Right now is the perfect breeding ground for feelings of depression, anxiety, and all around negative feelings.
With this slow time that also happens to be really uncertain, most of our “hungry ghosts” are probably going crazy. We all have a personal relationship with our hungry ghost.
It is described in Buddhism as a realm of “being human.” Some of us are more under its control than others. When we feel afraid or away from our home (our soul), the hungry ghost comes in and takes over.
What does that look like?
For many of us, it looks like drinking to numb our feelings, eating for comfort, binge-watching Netflix to forget. I personally am having a hard time staying in shape. I am far more vulnerable to the chocolate cookie stash. I have even caught myself thinking these really negative thoughts like, “I can’t go out in public so I can just let myself go.” That, by the way, is the voice of the ego working with the hungry ghost to get you to fill the void.
I left my life living abroad in the tropics to come home because it felt sketchy being out there so far from home when Coronavirus turned into a pandemic. I miss my friends, my life, the beach, and the feeling of freedom. Being ripped away from that felt somewhat tragic to me. When I think about it, I feel sad, and I turn to food. The stress from getting home and the memories of a life I loved is the perfect storm for the hungry ghost to thrive in.
There is a Way Out
This time while most of us are at home is also a gift. I for one am going to accept the challenge that is upon me. I know that I can sink and eat emotionally or drink myself to sleep. I also know that there is something deeper that needs to be tended to. It is this deeper need that leaves me vulnerable to overeating, depression, and all those other brutal human emotions. I have the time to examine these pain points in me, these samskaras I have tried to heal with something outside of me.
Every time we are tested, we can look within and seek out what needs healing. The way out is and always has been mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be horrible either. It is an incredible tool that allows us to overcome things so easily. You don’t need to use willpower to be good to yourself. When you take a breath and acknowledge that you’re having a craving, that you feel compelled to eat or drink or watch kittens-getting-scared videos, you can take a moment. You can see what is really going on inside of you.
Dealing with Guilt: Second and Third Arrow of the Hungry Ghost
So of course, the first arrow within the hungry ghost realm is that you fell into the habit, compulsion, or addiction in the first place. Maybe you still eat the cookie or spend too much time on Facebook, but at least you took the first step of awareness. There are a few more things too. When you’re stuck in the hungry ghost realm, you’re going to eventually feel a sense of guilt. Be aware of that too.
Ask yourself, “What part of me feels guilty?”
The guilt itself is just as bad as the original action because if you let it take over, you are going to continue doing the same thing again. This is the third arrow you’re having to deal with in the cycle. You will beat yourself up and hate yourself for doing something you are trying not to do. What does this do?
It keeps you in the loop so you keep on doing it. Thing is, with this social distancing, you can’t run away like we usually do. Now is the time to face all of this. It’s highly likely that this hungry ghost realm exists in you from a long way back. You may not even remember why you’re triggered to feeling unsafe in certain situations. It could have become a habit for you from when you were a child. It can have so much control over you, it’s ruined relationships.
The hungry ghost isn’t just about eating ice cream to make yourself feel okay. You may break up with people if they make you feel a certain way. You may not be as successful as you wanted to be due to some compulsion you maintain because you’re avoiding something or trying to achieve something. Overworking, being a control freak, and trying to make people like you can all exist within the hungry ghost realm.
We will be forced to change ourselves. The hungry ghost is a way of describing how we seek out instant gratification when we feel a certain way.
Pay Attention to When Your Hungry Ghost Rears its Ugly Head
Pay attention when you get the pull to do something that could make you feel guilty later on. Find out what your triggers are and honor them when they arise. You might think of the past and cling on to memories that make you feel sad in the moment. Many of us miss freedom, so you aren’t alone.
Mourning the past can weaken your energy field, taking you away from yourself and causing you to attempt to fill yourself up with instant gratification. Don’t get sidetracked by what could happen in the future or what’s happening in the past. This can cause a lot of triggers. However, when things come up, just take the time to be aware.
Choose your actions wisely and be curious about what’s going on in your mind. You have probably never had this much time to question your existence. If you’re willing to go into the depths of yourself to uncover your layers, you will be free of falling into bad habits or behavioral patterns.
Be with yourself and touch your heart space whenever a craving comes on. Even better, hold space for yourself when you don’t feel good. Then you’re likely to intercept the trigger before it can take place.