Posted on

I want it now won’t bring you happiness

You might be pardoned for thinking that the words “I want it now” might be what you hear your small child say when he or she wants something that you are reluctant to agree to. Except that it is also something we adults have come to accept as the norm too, as a recent conference on ethical capitalism showed. While we might feel indignant at the practices of bankers and corporate executives in their chasing short-term rewards at the expense of long-term needs like investment or the needs of the wider society of which they are a part, it is worth reflecting that they, just like us, are at another level also mirrors of the wider society in which they and we live.

We’ve grown used to instant gratification: “me now” includes being able to get things quickly through the channels that now exist in our consumer society. Suddenly being cut off from such access can today be deeply traumatic, as people who’ve been summarily made redundant and had to surrender car and phone on the spot and be escorted off the premises will know, or those who have lost money, credit cards and passport when abroad, or when a business goes spectacularly bust like Lehmans did in 2008. We’re so hooked into rapid satisfaction of need that we can seem unable to wait and be patient, or less inclined to consider the needs of others when we’re on a “me now” trip.

A lot has recently been said about the last few decades’ shift to market capitalism as compared to the collectivist post-war period and the dismantling of many of the welfare state structures. On a personal level, aspirations can seem to count for more than satisfaction for what is.

This could hold a certain confusion about the “now” experience” and this is where it is important to distinguish between the desire-orientated “me now” driver and the “now” of present-moment awareness. They are quite different. The former is driven by an egoic desire for more which can have as its underpinning such root thoughts as “there’s not enough”, “I might lose out”, or “I’m not OK” if I don’t get something I want. There is that element of the needy, impatient, rebel child within, who unconsciously felt he or she never got their deepest needs met, like being loved and appreciated. After all we can enrich ourselves, and have everything we want, as some can, like it seems about 10% of the UK population at present, and still not know peace and happiness.

Yet when we are being mindful and in the state of present-moment awareness we are aware as the witness of the power of desire within us, but not caught up in it, and can let it go. Instead of it being a compulsion, we can take the bigger picture and see that we do not “need” what we seek in order to be OK, because we are already OK. Life is complete right now. So, what’s the point of it all?

When we’re driven, we’re at risk of perpetuating our unhappiness, because we’re addicted to desire and wanting. Yet this is not who we are. We are so much more. The danger is that we can keep being drawn back into desire addiction. It’s such a powerful pattern.

As ever we’re being presented with opportunities to know who we are, and bankers’ bonuses and our insistence on instant gratification present us with more opportunities to see beyond the ego and know who we are.

I give coaching to help people re-orientate their goals and get more real and lasting satisfaction in their life. To learn more, click here

Posted on

We get unhealthily attached to wanting

I posted recently that we can get unhealthily attached to desire, especially where we feel something is lacking or missing or that we expect something from another. One difficulty with being attached to desire and wanting is that there’s no room for being, for acceptance of what is. We’re not at peace.

Our society is organised around desire. We want more, bigger, better. What we have isn’t enough. We want a new car, house, possessions, material goods, holidays and other things that for a short while fulfill our need, until we’re back on the hook with something else. In coaching, when I ask people what they want from life it is usually materially described. We don’t see that we’re caught in a cycle of desire, hoodwinked into feeling we’ll feel good this way.

You can’t take your possessions to heaven. They don’t such things there. When you die, what you’ve accumulated materially gets left behind, carved up amongst your heirs if they’re lucky. Then you become just like the next person. I was telling a successful businessman recently that he couldn’t take his business empire with him. We even talked about how he could conduct his conversation with St Peter at the Pearly Gates, or whatever your belief system, and when he asks what you’ve done with your life, you might say you’ve made a lot of money. St Peter (or whoever) might then ask what you will do with that now.

It can be quite sobering for people who have striven all these years to realise that what they’ve achieved is of no use going forward. This is something many a redundant employee realises when nobody will employ him or her. What was the point?

We want a relationship too. We most of us want someone else in our lives. Love is what it’s all about. At the higher level, that is true, but not at the level we humans frame it. We don’t like being alone. Many of us fear it. So we want another, to fill the gap inside. We want company. We want sex. We want what comes from coupledom. One of the biggest contributors to happiness is relationship, so Positive Psychology tells us. So there’s merit in seeking a good relationship and staying with it. Except that’s not what happens for many people, for example when they seek it to fill a deficit need, because we then don’t get satisfied through relationship. What happens when we lose our partner, or don’t get one in the first place? What happens when our partner doesn’t show up for us in the way we want? What happens when they don’t meet our needs, or we’re too heavily invested in trying to meet their needs? Yet, relationship is a great way to find the Oneness of Life, if we choose to look there.

