Rumi’s famous words still touch me because of their truth, and because it’s still difficult to own our desires fully, especially as women. We happen to have an extra chunk of estrogen that we’ve been marinated in since the womb, which makes us exquisitely attuned to others, but often surprisingly clueless of what we want ourselves, which is compounded with our cultural upbringing. (Even though the latter is slowly changing. It seems, at least in some instances, that younger women know more what they want). Furthermore, as I wrote in the post two weeks ago, we are very good at accomodating to others, which in itself is a psychological construct affecting women and men alike.
Ask me twice
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the Jungian psycho-analyst, said in audio-book that a man needs to ask a woman twice to find out what she really wants. For example: He might ask her: “What movie do you want to see?” She responds: “It doesn’t matter. Pick whatever.” Then comes the crucial step of asking her again. “What movie do you really want to see”. Which is when she will share her true preference, which most likely wasn’t even known to herself before being asked a second time. Without the second ask, she would, most likely, have been mad as hell at his poor movie-selection ability.
Yet, while it’s great if men learn to ask women twice, we ultimately have to learn this for ourselves. Not in the least when it comes to how we want to be touched, made love to, and what we need in terms of adoration and support. But also when it comes to work and career. For example, say that you are highly attactive on the labor market and get tons of offers, which is a bit similar to being popular on the dating market with many suitors. Do you pick what is being offered, at the conditions stated, or do you choose what you want yourself, the way you want it? Or do you redefine a project to better suit your needs instead of accepting the offered set-up?
Do you know what you want?
In order for that to happen, we need to make the journey of discovering of what we truly want. I remember when I started my life over in my early 30s, having moved to San Francisco from Sweden. I was a workaholic with no preferences about anything except for work, books and global concepts. It took so much effort to learn, for example, which music I preferred to listen to, which was topped only by the gargantuan task of figuring out which men I was attracted to, especially in a new country. At that time, I was almost completely linear, so I made lists and tried for everything, which included men, music and other areas of interest. Today I can hug myself for my cluelessness and clumsiness in my discovery process, yet also salute myself for trying to bring light to my unknown desires.
In which areas do you know what you prefer and in which areas do your eyes glaze over? How much do you follow what your partner prefers, for example, because you haven’t researched your desires, or felt that they weren’t important enough? Or if you followed the latest trend because everyone else was doing it, without really feeling if that is in line with your desires. When I was living in Venice Beach it was astonishing to see all the reported injuries of everyone doing cross-fit 5 times a week, just because it was the latest fad (in Sweden everyone now needs to have at least a marathon and a “Vasalopp”, a cross-country skiing race, and preferably an Iron Man too – leading to similar injuries).
Now, what are your needs? And how do we ask for them?
Having spoken mostly from the woman’s perspective, men might have an equally difficult task in a different way. If we look at the teachings of NVC, Non-Violent Communication, Many men struggle with a different level of asking for what they want – this being related to their needs (even though most women fall into this category too). Marshall B. Rosenberg shares an example from his book Non-Violent Communication, when he ends up being surrounded by a group of gang-members, who are very close to attacking him. They feel disrespected and not heard, and they aren’t aware of that feeling respected is what they truly need. Marshall Rosenberg shares in his book how he patiently, and courageously, my comment, keeps validating what they feel, essentially helping them voice their needs, until their animosity disappears. So many conflicts are about us not feeling heard, and not knowing how to ask for what we really need.
Desire as a practice
When I started teaching the practice of writing desire-lists to the women I worked with (and several men too), it felt a bit frivolous. What’s the point of doing a wish-list like children write for Santa? Wishing for the flashiest things and luxurious travels? Isn’t that just another example of a materialistic world-view? Today, I believe that each desire is an entry-point to something very powerful – especially if we can follow the desire to its deepest roots, without shame or trying to censor ourselves – and without the attachment of making it happen. Which is also a core tenet of Tantra. Each spoken, or stronger, written, desire, affirms our life-force. It ignites something inside us. It turns us on to life. If we can follow our desires down the rabbit-hole, we might find enlightenment, or at least a spiritual practice at the very bottom of it.
Taking our time
One more reflection on learning how to ask for what we really want is to allow for things to unfold in the way that it takes for us to become clear. I’ve learned myself that especially in high-charge situations, or when I’m around people I don’t feel I can be truly me, I benefit highly from asking for a reprieve. Even if it is for an hour, a good night’s sleep, or getting back in a couple of weeks. While it’s getting easier, in some situations, I’m still fascinated by how much time I need to get clear on where I stand when being asked about something. What is your experience with taking your time?
Circumventing our negativity bias
Adding a final perspective on the importance of asking for what we really want is that it’s only then we can counter our negativity bias, which I’ve written about before. It’s so much easier to complain about all the things that aren’t to our liking, and what we don’t have. When we start focusing on what our hearts and jewels want, we circumvent the negative neural pathways. We become solution-oriented, activating our frontal cortex, and feel much more empowered.
A desire-focused practice
For this week, if there is desire for it:), practice writing a list of desires, 20 each day, and see how that affects you. The most important recommendation is to be specific and search for the underlying feelings. If you want a new sofa, what type of sofa, color, sensation, brand and how do you want it make you feel? If you want multiple orgasms, detail what that means to you. If you want to be seen and heard, what does that mean to you and from whom do you need it? Describe it vividly.
See if you can be your own desire-detective, be curious, without shame and see what comes up for you. What happens if you allow all of these desires? Your longing? If you can feel your desires in your body without trying to make them come true. How does it feel to desire fully in your chest? In your belly? And in your jewel?
With a practice of asking for what we really want, we can reach our soul’s longing. Which will keep waking us up to the fact that our ‘one and precious life’ is breath-takingly short and just longs to explored in all its juiciness.
Have a desire-soaked week,
Love and truth,