Depression burbled beneath the surface of my existence for much of my teenage years, trickling like a leaking roof into my early twenties.
As the storm raged on beyond shaky walls, I numbed the roars with heavily-poured vodka sodas (times eight), late night (early morning) McDonald’s excursions, and pizzas (meant for two) consumed by one. I ate and drank until my body hurt, stealing the thunder away from the heart that begged for love, recognition, new life, and healing.
I hid it well—the sadness and the overconsumption—by making it to class, maintaining good grades, staying social, and having been granted a reliable metabolism. Meanwhile, the rain continued to weather my soul.
Drop by drop, it filled a pot that eventually overflowed, leaving me broken and bruised on the floor, desperately trying to clean up the mess.
It was here, on my knees, on the cold tile, that I realized the burrito band-aids and rye remedies would no longer soothe my aching heart. In fact, I recognized that they were inhibiting me from growing into the life my heart and soul craved.
The heart roars in a language different from the one that speaks through these letters, typed upon this page. It rumbles when it is hungry, just as the empty stomach gurgles when it needs fulfillment. Often, we respond to such hunger pangs with the same course of action—a journey through the kitchen cupboard—regardless of which part of us is calling for nourishment.
Yet, if we sit and listen, we will come to realize that the way in which we fill our stomach will never heal our heart. If we sit and listen, we will learn to trust, once again, the inner voice that offers us a path to a creative, meaningful, and joyful life.
Pediatrician and meditation teacher Jan Chozen Bays outlines seven types of hunger in her book, Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. She refers to them by the part of us which calls for feeding: eye hunger, nose hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, cellular hunger, mind hunger, and heart hunger. I linger here, on the seventh hunger, as if I am reaching the seventh wonder of the world.
The world at question here is the one that lives within me; it is a world that lives within all of us.
Heart hunger, she explains, is nourished and fulfilled by intimacy. Intimacy is a close familiarity, a depth that radiates warmth, togetherness, and closeness. In our attempts to fill the desires of the heart, we may find ourselves developing intimate relationships with food, drugs, alcohol, video games, social media, and so forth.
While these may alleviate the symptoms of a ravenous heart, we might wake one morning to a bucket that has overflowed; we might wake to find ourselves craving something richer—a life more intimate. We are now in search of a tonic to unleash our true purpose and encourage the callings of our soulful and emotional lives.
We begin to ask deep questions on our search for self-expansion, new life, and purpose:
>> What do I feed myself when I feel emotionally imbalanced?
>> Do I use food, drugs, alcohol, or media to soothe my heart?
>> Am I comfortable being intimate with friends, family, and lovers?
>> Can I open myself to vulnerability in the pursuit of deep connection with myself, with others, and within society?
>> What are the fears that reside within the lagoons of my heart?
>> What wounds need acknowledgement and healing?
>> What callings need attention and dedication?
If we look at life as a whirlwind of energy, considering the fact that we move through each day with a set amount of this je ne sais quoi (call it matter, call it spirit), we come to realize that where we choose to expend it directly impacts our ability to contribute elsewhere. On a fundamental level, if we are busy consuming food in an effort to silence the pains and desires of our heart, we are quite literally expending our energy within the digestive system.
This is a natural part of life—food is a vital fuel source—but the necessity for balance is required if we wish to put spirit and matter into creating something that will nourish the heart. Likewise, if our mental and physical energy is bound predominantly to an online world, we lose stamina to create something beautiful, something meaningful, and something purposeful in this physical world.
When we respond to a roaring heart—a call for human connection, for healing, for creativity, or for communion with the natural world, for instance—using fuel that is meant to feed our physical bodies, we shift energy away from spirit, heart, and mind. When we unconsciously feed our requirement for intimacy with matter, we may experience a sense of satisfaction, yet have failed to dive into those aforementioned lagoons.
So it is here, knee-deep within the aftermath of a storm once raged, that we find ourselves yearning for greater connection to the hunger that calls from our heart and soul.
It is here that we find the possibility of feeding ourselves differently—the opportunity to nourish our physical bodies on a more conscious level, and our emotional and spiritual bodies on a more soulful and meaningful level.
It is within the depths of these waters that we find the courage to ask the questions we have pushed aside all these years:
What pain am I masking?
What healing needs to be done?
What type of life do I yearn for?
What, dear heart, are you hungry for?
Author: Gillian Sanger
Image: James Forbes/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Taia Butler