At one level, desire is a natural part of us. We do have needs to fulfill, as Maslow pointed out, like security, food, shelter, love and fulfillment. Yet at another level we get unhealthily attached to it and allow it to drive us. Thus we don’t experience peace and stillness. It gets in the way of being in the moment and at One with life, as the meditator will know. Go within, be still and focus on your breath, and then very often you’ll find your mind is off on some desire-related thought. It is the great interrupter of inner peace. This is one reason why mindfulness teaches acceptance of what is.

Posted on

Desire and want can be barriers to happiness

Desire and want are riven through so much of our thought, speech and action. Listen to someone speak and you will hear quite quickly an expression of need, sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. It’s ingrained in our consciousness but perhaps unsurprisingly it also flags up an aspect of our way of being that doesn’t necessarily always serve us. In fact they can make us miserable.

In coaching, for example, it is often a very effective question to ask, “What do you want?” It can invite someone who is feeling unclear to explore their desires and can bring out what is really motivating them and the statements and actions that they most need to make. Knowing what you want is very useful. You’ve probably got a clearer idea where you are going and what you want to accomplish. You know what to ask for. It helps in communication since it invites honesty and directness. “Tell it straight” is a powerful communication enhancer, if a bit challenging for the less direct amongst us, especially if done without attitude. Then people know where they stand and can respond appropriately. Organisations are often structured arrangements for the meeting of needs, such as the requirements of stakeholders, customers, managers and so on.

Yet desire and want are also about what is missing, about lack. Stating a want can also be a statement that you don’t have which can draw more lack to you, for those familiar with this way of thinking. It’s not surprising. Humanity has such a massive history of hunger, poverty and deprivation and so it’s in the blueprint. Deficit need is a well-known aspect of psychological difficulty for many of us, the unmet need for, for example, love and affection. Our consumer society is geared to the repeated desire for and satisfaction of material need, usually then replaced by some other need.

Not surprisingly too, Eastern spiritual traditions caution against attachment to desire. One great interrupter of spiritual practice is some thought process related to desire and wanting. Those who meditate regularly will know this all too well. In the midst of some gradual deepening of inner calm can come thoughts like “I need to put the oven on,” “My partner wants me to do something for him/her,” “I’m supposed to be leaving the house in half an hour,” “I want some more money,” “I wish she/he would appreciate me more.” Yes, it’s just about anything. However, the persistent ones will be about an ongoing or regular issue that occurs in our life.

It’s worth noticing what these desire-related issues are that keep cropping up. Then we know what we’re dealing with. Then we can also know more accurately what to “name” from a mindfulness perspective, and let go of. We can notice when they are hovering around in the background. We can tell when we’re feeling some hurt of upset what’s got triggered and what it is that is really nagging away at us.

Then remember. It’s not who we are, and let go, breathe, be still. We are so much more than our desires.

Desire is the great interrupter of evenness and equipoise, of inner stillness and contentment. Thus the ability to distinguish when desire is present and is an aspect that doesn’t serve us is very important.

I give coaching to help people accomplish what they want and also let go of unhealthy or self-defeating desire. To learn more, click here.

Posted on

Do you feel driven by wanting and desire

How much are you driven by issues around wanting and desire? As notions like getting what you want or getting your needs met are very common, this might seem an odd question to ask. Surely, one might think, asking for what I want is a natural thing to do? We as humans have needs that need to be met, as it were.

Yet desire, wanting, has huge issues attached to it that can lead us into all sorts of difficulties, ones that don’t serve us. So it’s worth reflecting on how much desire can get in the way and where to let it go.

What thoughts have you recently been having that are desire-related? For example, as you get into your work today, and the day’s nice and sunny, did a part of you want to be somewhere else, doing something else, being with somebody? Have you recently been wishing you had more money, that there isn’t enough at the moment for what you want? Do you feel frustrated by what you have currently and that you’d like to change, like your house, your job, or something else? Do you long for a particular person in your life, or not feel satisfied with the person you are with at the moment.

If you start to think about it, you can notice that thoughts that are desire-related can run through your mind all day and in your dreams too! In the world out there others who make contact with you will ask the same question! “What do you want?” they ask! Our economy functions on desire: notice the importance economists attach to consumer demand. Overreaching, frustrated or competing desire can lead to wars.

You might still be wondering, what’s the problem? From a personal development perspective, one answer could be that being mindful of the function of desire can alert us to where our thoughts about desire are interrupting our balance and equipoise and leading us to unhappiness.

