Do you know what the Hungry Ghost is? It’s a figure that was conjured up by the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tibetan Buddhists. Each has their own narration about this ghoulish creature and he may take on different forms depending on who is telling the story. But long story short, he is in our psyche and governs our desires.
In Tibetan Buddhism, he has a big belly with a tiny little throat. The message here is that he struggles to feed and is never fulfilled. I think most of us can identify with that in some way. For example, if you’re feeling miserable and you eat something to fill that void, did it work? Probably not. So we can look to the Hungry Ghost as a metaphor. He is most alive when we are far from our own heart space. Here is a deeper look into the Hungry Ghost and how you can free its grip on you.
The root of the hungry ghost
The Hungry Ghost can be described as the compulsion or addictions you have to do certain actions or think certain thoughts. He is in charge of your desires. Some of these desires you have are not socially accepted — like alcoholism or abusing drugs. Some go under the radar like being a control freak or working out too hard. It isn’t the action that is the issue, it’s the underlying reason for the action.
Doing yoga or Crossfit on a daily basis is a great way to stay in shape. However, when you obsessively take part in these activities because you can’t face something in your life, the Hungry Ghost is playing a part here. Anything you do, yearning for some kind of ‘feeling’ is taking you away from the point. The point is, we should feel fulfilled just because. Not because we are successful, skinny, in control of our diet, or are getting lots of attention. All of these things can fall away because they’re not really what makes you who you are.
It gives us false security. When needs aren’t met in our lives, the nice act of yoga can become deeply compulsive and mentally unhealthy. When we feel at home with ourselves and our bodies, the Hungry Ghost won’t have such a grasp on you. To be clear, the Hungry Ghost is very often referred to in the field of addiction. When it gets to this point, the little beast will have you looking for your fix as a full-time job. This is the worst-case scenario, as he can completely take over your life. By not tending to your true needs, the compulsions can become addictive.
Quieting the ghost
You don’t have to let the Hungry Ghost take over. You can gently take your life back in a few ways. By reading this article, you may start to identify with what your Hungry Ghost feeds on. Think about your habits, compulsions, any addictions you might have, and behaviors that occur from underlying negative feelings. Write them down. Try to get to the bottom of what emotions are attached to the behaviors.
Think of it as an opportunity. When he becomes active, which is to say, you take actions that aren’t healthy because of a feeling you’re avoiding, instead look at the feeling. Maybe you want to go into meditation more often an inquiry what’s going on when you do certain things. The Hungry Ghost is there for a reason. You have put him there because you had an experience that conjured up pain, loss, confusion, and fear. You let the scar sit with you and cover it up with unhealthy ways of being.
Free yourself and live
Do all of this with full acceptance, with an open heart to whatever comes up. You can free yourself of the compulsions. Even if the world views what you do as a great success, you know within yourself whether you’re happy or not. A great example is the workaholic. If they do it to avoid life, they may get a reward for doing so. Deep inside though, they aren’t passionate about what they’re doing. Burn out and realization will eventually come to the surface.
When the burn outcomes and the emotions bubble up, there is the opportunity to say that enough is enough. The workaholic can move onto more passionate work or repress everything down once again and let the Hungry Ghost continue controlling. Happiness won’t really ever exist when this is done. It’s a sad story, don’t let it be yours.
Looking in may seem scary but feeling freedom within your body and mind is the ultimate way to live.