If I ask you, “What do you need?”, what answer pops up into your head?  (Not an answer that you go fishing for, the automatic response.)  If the question is posed, “What do you want?”, is the answer the same? wildly different?  I have been asking students those very questions lately in yoga class at the beginning before we start moving our bodies.  The popular consensus is that the answers are quite different.  In fact, one student confessed that when asked what he needs the answer came up “nothing.”  When questioned what he wants, the answer was “everything.”  I love this.  I have a similar response.

I feel very settled in so many ways.  So completely fortunate for the gifts I have been given.  I don’t really need anything.  However, I do have quite the long list of things that I want.  From material things to others’ improved health, my desires run the gamut of wanting things to be different from how they are.  The good news is that I realize the difference between wanting these things and needing them.  Often we interchange these words to mean the same thing and I feel like it’s important to make a clear distinction in order to stay firmly rooted in what’s real.

When experimenting with this notion on and off the mat, I notice that when I want something, it drives me speedily away from feeling settled and relaxed. Conversely, when I listen to what I need, which doesn’t speak in words, but feeling, I respond in kind.  For example, when my body tells me that I’m too far into the pose and need to back out, I listen, respond in kind and feel settled.  When my mind tells me to push more deeply into a pose because my ego thinks I should be more athletic and I respond, I feel stressed, even if I have been “successful” in the modification.

It’s interesting to notice how much we really need.  It’s not much:  oxygen, a bit of food, water, clothing and shelter are helpful, but not always necessary, and I would argue…love.  Next time you hear yourself saying, “I need a new….”, think about it and see how it feels. Do you need it, or do you just want it?  Being honest about the difference might lead us to being honest with ourselves.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”   -Mahatma Gandhi