Meditators are often cautioned about how desire can be the great interrupter of a calm meditation. It is often desire that engages the ego and takes us away on to often negative paths. So, also in life in general, if you attend to it, pay attention to it, you will see how it can kick in very easily, especially if you are already well-attuned to it and it is part of your wiring, so to speak.

That doesn’t mean that wanting what we might consider to be the basics of life are legitimate. It’s perhaps about make the distinctions about what serves you and what doesn’t, a different matter, and about being aware of where you or I get unhealthily attached to less useful strategies. So you might need to get fed, clothed and housed and have a good relationship, let’s say, but not necessarily be attached to having an income that is proving impossible for you to achieve.

To follow this single example, many of us go through our lives feeling we’ve not got enough, that there is always something missing. A common way this shows up is an attachment to not enough money. The more we want, the more we get the “want of it”, or in other words the lack of it. And then we feel unhappy.

I could extend this to all sorts of areas of our lives where there is a sense of unfulfillment. And it shows up repeatedly and causes us suffering. Till we learn to let go of it and not be attached to it. Make the distinction.

Posted on

Acceptance frees us from attachment to desire

In an age accustomed to change, improvement and betterment, it can seem unfashionable in the extreme to accept what you have and where you are. But it is an option not to be neglected. A way round being dissatisfied with what is, is to accept it. Thus we can loosen the bonds keeping us attached to wanting and needing, to desire.

Think of something you aren’t happy about and want to be different. I’ll give you one. I’ve been feeling indignant about the recent revelations about alleged spying and intrusions on internet privacy by spooks from all sorts of nationalities, as I was before by Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper’s alleged hacking of phones. Now instead I could just accept it. Well, it happens, and surveillance of citizenry by the state is as old as the hills, well before the internet. So, just let go and accept it. Breathe in deeply, and when you breathe out let it and accept it. Be aware of whatever bugs you about it, and let it go. Accept it.

You can take this further. Whatever goes on in your life that you tend to get hung up about, accept it. It happens. It is. So accept it.

When you notice yourself thinking, “Now hang on, I’m not going to give up like that. That’s being weak and feeble.” And accept it. Notice the judgement you have, and let it go. Accept it.

Acceptance is the gentle art of letting go applied to the areas of your life that seem at odds with what you want. It’s where the ego function of desire gets engaged, wanting or not wanting something. We can get all tense and wound up about all sorts of issues. So, relax, let it go and accept it.

Now, this might mean you need to find some other way of living with what’s happening. And that might mean managing the part of you that objects to doing this. And then you might also find that your relationship with the issue changes in some way. For example, by letting go and accepting it, you might be giving the universe freedom to bring you what you really need, which might be just perfect. It could be for example that the outcome will suit both you and lets say others whom you are at odds with. By letting go and accepting, you’ve allowed other possibilities to emerge. When we are attached to something, we limit our options and we shut down on creativity and on the Law of Attraction from bringing us what we really need.

Acceptance also gives you peace. When you really let go, the conflict and tension goes, and all is easy again. Which is more how things really work at the higher level. They say, we always get what we need. There is always enough. You just have to believe it! Now, that’s a good one for another post!

Posted on

Is it hard to let go of not having what you want?

Success is a big thing for many people in our society and a source of major frustration. It’s a word that gets plastered all over the place in various people development and personal life change literature. Yet it trips so many of us up.

What does the word “success” mean for you? Career success, making loads of money, something aspirational, a certain expensive life style you can afford because you’re “successful”? How do you feel about that? Is there a part of you that wishes it was like that for you, but that you feel frustrated if you were being honest because that’s not how it’s worked out.

It’s fraught with associations. What negative associations come up for you? Here’s a few: not being successful at school, failing your 11 Plus (in parts of the UK) or other key exams, struggling to succeed in sport, not being “any good” at sport (notice the words we use), being successful at losing weight (how many are stuck on that one at present?), being very successful academically, having a successful career, being made redundant (did you take it personally?), not being top of the local social pecking order, not being successful in personal growth even (yes!), etc. I could go on.

Behind the word is the whole matter of desire of course – wanting, wanting, wanting. How much do you find yourself getting caught up with wanting something, or rather of not having something, or of things not being enough? And can any little tiny bit of that plausibly translate into something more personal? For example, if I’m not successful, I might go on to beat myself up and make it that “I’m not good enough”, or whatever is your personal tendency when you’re feeling particularly negative.

With the recession, many people have apparently being giving up on their dreams and settling for what they’ve got, holding on, fearful for their security. I was recently reading a survey about exactly this in terms of people’s careers. Energetically all this represents a closing down, a shrinking away, a barrier to the abundant flow of the universe. So of course we get more of what we fear.

