The fear of emptiness.
The reflection that I am less than I might have been.
The fear of missing out.
Desperate grasping. The longing. The search. Trying to be satisfied, to end the emptiness.
Looking for the next experience. The next insight. The next deepening in the relationship. The next spiritual teaching that would be IT.
This is my hungry ghost.
Hungry ghost is a concept in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way. The term appears in Tantra to reflect moments in which we display those intense emotional needs and pursue them. The mind believes that a desire exists to be satisfied. Not achieving satisfaction leads to suffering for the moments we are hungry ghosts. Dr Gabor Mate, an expert in addictions, describes them as “The Realm of the Hungry Ghost” in his book of the same title.
I faced the ghost and fed it to Kali.
The cure to existential loneliness? The beautiful glorious inner void. The next experience? Watching all emanate from the creative force. Longing that can’t be filled? Returning to the sense of presence.
It sounds like hocus pocus. It sounds like more spiritual double talk. It sounds like BS. I know. To the Hungry ghost, it is.
If you ask who you truly are, and if you settle into your own nothingness, this all becomes self evident truth. It all stops for a delicious moment of peace and freedom.
I proudly call myself “the AND person”: if I am presented with cake OR ice cream, I choose cake AND ice cream. If I can’t decide between two scarves, I buy them both. If you can’t decide between two things, I buy them both for you as a gift. And I celebrate deeply the abundance in that.
But recently I have uncovered an ego pattern in that behaviour. It is true I am generous. It is true I am abundant. And what is also true is that I hate being restricted.
I do not like being told what to do. I don’t like turning something down – when might the opportunity arise again? I really don’t like not having what I want. Now.
It sounds like a petulant child when it is expressed like that. And I have acted like a petulant child before when someone (usually a partner or an authority figure) tells me not to do something.
I was so clear that being AND was freedom; yet it is how I protect myself from feeling trapped. In tantra, this is a form of possession. It is holding on to a belief that is so false that I cannot see the truth of my being.
I am going to miss “AND”. It will still be part of celebration and generosity. Now that I have seen it trick me into feeling free of restriction, it will never be the same again.
As 8 year olds will do, my daughter started to complain about being disappointed by stuff. This wouldn’t bother me except she had received a Wii U and we had gone swimming for a few hours – big treats to her. When she complained about her Dairy Queen Blizzard, I lost it. I told her she needed to understand appreciating what she has and being in a place of gratitude. I “grounded” her and said I would not spend money on her for anything for a week so she could practice appreciating what is.
She cried for a long time. When she calmed down enough to talk, she was upset about being grounded – she was ashamed of that term. I said she didn’t need to be grounded if she could find a way to demonstrate gratitude.
“How about I try a contest and go for a week without you buying me anything?” , she offered.
I laughed as she proposed the exact thing I had grounded her with. But without the punishment aspect to it, she could welcome the exercise. She just didn’t want a mark on her inner permanent record!
“Deal,” I said. And I have never had to prompt her to keep this commitment all week. She has looked forward to the week ending and has been proud of finding things to appreciate.
Applying Realization to Relationships
Many spiritual seekers have had glimpses of the absolute unity of all existence, but few are capable of or willing to live up to the many challenging implications inherent in that revelation. The revelation of perfect unity, that there is no other, is a realization of the ultimate impersonality of all that seems to be so very personal.
Applying this realization to the arena of personal relationships is something that most seekers find extremely challenging, and is the number one reason why so many seekers never come completely to rest in the freedom of the Self Absolute. Inherent in the revelation of perfect unity is the realization that there is no personal me, no personal other, and therefore no personal relationships. Coming to terms with the challenging implications of this stunning realization is something that few people are willing to do, because realizing the true impersonality of all that seems so personal challenges every aspect of the illusion of a separate, personal self. It challenges the entire structure of personal relationships which are born of needs, wants, and expectations. […]
This is the challenge, to let your view get this vast, to let your view get so vast that your identity disappears. Then you realize that there is no other, and there is nothing personal going on. Contrary to the way the ego will view such a realization, it is in reality the birth of true love, a love which is free of all boundaries and fear. To the ego such uncontaminated love is unbearable in its intimacy. When there are no clear separating boundaries and nothing to gain the ego becomes disinterested, angry, or frightened. In a love where there is no other, there is nowhere to hide, no one to control, and nothing to gain. It is the coming together of appearances in the beautiful dance of the Self called love.
To the seeker who is sincere, an experiential glimpse of this possibility is not enough. If you are sincere, you will find it within yourself to go far beyond any glimpse. You will find within your Self the courage to let go of the known and dive deeply into the Unknown heart of a mystery that calls you only to itself.
–Adyashanti, in “The Heart of Relationship”
Lately, my 8 year old has taken to sneak attack hugs. We can be walking or sitting, and there is a kamakaze hug attack! I love it.
The other day, I went to morning yoga and really enjoyed the opening in my shoulders. I told my daughter I would be doing more because it made me feel healthy and strong.
Her face looked panicked. “But are you still going to be squishy? Please don’t make your body stop being squishy!”
To her, my round bits are comfort and love. They are a reflection of my heart. In truth, they also reflect my karma, my genetics, my choices, my issues, my joys and my potential.
In that moment, I promised her I would stay squishy. She loves my body. If I release any story generated by the media or any perveyers of control, I love my body too.
Unapologetically. Without justification or rationalization . I am beautiful. And I love my body.