Beyond Wanting

Strolling around the local farmers’ market, I noticed my mind flitting off toward each bunch of lettuce or giant chocolate chip cookie saying, do I want that, do I want that, do I want that? It surprised me and showed me that we, perhaps especially we Americans, are taught wanting as a fundamental way of relating to life. (I did want the giant cookie, in case you’re wondering.)

We start this education at a young age. What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas? What do you want to be when you grow up? And then we become more sophisticated about it. What kind of kitchen cabinets do you want? What are your career goals?

In Buddhism, there is a practice of directing loving kindness, or Metta, toward oneself and others. In one guided Metta meditation I listen to, the leader reminds the listeners that deep down all beings want to be happy. The problem is, the giant cookie will not ultimately get us there.

There’s nothing wrong with selecting cabinets one enjoys, but if you’re like me, the amount of energy we put into these decisions and the expectations we attach to their results do not align with reality. In investing ourselves and our happiness in the particular outcome we chose, we might miss out on what life is calling us to.

We have settled for wanting when we are made for longing. We can’t find the depths for which we long in any exterior thing or accomplishment that we want or any solution that we can invent inside our own heads. Life is offering us more than we can know or even imagine.

To find the unimaginable, we must let life lead. We must allow what we encounter to open us to our own becoming. We must live in the midst of our longing as it calls us into being. Only there, in that ever-changing moment, will we truly come home to ourselves.

Only there will the words of the Metta meditation come to fruition: May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings find peace.

4 thoughts on “Beyond Wanting

  1. And Angaangak says “We are all worth coming home to.” Thank you Rachel. I love “To find the unimaginable, we must let life lead.” Amen. I am putting that and the metta meditation up on my wall. : )

  2. I too liked the line your mom liked. I too want to notice that it isn’t really WANTING I’m after but that deeper thing where we all can experience peace. I keep turning to God and asking for that, but also I see that we need to ask each other to yearn, to long for that, and I so appreciate your reminding us to seek it in the unimaginable and perhaps we may glimpse it and feel its pull.

  3. “We have settled for wanting when we are made for longing.”
    “The Holy Longing” by Ronald Rolheiser explores the spiritual nature and purpose of this longing in beautiful depth. Cyprian quotes Rolheiser in his exploration of the role of eros in spiritual life and I found their ideas helpful and deeply satisfying.
    Your line makes me think of “wanting” as a chronic lure, a form of distraction, and a response to being at a loss of how to proceed in any other way. It’s seems like the depth aversion that Jim Finley has spoken of, the inability to navigate the disquiet that obscures the experience of depth that we are longing for.
    “In investing ourselves and our happiness in the particular outcome we chose, we might miss out on what life is calling us to.”
    I have to admit I feel somewhat hearing impaired when it comes to what life is calling me to do. The alternative, as you say, is to pursue strategies that we think may bring about a happy picture. And in the absence of a compelling meta-narrative that is how many of us approach much of life. I do think that the discernment of a meta-narrative that sustains life with meaning is all important. However, I think there is also something to the idea of a well-lived life that consists of various components or building blocks that one has cultivated and strived to establish.

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