Wanting Without Wanting

rose dessert

Wanting what is in front of me is wonderful. But wanting when I don’t have it can be painful.

Wants Are Tricky

Wanting something is neither good nor bad. It all depends on the situation.

If I want to be married and I am married, that is a great combination. In this situation, wanting to be married is peaceful. But if I want to be married and I’m not married, then that want could be painful.

What The Work of Byron Katie helps me do is adjust to my changing situations. And it starts by noticing any pain. Any emotional pain that shows up tells me where I’m resisting change or wanting something that I don’t have.

The pain comes from being attached to what I want when I can’t get it. My happiness has become conditional on getting what I want.

When I Notice a Painful Want Like That, I Do The Work

I write down the want that is running inside of me. And I question it—not as a means of going into denial but rather as a means of really noticing how that want is working for me. Is it bringing me peace or stress, happiness or pain?

The Work is nothing more than noticing.

When I notice that holding onto my want is causing me stress and pain, I am much more willing to hold it loosely, or to let it go completely.

Which Brings Up an Interesting Contradiction

When I question what I want, the intensity and desperation often goes away. But that doesn’t always mean that my want goes away. I’ve watched it happen many times after doing The Work on a particular want.

The craving goes away. I don’t care so much if I get what I want or not. But yet I still find myself moving towards the same desired goal. I am desiring without desiring. It’s a total contradiction, but the feeling is peace, empowerment, and easiness. It’s as if the want is no longer my want, but has a life of its own.

This balance of opposites is my favorite place to be. It allows me to act and pursue practical goals in the world without feeling desperate about achieving them. I am acting, even wanting, without attachment. In fact, my action tends to be much more effective in this space of not caring.

The Less I Want, the More Present I Become

I notice that my wants bring me into the future, or into the past. When I question my wants, I often find that where I am right now is what I want.

I may still even be pursuing some goal. But I’m pursuing that goal in the present, one step at a time. And I’m as happy to not reach the goal as I am to reach it. When I’m in that space, it feels like freedom.

What are your painful wants? I encourage you to write them down and question one today.

Have a great week,

“I am a lover of what is, and I don’t want anything else. I only know I want to be here with you now. I am here with you—that’s how I know that I want to be. It wasn’t planned; it’s simply unfolding.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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  • Lisa says:

    Todd this post hit home for me today. Yesterday my son told me he’s not sure he wants to go to medical school. He told me he only picked pre-med because he thought that’s what I wanted. I did a JYN worksheet on it last night. I could not believe how strongly attached I am to what I think he “should” do. He is finishing his junior year so it’s a lot of effort put into this course of study. I feel peace when I stay present and don’t attach to my story, but fear for his future and my own egoic disappointment keep creeping in. It’s rocking my world. Any suggestions on how to work with this situation?I don’t want to be that controlling mother.

    • todd says:

      Your son reminds me of me. I did pre-med in college, and both of my parents are doctors. But I never went to medical school. I’m glad because it allowed me to do what I’m doing today.

      I would just keep writing worksheets on him about this. There can be so many variations of stressful thoughts about it.

      You might also write a list of fears of what will happen if he doesn’t go to med school.

      And I also encourage you to write a list of wants: what you want, why you want him to go to med school. And question all of them.

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