A few weeks ago I posted some quotes from the book Happy Yoga I am reading for my RYT (registered yoga teacher) training I begin this fall. Besides from helping me get into a yogini mind set, it has helped a lot with my recovery and made for some great therapy sessions. Recently, I read a part that talks about being a hungry ghost. Not just being a hungry ghost but living in a real hungry ghost realm. The section was short and sweet and to the point and really stops to make you think: am I a hungry ghost?
“If you were a king in India, the first thing your spiritual teacher would warn you about is the most common pitfall of all pitfalls, the easiest to slip into, and the most difficult to drag yourself out of: the hungry ghost realm. This is a term used by both yogis and Buddhists to describe a place-or a state of mind- where beings wander and dart, never seeing one another, never taking anything in, never enjoying the moment, always mulling become consumed by their mulling over the future or the past, and always feeling very alone, despite being surrounded by other hungry ghosts exactly like themselves. Hungry ghosts are possessed by desire. If they see something they think they can’t have, they immediately become consumed by their lust for it. It is not a realm of having. As soon as something is acquired, it’s immediately ignored and wasted. A hungry ghost wouldn’t even be aware of having, because once a thing is had, a new want arises and consumes every nook and cranny of the now even hungrier ghost’s being. There’s no room for having when you’re full of wants. Hungry ghosts are constantly wondering, ‘What’s next?’
A hungry ghost’s mind and identity has become consumed by a long list of desires. There’s always something more to jones after. A hungry ghost would be the last being to see itself as a hungry ghost, because it still believes strongly in the appearances of the phenomenal world-a world that seems to be full of promises. The promises, however, always fail to deliver satisfaction. Like a drug addict or a compulsive gambler, the hungry ghost is oblivious to this seemingly obvious pattern. Nothing is ever good enough once they get it, and everything is perfect when it’s just out of reach. The hungry ghost’s main attribute is absolutely insatiable desire-constant and relentless wanting and craving.
Hungry ghosts typically get caught in a downward spiral of want, lack, and poverty. This is a major problem if you’re a yogi aspiring toward a higher, more profound experience of life. Energy, attention, and awareness-the keystones of a yoga practice-are consumed with wanting, leaving you stuck wresting with the everyday superficialities of life. Having, on the other hand, requires much less attention and energy. Once you are no longer desperately seeking satisfaction, but feeling satisfied, the world will do everything it can to further satisfy you. It delivers itself to you on a platter. Having can take you to a place of maturity where you can deal with deeper questions of existence and attain enlightenment.”
Tough isn’t it? What does it make you think? Are you a hungry ghost? Were you at one point a hungry ghost?
I know that living with an eating disorder makes you a hungry ghost. And no, not just because you are hungry, but because an ED consumes you. Instead of a material want, you crave perfection/attention/numbness etc…An eating disorder life dulls you out from life. All you can think about is your next food fix or your next exercise session or the next laxative you are going to take. All you can think about is how skinny you look, how skinny do you look, do others know I am hurting, do others think I have an eating disorder? All you can think about is how close to being perfect one more day of starving, or one less calorie consumed can bring you to. How can you enjoy life when all you do is the forementioned?
In college I was a super hungry ghost. I enjoyed some moments, but there are more moments that Melvin (my ED for new readers) took from me than he gave me. Looking back I wish I had went to more parties instead of not going since they weren’t in my color coded schedule. That I participated more in groups. That when I went to my dance intensives I spent more time focusing on my dancing and not what I am not eating/am I eating enough/how I suck compared to the dancer on my left/drink more wine on top of that mountain at midnight, let others know who I am, be more friendly, lived each and every moment like a beat in a song. That when I did go out, I didn’t worry about how many calories were in my beer and how fat I looked, that I could just dance and drink and live life. When I went to dinners and picked around, when I had to lie about my eating situation, when parties made me nervous because of food. All of this is just a few!
And with no food in my system I had the head blurries so I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t focus on the prettiest rose, smell the Christmas tree, look up at the sky and take in God’s creation. I did occasionally, but not as much as I needed to. In yoga class, it was a competition. I had to do the best push ups, the most advance postures, I couldn’t do corpse pose and meditate (still difficult for me, I think I am up to ten minutes of relaxing. WOW!) just because my mind was consumed with everything else but the present moment.
Nothing was ever good enough because I thought I wasn’t good enough. My disordered thoughts made me believe (and still make believe when I am not careful), that there is always more. But more being skinnier. More being people pleasing. More being self-indulgent. More being self-harming. More being perfection. More being a bigger pile of anxiety. More Melvin and less Leslie.
As I move on in life with my therapy sessions and when I start yoga school, healing can begin more fully and I become even more aware of living in the moment. That I can clear my mind, rid myself of self-concept, have more Leslie and less Melvin, and most of all…never be a hungry ghost again.
Peace, Namaste, and God bless!