Buddha said the root of all suffering was desire but is it possible or a good thing even to turn off our wanting?
We’re told not to want things. That wanting causes suffering. But unless we sit like Buddha on a mountaintop I can’t imagine a life without wants.
I understand the point of the spiritual teachings that tell us to let go of desire. To transcend the ego that tries to convince us we will be happy and at peace when we finally have the things we want.
I know firsthand that this voice of the ego is just tricking us.
If we live our lives always waiting to have the things we want, we will always be living in the future and delaying the joy and inner peace we could be experiencing right now.
Ok. I get it.
Wanting can be problematic and it appears to be a continuous state of being. Our wanting does not stop when we acquire the things we want. We just want new things. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, it’s better to focus on acquiring an inner state of contentment right now than on the outer things we don’t yet have. Yes, it’s better to accept with gratitude what we have now than mull on our shortcomings. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for healthy wanting.
Isn’t wanting useful sometimes? Doesn’t it tell us the kinds of food, people, activities and jobs that would suit us, support us and inspire us?
Ok, so we don’t always want the things that turn out to be good for us. I know I have wanted things (food and men, in particular) that were definitely not healthy choices for me. Things that didn’t serve my greatest good.
It’s probably better to understand why we want unhealthy things than to try and stop the speeding train of desire that pulses within our hearts and beings.
So why is it we do this? Want things that don’t serve us. Well, it’s often that our desires cover up deeper needs that aren’t being met. Needs for approval, love and recognition that we then go about trying to get met through our surface wants for relationships and material successes.
There is an alternative. We can learn to align our desires with what is healthy for us.
We can start to refine what it is we really need and learn to get our deepest needs met from within so that our outer wants serve us rather than cause suffering.
Because that’s the problem with wants. Not desire itself but when the absence of having the thing we so desire leaves us feeling sad, angry, rejected or worthless. When it makes us feel unsatisfied with the present and always focused on ‘the next thing’. The more happiness and peace we develop within ourselves that is not dependent on outer things, the easier we will find it navigating through the ups and downs that life throws our way.
Let’s speak honestly here. We’re probably not going to completely get rid of wanting things despite how much inner work we do. And would we even want it to?
Isn’t desire a surge of energy we get when we want something that moves us towards things? The feeling that brings us alive and gets us up in the morning. Let’s not forget that desire is also the creative force that flows within us and directs us toward new ideas, projects and initiatives. And I wouldn’t want to turn that off.
So what is the solution to the problem of suffering that goes along with wanting?
I’m guessing it’s probably about balance. Getting our desires to match what is healthy for us and putting them in perspective with an overall acceptance of our lives as they are now.
I say we should bring back wanting into spirituality.
Ok, so The Secret really made a mockery of wanting, guiding us toward red Ferraris and large wads of cash, but that doesn’t mean all wanting is bad.
Wanting can serve the greater good as well. Our wants can support and inspire us to do great things that help us align with our spiritual service. A love relationship could inspire us to share more love and joy with other people. A house in the country the setting that might nurture us in writing that transformational book.
I say let’s embrace desire and put it in its rightful place not as a cage of suffering but as a signpost for understanding ourselves better and the creative force that moves us in the direction of our greatness.