September 1, 2014

The Benefits of Whole-Heartedly Desiring that Which You Don’t Have.


This article is somewhat of a thought experiment —a way of working with the world as we perceive it using the power of our minds.

Scientists have often used thought experiments to test hypothesis, such as Einstein’s famous thought experiment chasing the light beam.

This method can also be applied to our internal processes to break us out of habitual thought patterns and stories that are keeping us stuck.

It takes me awhile to get into the specific thought experiment, but the beginning of the following article shows context—how the mind has an idea, spins it out, believes it and reacts to it before I finally decide to break a pattern and try a thought experiment.



The last article I wrote for Elephant Journal detailed how to be in relationship while single.

I have this single life living thing down. My life is thriving and so am I.

And yet…

And yet..

And yet…

There is something deeper going on. Something that surfaced when I moved from Napier back to Wellington to settle for my child’s primary school education.

I was excited about being back in Wellington—I’ve lived here twice before and have an extensive network of supportive and nourishing friends. Yet on arrival—just as there was when I arrived in Napier in January where I spent six months studying with Peter Sanson—the move brought to the surface an underlying melancholy that tugged at my heart strings.

I felt depressed, grey, shut-down and sad. Despite the awesomeness of my life on the surface, I couldn’t feel or enjoy any of it.

Seems the act of moving to a new place causes me to grieve for the life I’m not living. The one I share with my partner, living with him, loving him, caring for him and being loved and cared for in tbeliurn.

This time around, the resulting arising grief was a mere shadow of what had been a deep letting go in Naper. There is hope in that. Perhaps I am finally learning to surrender my desire for a relationships to grace, whatever that means. I really don’t know. I love myself and I love my life. I have many wonderful friends and an adorable son.

However, this shift of location again underscored that my heart still yearns and grieves for a relationship I don’t have and when I don’t acknowledge that pain, it blocks the joy that might arise for the awesomeness of my life.

There is a paradox here.

On the surface, I feel like I’ve let go of desire for relationship and surrendered to my life as it is, making the most of being a single woman.

Yet that surface belies the murky depths of subconscious where grief still lingers.

And yet I am not lonely, not even in my loneliness. There is no hole in me that needs filling. I feel loved and I love in turn.

However I have erred in mistaking this lack of loneliness or incompleteness as proof that I’m at ease with being without a relationship.

Turns out, one can be fully at ease being single and yet still yearn for relationship.

What to do? Is there anything to do? Or is bringing awareness to this phenomenon enough? Is it enough to admit that I’m happily single and unhappily sans-relationship? That both of these things exist simultaneously within me?

Do I need to let go of my desire for relationship? Is a deeper surrender required? I’m not sure.

A friend who had been single for many years is now with her man. She revealed that one day she’d enough with wishing for relationship and everything that goes with it so she just gave up. Surrendered it all to the universe or fate or grace or whatever and left it in those hands.

The next day, she met her man.

I don’t know if knowing helps me.

It turns total surrender into a quid pro quid experiment. If I give it up, will you give it up to me? My friend was in the moment. She meant it. She didn’t know or expect to meet someone the next day. Hell, whether she gave it all up or not, she may have still met the man.

Now, knowing what I know, it’s difficult to fathom a deep surrender that doesn’t cling to some tendril of hope that this very action is what will lead to a relationship.

Such is life.

I have no answers.

I keep showing up, paying attention to the small undercurrents. The fleeting tears that rise during the reading of an innocuous article on the role of tender caring in nurturing relationship. The dull lethargy accompanying an exciting move. The ring which just broke on my finger. Sterling silver and the band broke, fractured at the weak point of pattern where there is less silver and more gap yet also more beauty.

Does that mean anything? Only if I make it mean something.

It’s just a ring.

It’s just a relationship.

Time to let it all go.

Or is it? Is this the fallacy? This idea that we have to let things go implies that it’s wrong to want things. That it’s wrong to desire a relationship.

Does that spin out in some weird energetic way and imply it’s wrong to be in a relationship? That I have to prove I’m ok and can not be in a relationship?

What would happen if I was to forget about letting go and instead whole-heartedly yearn for and imagine that which I want?

Ah—now that is interesting.

If I sit and imagine being in an amazing relationship, right now in this moment… A man sitting with me in this cafe looking at the same view as me, maybe holding my hand as we laugh about life… If I imagine that, I don’t feel myself effortlessly surrendering to this reality. I feel myself holding back and feeling afraid and not trusting the experience—not wanting to let go of the current single-wrought autonomy of my life. There’s a push pull there…

Step it back a heart-beat.

I’m sitting in the cafe and a man walks in the door and looks over at me and smiles. In that moment, our beings meet, as beings are meant to do… and an entirely new future opens up in the chasm between us. He walks over to the counter and I’m left sitting there, heart beating wildly wondering if I’m imagining things… if this is it, if he is it… How do I feel now?

Scared, exhilarated, not ready, not yet… I still have things to do, I’m not sure if I’m ready to surrender into this future yet.


There’s a song playing right now. “It’s always better when we’re together.” I don’t know if that’s true. I love being alone. I love me time. I love my life and my freedom and my autonomy. I love my son and I struggle with how much he demands of me, how much of me he wants. In a relationship, that is only going to increase.

This is interesting.

This small thought experiment of mine reveals that I can both open to the grief of a life that hasn’t materialised and also realise how much I love and value exactly what I do have.

After all, I won’t be single for ever—statistically it’s highly unlikely, anyway. At some point in my life, likely when I least expect it and where I least expect it, a man is going to walk into my life, smile at me, and an entirely different future is going to open up.

And, in a weird way, it has already happened. And because it has already happened, I don’t have to worry about it or think about it. Because I will never again be in this stage of my life—single, mothering a young child, growing my fledging business—I’m also free to enjoy that completely, knowing this phase of my life will also end.

Turns out I am happily single, while grieving that which I don’t have, and learning that this paradox is the way to whole-heartedly embrace what is.

Now when my mind starts to spin a story about relationship, it’s easy for me see it for what it is—distraction, boredom, highlighting a need to connect with people—and therefore respond appropriately.

It circles right back around to the last article I wrote—how to be in relationship while single. Now, however, there’s a new nuance to add to that way of being: how to desire that which you don’t have with detachment.

Now it’s possible to be in relationship while being single and also to strongly desire a relationship while holding lightly to that desire, without letting it take you out of the present.

Indeed, holding light to a strong desire seems to be a powerful way to bring you more fully into the present—into the total reality of your being.

Yeah, I’d love to be in relationship. But I also love not being in relationship. Pre-thought experiment, I didn’t know that.

Paradoxically, opening to desire for relationship has cracked open my love for being single.

Now what to make of that?




Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr

Read 2 Comments and Reply

Read 2 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kara-Leah Grant  |  Contribution: 10,120