Student’s Question: Is it okay to want things?

A student writes:

Is it right to want things?

Lama Shenpen:

Wanting to have something has two aspects. On the one hand there is the wanting which could be inspired by the Heart Wish* and be very positive – it’s our life force.

Then the sense of wanting to have something could be heavy grasping and thinking in a clinging kind of way to ourselves as needing to have something to hold on to or to satisfy our wish to hold on to something.

Maybe this is what we might call ego clinging and it causes all our problems. But wanting something in itself is actually positive. You have some kind of goal or sense of direction you want to move in and it requires opening to receive what is happening and coming to us.

Some of that is important and helpful and so we need to respond by allowing it in – like food or friendship or whatever. Other things we respond to by finding ways around them – such as difficulties in life, pain and unhappiness. The not wanting these things is our sensitivity and responsiveness and inspires us to find solutions and other directions.

The problem starts when we try to shut off our experience of things we don’t like – try to avoid the experience all together – even pretending it’s not happening.Then we don’t make the right moves in terms of giving up attachment and finding creative solutions. This is what blocks the heart energy.

So it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate what you don’t want as much as enjoying what you do want – and not minding the pain. Let the pain and frustration be what they are – they are the life force seeking inspiration and a good direction to flow in – so you need the pain. You need to not mind the pain.

*Heart Wish – is what Lama Shenpen calls the chitta in the Living the Awakened Heart Training – it’s the seat of our deepest longings and sense of truth. It relates to our inner drive, volition, aspiration, dedication, commitment etc. It’s the drive that comes from the Indestructible Heart Essence itself, our Buddha Nature. There’s a curious paradox here, we need this drive, the Heart Wish in order to connect to and align with the Indestructible Heart Essence, yet the source of its power is no other than the inherent power of the Indestructible Heart Essence itself.

Lama Shenpen’s students are all studying the Living the Awakened Heart Training – a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, that’s open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at