While the desire for transformation is natural, noble, and honorable, if we are not careful it can serve as a powerful reminder and expression of the painful realities of materialism and self-abandonment. One of the shadow sides of seeking and the (seemingly) endless project of self-improvement is that we never slow down enough to digest what we have already been given, which is often much more than we consciously realize. Which, in some sense, is everything.
Not the “everything” the mind thinks it needs to be happy and fulfilled, found by way of a journey of internal and external consumerism. Not the “everything” that conforms to our fantasies of power, control, “mastery,” and safe from the possibility that our heart can break and our world can reorganize anew in any moment. But the “everything” that is already here as part of our true nature, the raw materials for a life of purpose and meaning, revealed by way of slowness and humility, not unconscious acquisition.
In Tibetan tradition, there is an image of the hungry ghost, a figure of the imaginal realms with a large distended belly and tiny mouth. No matter how much food (experience) is consumed, there is a deep ache and longing for more. Regardless of how much is taken in there remains an insatiable hunger. Because this one is not able to make use of or enjoy what is given, a primordial hole is left behind which can never seem to be filled.
The invitation as this one appears is to slow way down and to send breath, awareness, and warmth directly into the hole, infusing it with curiosity and presence, and tend to what is already here, not what is missing and may come by way of further procurement.
To listen to the heartbeat within, the heartbeat of the earth, the heartbeat of the stars. To attune to the drum of the holy reverberating within a nervous system and body that is open, ripe, and sacred.
The willingness to fully digest our own vulnerability, tenderness, confusion, suffering, and joy is an act of love and fierce, revolutionary kindness. There are soul-nutrients buried in the food of our embodied experience that yearn to be integrated, metabolized, and assimilated in the flame of the heart. But this digestion requires the enzymes of presence, embodiment, and compassion, and a curiosity about what is here now.
May we all slow down and become mindful of the ways we seek to fill the empty hole in the center, whether it be with food when we’re not hungry or experience when we are already full. And in this way we can walk lightly together in this world, on this precious planet, not as hungry ghosts desperate to be fed, but as fellow travelers of interior wealth, richness, and meaning.
Photo of Krista Marleena by Tea J. Photography
My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available
The next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True
The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster