We were never meant to be completely fulfilled; we were meant to taste it, to long for it, and to grow toward it. The secret to living life as it was meant to be is to befriend our yearning instead of avoiding it, to live into our longing rather than trying to resolve it, to enter the spaciousness of our emptiness instead of trying to fill it up.
~ Gerald May
I can’t get hungry ghosts out of my mind. People who, despite all they have, want more; have an insatiable desire or craving. We live in times where it seems we are being invited to participate in global community. A gathering of kindred spirits. A better understanding that our family is the human family, and that when one suffers, we all suffer. We may be overdue to level the playing field. Americans have guarded and defended and provisionally enjoyed the lion’s share long enough. The global shakedown of ’08 has shown us, more than at any other time in memory, how and from what humility is born. Not a concept any longer, it becomes real the moment we recognize the nature of the lives of most of the planet’s inhabitants. We have consumed and gobbled up more than our share of the world’s resources – and still, we are left wanting more. A nation of Hungry Ghosts – entities with huge bellies and necks as narrow as pins. Consequently we collectively remain in a state of constant craving; unable to gulp down enough to fill that cavernous space within.
This past couple of years I have worked with my own Hungry Ghost energy. I’m not a person who craves so much as I am a person who shares. But food has always been my weakness – I love cooking and love eating good, wholesome food. I love it so much in fact that I have a hard time stopping before I’m filled to the brim. And so I’ve been cleaning up my act; getting my body in shape. As I approach sixty, I want the best quality of life possible. If I have an excess of flesh, that indicates to me that my system is overloaded; toxic. Time then, to listen deeply to the fragile house of my spirit and get on board with its agenda rather than simply that of my desire. The body has its own profound sagacity, if I can but attune to it.
What I have learned has turned my life around. But it’s not something I can share. It’s not because I’m stingy or want to write a best seller. Instead I’ve discovered at this stage of life that each body is unique, just like our personalities. What works for me may not work for others. There is no one-size-fits-all, though the barrage of diet books and advertisements that glut the media would have us believe otherwise. Instead I have discovered profound soundness in the somewhat complex system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I remember a Chinese doctor saying to me that many Asians suffer from deprivation, but that Americans generally suffer from conditions of excess. At that time, maybe five or six years ago, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what he was saying. I guess I wasn’t ready to hear it.
Americans seem always in motion, trying to fill each minute of each day with something, anything – to avoid the longing and emptiness Gerald May speaks of. I realize that, with all good intentions, we Westerners try and quell our existential emptiness with things; with food; with substances. We even try and cure disease by adding more: vitamins, minerals, supplements of all kinds – when what would be kinder to the body – what might well eliminate many of our ills and diseases – is likely less of everything we are conditioned to want most. The plus is, we can have more of the stuff that really matters. Less food, more exercise. Less television and computer time, more reading and human interaction. Less talking, more listening. Less action, more reflection. Less taking and more giving. Less craving, more quality of life. And in that, dear readers, you are invited to discover a wellspring of wisdom.