It’s a real catch-22. “I want more money”, people think, and what they get is the want of it.

In my Gestalt terms, this interruption to the flow of awareness belongs in the satisfaction phase of the cycle. We need satisfaction, but we don’t get it, and therein lies a persistent lack of fulfilment and a source of unhappiness. Right now I’d suggest huge numbers are caught up in this.

Even at the macro level, our leaders are struggling between paying down debt and trying to get growth. But it ain’t happening!

So, it’s time to step out of this pattern of frustrated desire, which is in any case a good old ego trait, and let go. Thus you can let in the flow of abundance, but this time based around a far more fulfilling possibility, one where you have an inspired vision that you are motivated to realise.

In this program you can identify where you get stuck and develop strategies to deal with those limiting beliefs, let go and then design your own empowered vision which you are far more enthusiastic about working on and bringing to fruition.

Recessions can bring out the part of us that can get stuck in victim mode. It’s very subtle and can creep up on us. Here is an opportunity, in an inspiring location, to let go and bring out what you truly mean by success that fits with your values, what you are about, your unique destiny.

Why wait for others to give us “growth”? It’s time for seekers to do their own growing. We’ve been at it lifetimes, after all, so we’re seasoned warriors. What could you be doing now that will truly honour what you are about, that you want to manifest?

I provide coaching to help people be successful in ways that are truly meaningful for them. To learn more, click here.

Posted on

Where the desire for more money might not serve us

How much money you have, whether you have enough money, whether you are secure, whether you have “financial freedom” are all questions that buzz around so many people’s minds. “It’s what money can get me,” people say. While many of us might think that money can’t buy happiness, there’s lots of others that think it comes as a result, backed up by a lot of surveys that show that the wealthier tend to be happier. An odd mix of contradictions!

To a yogi, the pursuit of more money is an aspect of desire, an ego characteristic where we are never satisfied with what we have. We are, according to this line of thinking, wanting and wanting and always wanting. It’s like an addictive cycle. We want, then we get and then we want again. The getting doesn’t satisfy, or not for long. It’s seen by yogis as a major trap on the spiritual path, for example where our minds in meditation get caught up in thinking in some way connected with desire. By contrast the sadhu cultivates non-attachment to desire, but instead equipoise, balance, evenness of mind, patience, allowing, and letting go. Desire introduces unevenness of mind, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, and off we go into some pit of unease. To the yogi this is how happiness is lost, in among other things addiction to desire.

Of course there’s more than one side to desire. We could also say that there’s a positive wanting, where you set yourself a goal that you intention to achieve, and here you have something you want to do. You might be positively motivated in this. Also you might want to earn money to put food on the table in the sense that it is a need, a fundamental to living. Maslow is well-known for his “hierarchy” of needs, all considered natural to the human being. We could debate these but at least it gives one perspective on the value of needs.

“Need” and “want” overlap, as you will see if you consult the dictionary definitions, and it depends on which meaning of each you are using. So at one end a need might imply a requirement or a necessity, while at the other end a want could be a wish. Take your pick!

Whichever word you are using, it can be useful to enquire into what you mean when you are pursuing a need, want or desire. Because the other side to desire is the wanting that suggests a deficit need, the sense that one is really driven by a lack or a fear of a lack, or by some compulsion or addiction to wanting, or some ego attachment in which the sense of identity is wrapped up with wanting. So the need or want for money might be ego-driven. For example, my sense of who I am is that I have worth if I have enough money, and I might see myself as worthless if I’m so badly off without it that I’m destitute. Interesting that we use “worth” to include both a financial value and also a human value! This is where the pursuit of more money becomes an unhealthy driver than harms us ourselves and/or others around us.


Posted on

May everyone see only auspicious sights

The idea of managing and controlling our desires and actions has become quite an alien one. We have become accustomed to the view that such a way leads to repression. Rather we think of allowing the “free spirit” to have free rein and to express itself. So, which is it?

I’ve been looking through a book by Swami Chidvilasananda, “The Yoga of Discipline“, which is really a series of talks, and she has a lot to say about the value for a yogi of discipline. She says (of seeing), “In the Upanishads it is said, “May everyone see only auspicious sights.” The eyes are very important; perception is very significant. The world is as you see it. Therefore how you maintain your outlook, what you see, is essential.” She goes on to say that you should teach your eyes what to see and when to see.

Like Western phenomenological psychology, yogic thinking focuses on the importance of the awareness of perception, the world is what we think it is. Therefore, they say, think what uplifts you.

