Ohhh, this is a big one. I might have to serve up some legit yoga philosophy for this one.
But let’s start simple with something very unusual that has happened: I recently stopped having cravings. No food cravings. No alcohol or drug cravings. I am not having shopping cravings, nor entertainment cravings. I’m not craving sexy attention from men. And I keep forgetting to wear makeup.
This is strange because I am usually in some kind of craving-based relationship with food… quietly wishing I were stuffing my face with a bagel with lots of fresh cream cheese, or a chocolate molten lava cake, or a cheeseburger with caramelized onions, or a warm wheel of brie paired with a crumbly baguette…
If not food I am often craving an earthy glass of cabernet, or just a small puff off a ladylike spliff. