Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Power & Pitfalls of Wanting

My morning prayers contain a word or two about wanting. I ask to know what is needed in the situations that arise today and to follow my deepest soul-desires in choosing how to be with or meet those needs as I am able. That covers needs and desires. But I also say a prayer to come “into right relationship” with my wants- which is to say, to bring them to consciousness, to neither deny nor be led around by the nose by wanting.

I use the word wanting to point to the kind of must-have-this feeling that involves attachment to specific results. When I start wanting things to be a certain way (within myself, in the world or with another) I’m generally headed for some frantic trying (during which I can become a menace to myself and others) or painful disappointment, or both.

I try to avoid judging my wanting when it arises, knowing that this is likely to shove it down into my unconscious where it can wreck havoc in my life. Awareness at least gives me a shot at not allowing my wanting to create suffering for myself or others. And, knowing that wanting can be a powerful and persuasive force I’d like to enlist its mojo in doing those things that I know make my life healthy and balanced.

I'm currently doing a meditation program designed for folks who have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (and ME or FM.) It has helped some restore their energy. I want this. A lot. But (and this is a Big But) I cannot do the meditations driven by and focused on understandably wanting health and vitality. It won’t work. I can’t try harder to unhook from inner neurological loops of hyper-vigilance around physical symptoms (that create an adrenaline cycle that deepens symptoms.) I can let the energy of my wanting fuel my willingness to go to this program every day, but then I must gently put aside the attachment to specific and speedy results.

So far, this use of the passion of wanting while letting go of the object of wanting seems to be helping me keep me on track, which is why my prayer is not to abolish wanting, (something I doubt is possible in human beings except for moments and by grace) but come into right relationship with this powerful energy.

Years ago, I remember hearing Jann Arden sing “Good Mother,” and belt out with deep longing, “I’ve never wanted anything so bad. . . .” At the time, the line made my eyes fill unexpectedly with tears because I had separated myself from my own needs, wants, and desires on every level to tolerate staying in my marriage.
I wanted to want something- anything- just to know I was still alive.

Maybe that’s why I don’t want to suppress or ignore the power of wanting, even though I know the pitfalls and suffering that can be created by being attached to having things a certain way. It’s a little like using the power of fire- you must be mindful or you risk getting burned, but there’s nothing like it for life-sustaining warmth on a cold dark night.

Oriah House (c) 2013


  1. I first discovered one of your books in a discount bin at a Barnes and Noble. I was with my best, and we were about to check out. It caught both of our eyes. The Invitation became our mantra, a gift we could give each other whenever heartache or pain seemed overbearing.

    It can surprise me the number of times I let myself slip out of a situation, to nurture someone else. The willingness to set aside a personal attachment for the sake of another's want has been my burden, often not recognizing how lost I have become until the situation has gone beyond recovery.

    To want yourself is an earnest ache. And anytime I read the Invitation, I am reminded to take care of myself, too.

    So thank you. I look forward to reading your weekly blog.

    1. Thank you Maquel. "To want yourself is an earnest ache." Lovely!