“I want ____” seems to be the mantra that gets an exceptional work-out in my mind. Unless I’m deeply engaged in something like writing, X-country skiing, watching the Olympics, or reading, I find myself in the “I want” world. In watching the Olympics, I’m given plenty of commercial breaks per hour to “want.” I want that truck, I want that hair style, and I want some Doritos. Then I realize I already have that truck in the driveway, I’m almost bald, and the Doritos are already in the bowl in front of me half eaten. When skiing, I want more snow, lighter snow, better sunglasses, a drink of water, warm feet and my back to not hurt. God! The litany of complaints and desire reveals something. What’s revealed is that it is a litany, like the responses in church that are unthinkingly repeated week after week, year after year. The mantra goes on, even when we’re really engaged. When we’re not engaged, it’s obsessive. I want new shoes, a bit more cash, to be heard, understood, the kids to get along, Tommy to stop complaining. I want a real vacation. I want this flight to be over. I want less work, more money, less noise, more love, less traffic, and more respect. I want to be more happy, less angry, more generous, less grumpy, more patient, less demanding, more kind, less __, more _, less, more, less. The machine is off and running.
Part of the cost of “I want” is the peace, contentment, joy, satisfaction, love, happiness, relatedness, understanding, kindness, generosity, and friendship the “I want” mantra precludes.
I want more fresh snow for X-country skiing. Am I skiing? Yes. Is it amazingly beautiful? Yes. Does it feel good to use my body? Yes. Is this a great vacation? Yes. Are my wife and I loving our time together? Yes. Is the cabin warm, the hot-tub hot, the food brilliant, the Olympic skating inspiring, the writing going well? Yes, yes, yes.
Inventory: I am one to the happiest people I know. I have everything I need. I have everything I want. If I really wanted something more, I could find a way to get it. I have work I absolutely enjoy, an amazing wife and an extraordinary 26 year marriage, great and loyal friends, the incredible freedom America allows, three cultures to live in and draw upon (India, Indonesia and America), good health, beautiful homes, extensive travel, rich experiences, plenty of talent and intelligence, and a reasonably balanced mind and spirit. And yet I want. Like clockwork, I want more, less, different, or better. It’s an incessant habit, unless I’m fully engaged in life or just watching this want-habit’s performance.
So my quest is for freedom: freedom from want. When I’m not wanting, I already have everything I want and I can and do take pleasure in what is. What’s left at that point is pure graditude.