To the yogi, desires need to be controlled. Otherwise we can buffeted here and there and be unable to focus our awareness on our spiritual practice. To the yogi, attention is directed inwards, to the inner Self, and meditation and other practices are designed to support that. The yogi therefore needs discipline.

It can all sound very monastic, although by no means an alien one to western traditions, until we reflect on how the mind operates, how easily we get caught up in our patterns and habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. The mind is very maleable. It is a question of effort and practice. This is about using awareness to see where our minds are going, to catch the mind when it wanders off on some old, habitual, unproductive path, and bring it back to point of focus. This point of focus might be centring the mind in present-moment awareness, or focusing on the breath, or being aware of your Beingness, or one of the many ways that any practioner from any tradition or none might find to feel positive, uplifted, calm and at peace. The point is the consciously and deliberately manage the mind.

As I said, very unfashionable, but productive of a calm, aware and centred state from which far more productive and fulfilling action can take place.

You have to be spiritually-oriented to get the value of this. Being focused on inner calm and centredness can benefit people from whatever persuasion or none, as the current trend for mindfulness training shows.

Posted on

Wanting to be at one

This week I have been writing about desire and how it can very effectively block our connection with our spiritual self. The question will inevitably arise, if desire doesn’t serve us, what about wanting to be connected spiritually. Isn’t that a contradiction?

First of all, I remember hearing that my guru’s guru, Swami Muktananda was asked about the desire for enlightenment. “Ah, you can keep that one,” he said. Wanting to be One with God was for him at the essence of his sadhana.

I made the point earlier that it can be helpful to think about attachment, about where you get attached to wanting, and therefore whether you hold on to thoughts of wanting, such that you are attached to them and feel unable to let them go. The practice of non-attachment is all about not being driven by such things, about becoming the witness of thoughts and feelings that don’t serve you, and about letting go. Common examples are being attached to wanting money, or success or being loved by someone.

In addition you can reflect on whether the way you think about desire is serving you. There might for example be a significant difference between on the one hand the desire to create the things in your life that are in line with your purpose, your values and intentions, what inspires you and what works towards let’s say your higher purpose, and on the other hand a constant hankering after a big house and expensive clothes which might make you look good in the eyes of others. The first might have a consistency and integrity in it, underpinned by strong ethics, while the second might be ego-driven and motivated by let’s say how you want others to see you, a quite different standpoint.

This is where self-enquiry is useful. Who are you, and how are you manifesting That Awareness? As we enquire within, and explore our motivations in Awareness, we can more and more make distinctions between thoughts that are ego-driven and those that are not. Here we can make self-checks: where am I coming from here? The power of self-awareness is to learn to spot when your desire is ego-driven. In time, you might find you’ll get a tug within, as if your higher Self is asking you, “Does this serve you?” With self-awareness, you can more and more notice those ego-driven desires that don’t serve you. You can learn to spot them and to let them go.

We teach people to develop the tools of Awareness in our program, The Point of Awareness.

Posted on

Loving other people and confusing love with wanting from them

One useful piece of self-awareness work to do with desire is to look at what we want from others, particularly our partners. As we’ve been exploring this week, desire as an ego function has deep roots, relating to a perceived lack of love and a disconnection from the Whole. This particularly plays itself out with those we are close to.

Have you for example felt you wanted more from someone than they were prepared to give? Did it seem that whatever they gave was “not enough”? Similarly have you found people wanted more of you than you were prepared to give? Have you found others to be a syringe or a sponge, sucking energy from you or seemingly draining you of energy? Do you know of people who are very “needy”? These are examples of people wanting from others.

In relationship, this can act as a cycle, going round in circles, with each piece of wanting, if at least partly met then being replaced with yet more of the same.

One person in the relationship who is the “wanting” one is in a sense “out there” probing the other person, who in turn is closing in on themselves to protect themselves from the needy one. They are likely of course to be replaying earlier relationships, eg with parents, but the drama is continually acted out until perhaps one or the other says “enough” and refuses to participate further in the game.

In other ways too the game can go on, such as when one feels the others does not love them “enough” or doesn’t feel loved at all. People can play all sorts of deadly dramas around love, and of course go elsewhere to get what they feel they don’t get from their partners.

Thus do we continue to act out the separation/connectedness drama, in our relationships with others.

It is however perfectly possible to find love within ourselves and thus not to depend on others for love. The latter is arguably not love but need, although presented as love. However love can exist independent of one person. You can find it in yourself, in other people in general and in all things, as an essential force of the universe, at its core. This is one of the beautiful outcomes of the spiritual journey. And you can still also enjoy being in love with a special person!

To learn more about how you can find this essential love, take the Connecting to Inner Peace program.