“Having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical but often true.” – Spock (Amok Time, Star Trek TOS)
We have so much. We want so much. Neither condition will change – it is the human way, after all, and perhaps even the Vulcan way too. Spock’s statement is a warning to his would-be rival in love, Stonn, after he wins the right to be with T’Pring–as well as a strangely revolutionary observation to us.
It’s sort of strange that it’s strange. After all, the fact that we have so much is obvious. Thanks to an ever-more-connected world, we have many opportunities to compare ourselves to others with less–in material goods as well as in health care, in opportunities, and on and on.
The fact that we want so much is also obvious. Our society is permeated with desires and they are given such realistic, tangible forms by our media–especially advertisements, which are carefully crafted to equate getting things with happiness.
It isn’t even weird that it’s fun to get–whether it’s getting things or people or food. The hit of serotonin when something new enters our consciousness will always be there, as well as the glitter of possibilities that something new entails.
What is strange is our dreams of what might be so far outpace our contentment with what is. The magic of Christmas is centered on the night of Christmas Eve, not the hour after opening the gifts when you get to use them. Weddings are enticing with their glitz and glamour and that first kiss that promises a lifetime of love–but living with the marriage isn’t nearly so exciting. My heart starts to beat faster at the mere sight of a brown Amazon cardboard box, but what’s inside becomes commonplace right after it’s ripped open.
As with so many things, there is a balance between having and wanting, between acceptance and ambition, between ease and effort. But if Spock is correct, our balance can often be off in a way that is detrimental to our happiness. Yoda would probably agree, as he sadly describes Luke by saying “All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”
When we really listen to Spock, we are called to tip the scales a bit more towards contentment with what we have, with understanding of what is within our grasp.
This can mean merely shifting focus from the new to the old, which is hard enough with the onslaught of advertisements everywhere we go. But it can also mean practice. We already have many skills for procurement, from creating Pinterest boards to finding deals on online shopping to finding new dating apps. Maybe we can also build our skills in appreciation, in contentment, in fine tuning and honing the situation as it is.
We might consider this in our yoga practice as well, and not even in just the desire for that adorable tank top with the cat that says “it’s time to paws.”
Yoga can distill all our human efforts down to their most basic form – and forms. It’s tempting to want to add new poses to our repertoire even at the expense of truly getting into the ones we already know. But will getting into Crow pose really make you happy? Will it just make you feel like you must get into an even harder handstand?
Even the simplest Warrior pose can be refined as you tweak every muscle and bone to be more exact. And as you go deeper into the pose, you find things falling into place and your mind settling. You are satisfied more deeply than you could have imagined.
That’s not to say I still won’t be trying for Crow pose–I thrive on the journey as I try and get there. But meanwhile I’ll be listening to Spock and Yoda and trying to make sure that as I balance my body, my mind is more balanced as well.