How To Not Want What You Really, Really Want

The other night I had an anxiety attack. I am prone to panic and sometimes my restless mind hijacks my whole being. I know I am a meditation teacher but it is what it is. Maybe it is the menopause that triggers the attacks. I don't know. All I know is that I haven't been able to tame the scared 5-year-old that still lives inside me. Not entirely, at least.

The next morning, while sipping my coffee in a zombie-like state, the only thing I could think was: I wish there was someone to hold my hand.

After the breakfast I went to see my physiotherapist for my neck problem. She asked me if there was "someone" at home who could give me a massage. The question depressed me to no end. I felt lonelier than ever.

There is no one in my life to hold my hand or to give me a massage. I also don't think there will be anyone any time soon. Maybe ever. I am 56-years-old and getting older every second. That morning I sunk into dark despair. I was experiencing a strong wanting and with that I knew I had taken a giant leap backwards. I had done so much work on myself. I had meditated and contemplated and been very spiritual.

With great effort I had taught myself to believe that I didn't need anyone to make me happy. My life was fulfilled and perfect just as it was, whatever it was. All my spiritual teachers kept telling me this. They also said that while desires sometimes occur (they are part of the human experience, after all), one should not get attached to their outcome.

I have always been baffled with this. Isn't attachment the very nature of desire?

And isn't the desire to be loved the most natural thing?

I am thinking of Adam and how he felt lonely, even though he was lucky enough to live in the Garden of Eden. His life must have been pretty fulfilled, what with all the fruit falling from the trees straight into his mouth, without him having to do anything.

And yet. He got lonely. Maybe even bored. I don't blame him. Anyway, God came to his rescue and created a spouse for him. We all know what happened then. No happy ever after but an expulsion from Paradise.

What exactly are we supposed to learn from this story? That if we want to be happy, we'd better stick to fruit and forget about spouses?

And of course we know this to be true, too. Romantic love is doomed. It always comes with the shadow of pain. And yet we are drawn to it. We desire the romance but we really need the touch. We are herd animals after all. Human babies die if they are not touched. I might not die if I don't get a neck massage but I would certainly be a lot happier if I did.

Here's an interesting fact about my spiritual teachers: they all have spouses. Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Neale Donald Walsch and the rest of them. Yet they are the ones who say you don't need one. Unfair, huh? Or maybe they have really figured something out and that's why they are successful. I think what they have figured out is this: only when you are entirely happy with your lot just as it is, will you have any chances of getting more. This is the ultimate mystery of life.

This is also the secret that unlocks St Matthew's mysterious words: For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

It is not wrong to want but it is wrong to think that not having what you want would make your life flawed. Life is never flawed. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said: "It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor."

So, you should be okay with whatever happens in your life, even with your desires. Buddhist teacher Tara Brach says in her book Radical Acceptance that "if we push away desire, we disconnect from our tenderness and we harden against life." Fighting desires takes us deeper into resistance and resistance is the ultimate source of suffering.

You are allowed to say: Oh yes, it would be nice to have a partner but right now I am just fine without him. This means you are not resisting your present situation and you are not resisting your desire, either.

But how to let go of attachment?

When a desire stings your heart the only thing to do is to turn your attention elsewhere. You'd be much better off thinking about, say, rainbow-pooping unicorns than spouses, for it is a lot easier to let go of something that does not have DNA than of something that has.

And thank goodness for imagination. Whenever the reality laughs its cold laugh, I take a hike to the fantasy land of nice single men. I visualize my dream romance, to the tiniest detail. I have heard it helps. That's how you co-create, the spiritual folks say. It hasn't really worked yet but I guess that's because I haven't managed to let go of the attachment. But I will. I am a meditation teacher, after all. With each meditation I get closer to detachment. And who knows, maybe also the man of my dreams.

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