This piece was sent to me by my brilliant colleague Andrea Adler. I return to it and share it with people often. The question it asks is central to everything you will ever know in your life. What do you want? We are raised in a culture of so much shame that we often fear to admit what we really, really want. But imagine what would happen if we did? Wonderful things. There’s a door most of us fear to open. Here’s a beautiful invitation as there ever was to open it.
What Do You Want? and Tell the Truth – Robert Rabbin
In my line of work, it’s common to have people tell me they are stuck, lost, confused, conflicted, or afraid. There’s something NQR (not quite right) about their lives. Maybe their relationship is faltering; maybe their work sucks; maybe they are trying to find their role and purpose in life. Perhaps enlightenment seems farther away than when they started hunting it. Most feel oppressed with insufficient meaning, erratic motivation, and some degree of dissatisfaction or sadness.
They want to seize the day and capture the moment, but the day slips through their fingers and the moment from their grasp.
In these conversations, I always ask one question: What do you want? With this proviso: And tell the truth.
I want to make a difference. I want more fulfilling work. I want to align with my higher self. I want to make more money. And off we go on the merry-go-round of what people say they want.
I look in their eyes when they say these things. I look for a light, for a spark, for some sign of authenticity.
I never see it. That’s what NQR.
They think they know what they want, or they think they know that they don’t know, because they’ve worked it out in their heads. They’ve got thoughts and ideas and beliefs about what they want. They use language to sort it all out and to communicate it. They have stories about why they want it: reasons and explanations and justifications. It’s all in their heads.
But no light. No spark. No fire. Not in their eyes. Not in their bellies.
I ask what they’ve done, what actions they’ve taken towards what they say they want. Well, I can’t because … And then they tell a story. Often the story is that something bad will happen if they pursue the truth. So they stay in their heads and keep spinning.
I’m looking for action. Life is lived in actions, not reasons, explanations, and justifications.
But not any action. Authentic action, propelled by authentic desire. That’s what I want to know from people: what do you authentically want?
Not what you think you want. Not what you’re supposed to want. Not what someone told you to want. Not the good thing, the right thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing, the spiritual thing. Just the thing, the thing you want.
What do you want?
Everyone knows. It’s hardwired into us. But it’s way down deep, the flecks of gold in our bedrock. We don’t go there. We go, instead, into the stories of the flecks of gold. It’s not the same.
As I work with people, I discover the same taboo each time, the forbidding door to the deep I want. Until we get through that door, we will be forever lost, confused, and conflicted. Even if we have a best-selling book, or appear on Oprah. Even if we’ve read 20,000 books or disappeared into ether or talk to dead people.
The great taboo is that we are afraid of what we want. The fear of what we want is what makes us tell lies about what we want.
What do you want? And tell the truth.
When people open the forbidden taboo-door to what they want, and tell the truth, I hear different things, said with a different tone and with escalating energy, and glimmers of light: I want to leave my family and start a new life. I want to be sexually dominated. I want stop meditating and trying so hard to be spiritual. I want to quit my job and go back to school. I want to be an artist. I want to stop hiding. I want to tell my boss she’s a fucking bitch.
The energy imprisoned behind the previously locked door of what we want starts moving. That’s the beauty. That’s where the life is. That’s the beginning of authenticity. That’s where it all is, in the energy of life.
Why are we afraid of what we want? Because that simple truth, that simple gold-flecked bit of bedrock way down deep, below our thoughts and ideas and beliefs; below our stories and reasons and explanations — that simple answer to that simple question shatters everything else we know and think we know.
It takes us from our minds into life. It takes us from imitation to authenticity. It takes us from cowardice to courage. It takes us from hope to fulfillment.
Whatever insight we might need, whatever wisdom we want, comes to us from acting authentically, from telling the truth of what we want and then freeing those wild horses to romp in the wilderness of deep desire. This is how we live a true life. This is how we come to know, through authenticity and truth-telling, as much of how the universe works as we need to know.
Don Juan Matus, the either actual or fictional mentor of Carlos Castaneda, put it this way,
“The flaw with words is that they always make us feel enlightened, but when we turn around to face the world they always fail us and we end up facing the world as we always have, without enlightenment. For this reason, a warrior seeks to act rather than to talk, and to this effect he gets a new description of the world — a new description where talking is not that important, and where new acts have new reflections, and a new world is born.”
We’ve got to find a way to trust our deep desires and to tell the truth about that. It’s freeing and revelatory. It’s heaven and perfection. It’s authentic and juicy. Dripping juicy.
Of course, you might think you know less than you did. You might give away all your spiritual books and knickknacks. People might not recognize you. You might start being kinky in bed — and out of it. You might make people feel uncomfortable. You might not do what’s right, moral, or ethical. You might threaten authority. You might scare the crap out of yourself.
But I tell you this: You will never again feel as if something is NQR in your life. You will have found you and your place in life. You will have found the inner treasure. You will have found your evolving path in life. You will have found your map, your meaning, your everything. You will hear from deep within you a heard of galloping horses, each on fire, each an animal-rocket of force and fury. You will find yourself in a life you never imagined, doing things you couldn’t have ever dreamed of. And it will be good.
And if those aren’t precious gifts to give yourself, and others, then I don’t know what is.
©Robert Rabbin 2009
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