“They can be like a sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”
—St. John of the Cross
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About Jennifer Read HawthorneThe Richness of Not Wanting
September 13, 2015

As I walked through the Orlando/Sanford airport this morning, I noticed numerous signs letting us passengers know that we were getting closer and closer to the Alpha Shops—a group of duty-free stores ranging from Clinique to Gucci. I also noticed an absence within me of any impulse to enter a single shop (this from a former shopping queen).

I suppose it’s no wonder, given that my favorite poem these days is from Kabir, the mystic poet who lived in India in the late thirteenth to early fourteenth centuries. It’s called “Where the Shopkeeper Would Say”:

I was looking for that shop
where the shopkeeper would say,
“There is nothing of value here.”
I found it and did not leave.
The richness of not wanting
wrote these poems.

The richness of not wanting. There’s a phrase to let float and settle over the desire body.

It reminds me of another of my faves, Stephen Shapiro’s book Goal-Free Living. I used to subscribe mightily to the theory that if I got clear on what I wanted in life, I could make it happen with enough focus and attention. I was wrong. So many things I “focused on” never came to pass, and other major life events happened that I had never envisioned even for a second. Destiny. You can’t stop your good from coming to you, and you can’t make something happen that is not in your life script.

What fills the void of not wanting? Receiving. Spaciousness for unexpected happenings. Self-knowledge.

Of course, the richness of not wanting is a luxury. My touchstone for reality these days is the man or woman fleeing Syria clasping children’s hands, babes in arms, trying to escape a brutal regime and make a better life for their family. Survival is a desperate and necessary wanting to live, which makes me appreciate more than ever the fact that it’s a lot easier not to want when your basic needs are covered.

I am also grateful for the mystic poets, whose thoughts, like the ones from Kabir shared here, bring us to a still place. From this place, it is possible to know that we really do have everything we need.