A few weeks ago, I overheard an interaction between a mother and her child. The young boy, likely 3 or 4 years old, said to mom with a clear voice: "I want that!" I believe he was referring to the half-eaten lollipop in her hand, the one she was quickly wrapping up.
Mom, seemingly irritated and physically pulling back from the young boy, replied with a raised, shrill voice: "You DON'T want that!" The boy shrank in response, lowered his head, pushed out his lips, and whispered under his breath, "But I do."
As I walked away, I couldn't help but wonder what the boy learned from this interaction and how it might affect him in the future. What happens to us when we are told, or taught, that we do not actually want what we want? What happens to us when our wants are not heard or when they're denied?
What happens, if you will, to a want deferred?
Does it become more difficult, as we grow older, to know what we truly want? Do we start to feel confused every time we want something? Do we begin to doubt our own instincts of desire? Do we become guided by what is "good" and what we should want, rather than our own internal--be it inexplicable--gut feelings?
Just think, for a moment, how many times have you wanted something and then tried to convince yourself that you do not actually want it? Perhaps it's a chocolate chip cookie, a second cup of coffee, a new pair of shoes, a different career path, or something else, something that you felt you wanted and immediately told yourself: "You don't want that!"
But maybe, just maybe, you actually did want it (or still do).
This meditation on want is timely because it relates to the element of autumn in Chinese Medicine. As Lorie Eve Dechar explains in Five Spirits, autumn has to do with "the aspect of our unconscious that speaks to us through our desires, obsessions, psychosomatic symptoms and the wordless stories of our bodies" (p. 239).
What I understand Dechar is referring to are the sensations, feelings, and emotions that arise in us as an organic response to life. It is these very feelings that can act as guides to a deeper and more fulfilling friendship with ourselves, to psychological development, and self-realization.
But we have to hear our very own feelings first. (click "Read More" to continue reading)
We have to hear, sense, feel, observe, and notice these wordless stories of our bodies in order to be guided into an honest relationship with our very own selves.
If we are taught that what we are feeling isn't real and what we want isn't true, then how can we know ourselves, really? How can we even trust ourselves enough to listen?
Back to the incident with mom and son. I want to clearly and explicitly state that I do not place the blame on mom. Inside every mom that reacts with "You don't want that!" is a little girl who must have heard the same refrain herself. That is if she was ever allowed to voice her own want in the first place.
Desire, longing, passion, and want are such taboos in so many cultures that so often we unconsciously silence this part of ourselves; we silence it as a protective measure. But, it is still a part of who we are, and it is concerned with keeping us alive and thriving.
This part of ourselves, our "want center," is concerned with both matter and spirit. It tells us that we are hungry and want food. It tells us that we are thirsty and want water. It tells us that we are full and need to empty our bowels. It also tells us that we are bored and want inspiration. That we are stagnant and want change. That we have worked really hard, accomplished many successes, and that it's now time to appreciate it all and rest.
When it's a choice between two presidential candidates, our wants might be easy, or easier, to hear. But, when the choice is between staying in a challenged marriage or leaving, taking a financial risk or waiting, following your life's dream or letting it go, it might be harder to hear our wants.
Before you jump into any action, please be advised that I am NOT recommending that you act on every whim, inclination, intuitive hunch, or fancy. What I am inviting us all to do is to listen. Listen to your wants as they arise. What are they saying? What do they want? What are they pointing you to? How do these wants feel in your body? Listen and notice: what is it that you discover about yourself when you do?
Continue exploring your wants:
May your wants always point you to the heart of what's needed now,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Please share your experience, insights, questions, and thoughts below, especially...
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.