Giving What We Want

One of my spiritual mentors noticed how many people struggle with finding harmony in relationships. He said, “You will never find harmony until you are able to give what you want.” This is one of those pithy little guidances that stick with you. Over the years I have noticed the importance of giving what we want.

Everyone wants love but we often do not know how to express or receive it. We tend to have expectations on the level of our fantasies without having ever really practiced the art of giving love. The challenge is not only in discerning what we desire but, more importantly, discovering the one who desires. From the Buddhist point of view, the one who wants is precisely the one who has trouble receiving. If we begin letting go of our attachment to self, we loosen our personal desires in favor of serving the call for love in front of us. And, paradoxically, we become the recipient of that love.

Padmasambhava said, “People whose practice is only self-seeking will rarely find happiness. It is therefore essential to exert yourself for the benefit of others. When practicing for the welfare of others you may be free of self-interest but your own benefit will be spontaneously accomplished. Keep that in mind.” This is a core adage to inspire our practice but we must be discerning.

Some practitioners leave themselves out of the mix when they hear “working for the benefit of others.” It is important to understand we are talking about serving all beings without exception—including ourselves. When we misunderstand the intention behind serving others, we make the mistake of becoming isolated through a ‘spiritual’ cloaking of ego. We become arrogant by feeling we are free of self-interest or we act out of a sense of unworthiness. No one benefits here.

Ultimately, giving what we want is loving others as we love ourselves. Getting over ego-clinging is the highest expression of giving what we want. We make an offering, surrendering our attachments and afflictive emotions in the name of love. We see every obstacle as empty and ungraspable. Permeating this space of openness is the equality of love benefitting everyone.

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