Many times we feel a sense of discomfort in the moment, especially when we are not overly busy or we have some spare time.
We may not know why, but a sense of lack, of wanting, of emptiness appears in our hearts.
When that happens, what most people do is jump into the phone and start scrolling, reading, chatting.
The phone is certainly very useful, and I have nothing against it, but a lot of the time we don’t really need it, but we use it only as a way to get away from the emptiness, that sense of discomfort we feel in our hearts.
If our phone isn’t available (and this happens less and less in our times) we talk to people. Again, nothing wrong with talking, quite the opposite, it is beautiful we can communicate with another human being. Even dolphins can communicate with each other, even if in very rudimentary ways, and we find it amazing that they can do that. Our capacity to communicate is so much more developed than that of dolphins…but most of the time we misuse that amazing gift and talk even if we have nothing important or even necessary to say. We talk only to get away from the emptiness we feel inside.
And if we have nobody to talk to, we just get lost in our thoughts, in worrying, planning, remembering, just thinking, thinking, thinking in an almost interminable loop of thought after thought after thought.
I often mention these ways of escaping from the experience of the moment.
But I want to draw attention to one more thing that we do to avoid those moments of silence, especially in our time and age: we use food, we eat or drink as a way to escape that sense of emptiness.
And this is so hurting!
Of course, everything I mentioned before also hurts us – the unnecessary use of the phone, the tongue or the mind to escape from silence is hurting–, but in more subtle ways. But using excessive food is obviously and clearly hurting our body and our mind. We truly need to learn to stop using food as a way to get away from our problems and difficulties.
All these ways we use to escape that sense of lacking do nothing to solve the problem, but with food we also have the side effect of gaining weight and ruining our health! It is a lose-lose situation: we hurt ourselves, and it does nothing to help at all!
Yes, for a moment, for a very short moment, we feel some peace.
But very soon after, guilt may appear, regret, disappointment about oneself, shame or, if none of these are obvious, for sure we will have given fuel to the chain of addiction.
What is addiction but a very (apparently) innocent act of using a substance in order to escape from an unpleasant feeling? Like in the case of food, we feel an uncomfortable sensation in our chest, and we try to cover that feeling with something that gives us pleasure, like a pastry or a piece of chocolate or a drink etc. And when we do that, for that short moment, the unpleasant sensation goes away and we feel good. But, unless we are very aware of the mechanism, the brain will record that pleasant sensation as a way out of pain and will keep it in its records.
Next time, when we feel a similar uncomfortable sensation, the brain will remember what we did last time, and the desire for a similar pastry, chocolate or drink will be generated in our mind; and then again, and again, and again – and before we are even aware of what is actually happening, we are hooked in that particular habit, in that particular addiction.
Of course it can be food, but it can be anything else as well (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, overwork, sex, partying, negativity), anything that will allow us to get away from that uncomfortable feeling even for a few moments.
Now, is there a way out?
When that uncomfortable sensation appears, instead of going for the substance, allow, permit, and even embrace the uncomfortable sensation. We can learn to bear these painful feelings we find in ourselves. They are not so terrible. I mean, a toothache can be much worse, and many times, if we cannot reach a dentist right away, we bear the pain.
But when it comes to this pain in the heart, we don’t want to bear it at all and we want to get rid of it immediately.
This is the practice, this is yoga.
In general, we think of yoga as moving the body, training the body, stretching and strengthening the body, and for sure this is an aspect of it, but to me the real yoga is connection and, in this case, is connection with this uncomfortable feeling we notice in our heart.
Let it come, let it be there.
Yes, it is not easy, I know from experience that it is not easy at all, but I also know from experience that it is much worse to try to cover it.
When we are in a hurry, which for most people is most of the time, to try to get rid of the unpleasant sensation in the shortest and simplest of ways (using a substance like food) seems to be the way to go, but sooner or later we need to see and clearly understand that it is much more painful to cover it with something that clearly does not help, than to give it some time and stay with it.
When that uncomfortable sensation comes, and it will come, don’t reach for the substance*, whatever that substance may be.
Instead, stop for a moment, breathe and stay with the sensation. It will not be easy, it will not be pleasant; to help you, you can bring into mind how much more unpleasant and painful is to be enslaved by addictions…
Courage is necessary.
Understanding is a must.
And, as important as these, we also need trust.
Courage, understanding, trust are tools we need to bring from our hearts when these painful sensations appear.
And this is why a quiet mind is so useful.
Stay with the unpleasant sensation, allow it, give it permission to express itself, embrace it; sometimes in those moments it may feel quite difficult, painful, even like something really bad could happen to you…
But I promise you, it is not.
Quite the opposite.
This exercise is not only saying no to the substance, but especially opening the door for the recognition of Being**.
Yes, right underneath that sense of emptiness we feel in the heart, that sense that pushes us to the substance, right under that unpleasant sensation, if we give it time, space and silence, we can find Being, we can find that ground of existence which is the source for true peace, true satisfaction, true meaning.
Exactly because we don’t recognize Being, exactly for that and not for other reason (even if there seem to be many other reasons) the sense of emptiness arises in our heart.
Discovering Being is the ‘magic pill’ we are all looking for.
* at least not immediately; even if you are going to eat or drink or whatever it is that you want to do, don’t do it immediately after the need appears, but take some time, from a few seconds to a few minutes, before you give in to the need. The need appears, and before you go for it, stop, take a few moments, take a few deep breaths, notice that sense of lack in your heart, bring light into it, and then, if you still want to, go for the food, the drink or whatever it is that you want. Repeat this every time these kinds of needs appear.
** See this note: Find Being