You have to bring a certain intensity to the journey, but it needs to be coming from the right place.
“How much do you want it?”
Apparently, this was a rhetorical question and “Not THIS much” was not the answer my Spin Cycle instructor was looking for.
But although he probably didn’t realise it, my buzz-cut fitness guru with the devastating calves was tapping into something fairly universal.
Most traditions preach variations of the same idea: To achieve great things, to reach you full potential, you must really really really want it.
You must turn your desire into a mighty bonfire, and use that energy to drive your quest.
This has a few interesting parallels in the east. Sri Ramakrishna said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it the way a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.”
Or there’s an old zen standard, “Crave Zen the way a drowning man craves air.”
They don’t have all that much to say on how women fit in this picture.
“You must want enlightenment the way a woman just wants you to shut up and give her a foot-rub.”
There you go. Can we add that to our list of famous quotations?
Anyway the idea that comes through in these quotes, and in my Spin Cycle instructors bellowing, is that we must want we want with an almost maniacal intensity.
And as far as the spiritual quest is concerned, is that or nothing. If you don’t want it that bad, don’t even bother.
But I think we need to be careful to see what these things are really saying.
I mean imagine your hair was literally on fire. If it was me, I’d be in a complete flap about it.
“Oh my god, this hair cut cost my $350! Stephan is going to be Fu-ri-ous!”
No, I would be, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. My hair is freaking on fire. Holy flipping turd-gurgles. Aaagghaaa!”
Now at the risk of writing myself off as a spiritual novice (aka woman, apparently), I’m not sure that’s the kind of mental state you want to be bringing to anything, let alone the cultivation of an elevated spiritual station.
Panic is an intense form of fear, and if it’s one thing I feel like I know for sure, it’s that nothing good comes when you act out of fear.
Fear sits on the opposite side of the dial to love. It is the six to love’s twelve. And so to follow your fears is to move exactly away from love.
Nothing good in that at all.
And so if that’s true of fear, then how could putting yourself in an irrational flap help you achieve anything?
So I think we’re missing the point if we think these quotes are about fear. What I think they’re really saying is that you must want what you want with a single-minded focus.
When your hair is on fire, or you are drowning underwater, the mind very quickly lets go of all other concerns.
At any point in time we have dozens of intentions floating around our head. I want to present a particular way, I want to have certain material things, I want to get this person to like me more, I want to manoeuvre my way into a better job…
But all of that drops out the window as soon as your hair catches fire.
It is all reduced to a single desire – a pond.
And so this is how we should be – we should seek the clarity of thought, the stillness of centre, the presence of spirit, to want what we want with a single-minded focus.
We must practice the disciplines that trim the fat, and bring it back to what we really want.
And perhaps this state, is even the point itself..?
Now, where’s my foot-rub?