rewarding or pleasurable. Let’s take smoking, for example. You try to quit. But then the craving comes and you just can’t help it. You want that cigarette and it’s very likely you break down and eventually have it. Why? Because while your conscious mind knows that smoking is a deadly habit, your subconscious mind considers it a pleasure. You actually perceive having a smoke as enjoyable. You love your first coffee in the morning with a smoke, you reward yourself with a cigarette to relax after hard and stressful situations, most probably you have it after meals and sex as a part of the ritual. In fact, deep inside you think smoking is something good. And this very contradiction could be the reason for your failure to quit time and time again. What to do? Reprogram your mind.

There are different ways to do that. One, you could use recordings with subliminal messages. There’s a variety of them available online for various addictions, problems, and issues. You could use them even to feel positive or sleep better. Just look around. Two, you could use particular meditation techniques to avoid or provoke certain behavior, to choose how you react to particular situations. This could really help you get to the source of your problem and counteract. Remember, there’s no such thing as unbeatable addiction and you can regain control over your life whenever you want to. You just need the proper motivation and you have to believe that you can. And if you do, you’re half way there. And why not get addicted to life instead? Get addicted to happiness, smiles, and love. Now that’s what I call a beneficial addiction.