Wants Versus Needs: Five Insights

Wants Versus Needs

Most of us spend all our energy trying to fulfill our wants. Should we instead focus on our needs? What’s the difference between wants and needs? How do you go from wants to needs? Here are five insights:

1. Needs are physical.
We all need air to breathe and live. Similarly we have very basic needs for food and shelter for our survival. Needs are basic and minimum, and are related to our physical survival.

2. Wants come from ego.
The ego takes our physical needs and converts them to wants. The simple need to protect our feet while walking outside turns into a want for owning 24 pairs of shoes. The need to nourish our bodies with good food turns into the want to go to the finest restaurant and eat an expensive five-course meal.

3. Be wary of the trap of wants.
Once our basic needs our fulfilled we have a choice. We can stop here and commence our spiritual journey. This allows us to go from the level of the physical body to the level of the soul and meet the needs of the soul. Instead most of us commence on a journey that is egged on by the ego. We begin wandering in the wilderness of wants. Without realizing it we begin to express our wants as needs. We say to ourselves, “I need my 24 pairs of shoes!”, “I need a wardrobe full of clothes.”, “I need a huge house and an expensive vacation.” There is no end to wants. Needs are limited, but wants are not. Once you fulfill a want another one arises and takes its place. Without knowing it we get on a treadmill of wants that sucks all our energy just to remain at the same spot. In the bargain the very real needs of our soul are ignored and we continue to remain trapped at the level of the physical and the level of the ego.

4. Get on the path of simplifying your life.
One of the Niyamas that Patanjali talks about in the Yoga Sutra is Santosha or contentment. (Yamas and Niyamas are two of the eight limbs of yoga. Yamas are the don’ts and Niyamas are the do’s. Yamas are things you should avoid while Niyamas are the rules you should follow. There are five Yamas and five Niyamas and Santosha is one of the 5 Niyama.) Santosha is a mental attitude that you cultivate to be satisfied with what you have and to remain unfazed by adversity. This attitude allows us to focus on the food on our plate and allows us to relish it, rather than look at what somebody else is eating and be jealous of it. The corresponding Yama is Aparigraha. Aparigraha translates to “non-possessiveness”. It is a vow to not gather unnecessary possessions and restrict our self to the bare minimum things to satisfy our needs. Both Aparigraha and Santosha should put us on the path to Simplify our life. They should allow us to disentangle from the web of desires and wants and become free to commence a deeper spiritual journey.

5. Yoga is going from wants to needs.
However you have to keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to go from wants to needs while remaining in the ego. Since yoga is a journey out of the ego it is also a journey that should allow you to slowly reduce your wants to the level of your needs. Yamas and Niyamas are the “push” aspect of yoga. This is a discipline you try to cultivate and mentally push yourself in that direction. The remaining limbs of yoga are the “pull” aspects of yoga. The remaining six limbs will gently loosen the hold of ego in your life and unfold your ability to simplify your life and free up your energy.

When we live at the level of our needs we are not restricted but instead freed up. We are no longer working hard and putting all our energy to just to keep feeding the bottomless well of wants. When our mental attitude is reoriented we experiences immense freedom and joy. Suddenly we are no longer competitive and can truly enjoy the success of others. This makes us somebody everybody wants to be with. Love and connections multiply while division and envy ends. The meaning of life begins to slowly unfold and our true spiritual journey commences.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

Related: Living The Simple Life

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