What Do You Really Want?
Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.Rumi
During the past few months, I have experienced the biggest health challenge encountered in my life thus far. A lengthy hospital stay was followed by many weeks of recuperation, leaving me with very little stamina, but a lot of time for reading, writing, drawing and, most of all, quiet meditation and rich, full contemplation.
Like many others who have experienced major change, something was stirred deep within my being, compelling me to look openly and honestly at the one question that seems to surface so often during times of transition: "What do I really want in my life?" I tried to envision my life 6 months from now . . . a year from now. What would I want to be doing? Where would I like to be living? I began to make a list of all the things I thought would be important to me: close friends, opportunity for creativity, a sense of community . . . on and on. By the time I was finished writing, the list was quite extensive.
Sitting on my bed reading over my life-wish-list I had a sudden realization: There was nothing new here! Everything on my list had also been on previous lists at other threshold times in my life. The difference this time was the recognition that not only had I made this same list many times in the past, but that everything on the list had, at one time or another, been present in my life. Like many people, I suspect, I had seemingly always gotten what I wished for . . . and yet, it had never been enough.
I believe that, in part, it is because we have lost touch with the true nature of our wants, particularly our material, physical, and emotional desires which are, while vital to our experience as human beings, merely signposts, guides to our deep inner longing for a richer, more expansive knowledge of self. Instead of recognizing the gift inherent within the dynamics of "wanting" itself, we set out to either acquire all those things we say we want or, if we don't succeed, convince ourselves we never really wanted them to begin with.
The dictionary lists many definitions for the word "want," but the definition I like best is: to have a strong desire for, in a word: passion. Perhaps it is time to relate to our wants, our dreams, our wishes and desires not as a sign of our materialism and our need to accumulate more and more "stuff," but as an invitation to discover our passion, our true purpose in life. What if, in both the acquisition and the rejection of our wants, we are, in actuality, denying ourselves true self-expression - the very essence at the core of our being . . . what we sometimes call "soul"?
According to many spiritual traditions, there is a place we get to in our growth and development when wants are no longer present - but most of us are not there yet. Sometimes we deny our wants, but they haven't gone away. It's interesting because in order to get anywhere on any journey, whether it is the journey of life or a trip to Disney World, you have to know where you are now to figure out how to get where you're going. Our wants can be a clear indication of where we are at this moment, and if we don't make judgments about that, we can use our wants to point us in the direction that will fulfill our deepest, truest desires, giving new meaning to the changes that we inevitably experience in our lives.
So, what do you really want? Given no limitations of money, geography, culture, or any of those many variables we believe define the parameters of our choices, what is it that speaks to the yearning that is at your very center - your "soul's" desire? What is your deepest, fondest wish? Now, instead of trying to figure out how to get your wish, have what you want, or lament the improbability of its manifestation, I invite you to look at your "want" as a signpost. If this particular object, person, or circumstance was present in your life right now, what might you expect it to provide for you? In what direction might it point you?
I remember a time, not so long ago, when I found myself suddenly longing for a relationship. I was puzzled as I enjoyed my solitude and had no real desire to be part of the dating scene. Yet, the "want" was there. I tried to deny it, ignore it, make it go away. I began to make judgments about myself. I tried to fight it, but the more I fought, the stronger that "want" became. Until I stopped making myself wrong, and believing that there was something inherently weak in me, I couldn't do anything about it but suffer. When I finally stopped fighting and acknowledged that I wanted a relationship and that it was OK, the suffering stopped. What I was left with was a simple question: What is it that relationship would provide for me in my life?
I began to look at the qualities I would look for in a relationship (if I were really looking for relationship!) and I wrote them down as they occurred to me. One of those qualities was "nurturing" . . . I wanted to feel nurtured and cared for. I had to admit that this was a quality that I felt was missing in my life at that time.
Now, one thing that I have learned, and this has been a wonderful lesson, is that for any quality to be present in my life, I must express that quality. I believe this to be true for all of us. If we are always waiting for someone or something to fill up the holes and empty spaces in our lives, we may be waiting for a long time; and even if we are lucky enough to actually get what we think we're looking for, it will, most likely, not be enough - not given at the right time, in the right way, or for the right reason. Because of this perception and our lack of a sense of fulfillment, we go on searching for new relationships, new friends, more stuff, etc. The only way for us to experience the quality of life we desire is to express that quality ourselves, to BE that quality.
As I looked carefully at all the areas of my life - home, family, friends, work, even my possessions, I began to find many new and creative ways to be the nurturing person I was truly longing to experience. I made arrangements for home and car repairs that were long overdue, not with a sense of resentment, but knowing that I was caring for things that provided me with comfort, convenience, and reliable service. I talked to my plants when I watered them; I said prayers of gratitude for loving family and friends, work that was sustaining and gratifying, and the beauty and creativity that were present in my life. I even had a "nurturing moment" with a recalcitrant lawn mower that is a story in itself and much too long for this essay. As I discovered more and more ways to express that side of me that was nurturing and caring, I found that, while I could still be open to the possibility of relationship as one of many choices, it no longer seemed a necessity. In nurturing the world around me, I had nurtured myself.
ACTION: The secret to harnessing the power within change and manifesting - creating - a life that fulfills us is knowing, on a deep, intimate level, what it is we truly want.
What do you really want?
Start to make a list, leaving plenty of room between each item on your list. When you feel the list is complete, go back to each item and think about what that particular person, circumstance, or object might add to your life in this moment. Jot down your thoughts as they come, but be prepared to go even deeper than first impressions. Try to be specific - for example, "love" is too broad a term; you might choose "cherish," "respect," "affection," whatever love is to you. Take your time and go over each item on your list thoughtfully and without judgment.
When you are finished, look carefully at each want and the values or qualities that you see within each one. Is there one "want" that seems particularly strong? Is there a quality or qualities that show up on your list repeatedly? If so, that would be a good place to start. If not, simply choose one of the qualities on the list and determine to begin expressing that quality in your life. How might a quality such as "nurturing" be expressed in very simple ways on a day-to-day basis? Begin to notice, also, when you have the experience of the quality you've chosen. When I began to notice all the times I felt myself to be a nurturing, caring person, more experiences of nurturing showed up in my life. It becomes a cycle that perpetuates itself. The more caring . . . creative . . . affectionate . . . compassionate you are, the more that quality shows up in your world and you begin to experience life in a whole new way.
Remember that "wanting" is not about "getting," though that may happen, and it is never about controlling others. The purpose of this exercise, learning to recognize the roots of our desires, is to discover and experience a life of passion and joy that is our birthright as human beings and to manifest that life from the inside outward . . . from that true essence at the core of our being - the seat of the soul.
Writer and Editor
© Linda Maree 2001