As part of my study of Eastern philosophy, I have started down the path of the study of Taoism. I find it to be a fascinating and engaging philosophical system, much in sync with the way I think, feel and believe. That being the case, I have decided to delve deeper into this philosophy.
In the meantime, I have been going through some personal issues that have come to the surface as I have initiated my study of Taoism. One of the most troublesome issues is my strong ego and need to have external things change to meet my needs.
One of the fundamental principles of Taoism is learning to live in harmony with nature. Part of this practice is understanding the difference between a want and a need. I am deeply indebted to my good friend, Richard, for pointing this out to me, as part of a larger discussion recently.
In classical Taoism, it is fine to want something; that is part of our human nature. However, when that want becomes a need, it turns into something unnatural.
A want is a feeling about something in the external world that I desire. This could be a material thing, a work position, or some idea or project that I would like to implement. If I am living in true harmony with nature, that "want" will come to pass, if it is meant to be. However, the key to maintaining balance is to not invest any emotional value to whether or not I achieve that want. If it comes to pass, so be it. Conversely, if it does not come to pass, so be it. I am in emotional balance regardless of the outcome.
However, I have found that there are some things I want that have reached the level of need. A want becomes a need when I come across a thing I cannot have or come across a force that I cannot change and I become upset, angry or depressed when that need is not satisfied. I am learning that such feelings are simply a message to me that I am trying to change an external force that does not care about my desire for it.
I have lived my life with very strong principles and with much independence of thought. This has given me much comfort. However, in situations in which I must interact with people or institutions I cannot change, it has caused me much frustration. And, on many occasions, my behavior has been less than professional or admirable.
Recently, a series of events have transpired that have pointed out this personality flaw in a very dramatic way. It is a situation in which I feel very strongly about how something should be handled. However, those with the power to make such things happen do not see it my way. In essence, they have no concern for my need.
As a result of the failure of things to work out as I want, I have acted out in a very unhealthy way. It was only during my conversation with Richard that I become aware of how unhealthy I was acting.
I have made a commitment to change - not only as to this particular issue, but in a larger sense, to the way I view life in general.
As I study the principles of Taoism, I will work to live the Taoist path as closely as I can.
Having reached this realization about the difference between a want and a need, I have been able to release the anger and hostility, and simply let it all go. Things will work out as they should. My constant harping to try to force things has been accomplishing nothing.
Like water flowing down a stream, I must no longer work to move the rocks in my path, but rather find an alternative path to get around the rocks.