This is the draft intro to my next book, The Well-Fed Ghost: TK Ways to Nourish Your Hungry, Hungry Heart. I really like it. So I decided to share it. Love to know what it means to you, how it strikes you, what your experience is in satisfying your soul needs.
The yearning to connect, to belong, to be fulfilled, to feel substantial, we all have it. It’s
universal. It’s inborn. It’s the human condition.
All the same, that deep ache can be mystifying. Painful. Confusing. Baffling. Even
infuriating. But while such a powerful need can be difficult to accept and manage, it is also
a gift. It is an invitation to open a passage through which life’s infinite, eternal goodness and power can flow. The craving to be filled up is the portal through which the healing wind, the soothing water, the sustaining light can enter and bring us back to the sanity, safety, health and wholeness that is our birthright.
Mystifying but true: It can be hard to embrace this yearning, answer its call and accept its gift.
What we might think of as real life gets in the way. We fall into entertainment, distraction and comfort-seeking. That too is human nature, often exacerbated by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, particularly in our earliest years but also throughout the rest of life. Stuff happens. Dishes need to be washed, dogs walked, lunches packed, income earned. Childhood patterns bleed through to the present day and we react emotionally, creating or exacerbating all kinds of messes. People we love disappoint, betray or leave. And then there’s the larger world with all its currents of sorrow.
There is pain in life. Truly, I don’t know why. But fighting this unbeatable truth is not helpful. Battling reality merely squanders our limited energies. We can let our heartbreak obstruct the peace that surpasses understanding, or we can use it to open our hearts, souls and minds. The choice is a difficult one. But still, it is ours.
It’s natural to want to turn away, run, clench ourselves up tight and resist feeling the pain and seeing the truth that life on earth is always finite, often painful and sometimes brutal.
But by running away from the pain, we abandon ourselves. And we miss the miracles that not only mitigate suffering, but also, if we will only open our eyes, overpower it.
It’s quite natural to recoil from pain. That’s part of our innate survival system. If it hurts when you do that, don’t do that. It’s natural to want to run away. Trouble happens when we make an identity out of comforts, earthly acquisitions and achievements. The job, the house, our own status and the status of family and friends, these things become idols. We let them define us.
It’s also quite natural to take for granted the easy parts, the simpler times. To skate along on the surface of things, taking advantage of opportunities, doing what needs to be done. There’s a risk, though, of never feeling into the larger, invisible, ineffable something that creates, energizes and unites us.
But when we let things of the world control and define us, we are suckling at an empty teat. There is no mother’s milk in things of the world. Play with them, says Eckardt Tolle, spiritual teacher and author of the Power of Now, but don’t make an identity out of them. They are not us.
My income and assets and job title and family status are not me. They are tools of my earthly life, yes, and outcomes of my worldly actions. They are part of how my body, my current soul-container, survives and thrives. But I let them define me at the risk of emptiness, frustration, depression, loneliness and an ever-escalating anxiety that whatever I’m doing is not filling me up, not satisfying me, not nourishing me.
The call is always there. Always. It’s innate, inborn. Developmental psychologists tell us this querying emerges in children around four or five no matter how they are raised and taught as a need to understand where they came from and why they are here.
We avoid the call at our own risk. For many of us, our evasions turn into, at the very list, bad habits. At worst, they become killing, insanity-breeding addictions. We are driven to seek comfort and escape in drugs, food, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex, TV watching, email checking, web surfing, work, busy-ness, controlling people and situations. We look to these things to rescue us from our pain, our past, our frustrations and disappointments.
And for awhile we may find it. Then our comfort and escape sources and substances seek us, stalk us, track us down and demand to be serviced. What was first an attempt to deal with life’s pain becomes a source of pain in and of itself. We are perpetually shut down emotionally, physically and spiritually. The addiction takes us over until finally it shuts us down for good. We either live in ever increasing insanity, or as our body gives out, in misery until we die before our time.
That’s no way to live. Instead of running to hide where the hurts may be temporarily eased but are ultimately inflamed, you need to feed your soul.
I mean, really feed it. Put every single thing in your life, bar nothing, into honoring the call to something greater than yourself. Accessing that deep well, the God that, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in the book Eat, Pray, Love, “lives in you as you.”
It’s a job, for sure. When I first began to learn about soul nurture, I was 38 years old, pregnant with my third son and completely clueless that to mother my children I had to mother myself abundantly, unreservedly, and first.
Self-care? When my mentor first explained this to me, there in her sunny solarium, all I heard was gibberish. Her words made as much sense as if she’d been speaking a language I didn’t speak. As if her lips were moving but no sense was coming out.
But I was desperate. Running on empty was no longer working. I wasn’t the kind, strong person I wanted and needed to be. I was parched, lonely, afraid and had started to act in ways I and my family did not like and would not and should not tolerate.
Slowly I learned. It really is true that you need to fill yourself up before you can put yourself out there. The more I gave myself a break, softened my heart, prioritized differently, identified needs and asked to have them filled, the more strength and power I felt. You can’t draw on an empty bank account, drive on a dry gas tank, or do a day’s work with an hollow belly.
This was a new kind of strength, not born of bluff, bluster, anger and aggression, but of kind, powerful, gentle strength and love. As if some great wisdom could now flow through me, taking care of me, taking care of my responsibilities, and, most important of all, showing the love for my family that I felt but was unable to fully express.
It was not easy. It is not easy. I still have to remember, and re-remember, to attend my own needs with as much grace and generosity as I would a needful loved one. Some of us were taught to loathe self-centeredness. And for sure, there is a kind of bratty me-me-me attitude that cannot see the rest of the world and wouldn’t care if it could. That’s a kind of selfishness that’s full of greed and blindness to compassion.
That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about softening and receiving compassion for yourself, that you might live the life your creator wants for you, and be a presence to those you love and serve.
Self-nurture is where love as an adult begins. It’s important to receive all the abundance and miracles that are around us, from our family and friends, our beautiful environment, from nature and artists and just breathing in and breathing out.
But it starts with how you treat you.
No one is like you. No one can do or say what you can say. What matters most is not what you have or do. What matters most is who you love and how.
The Well-Fed Ghost is the sequel to The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. Find more inspirational suggestions in other blogs at gayedelman.com. You can also sign up to receive the blog as an email newsletter.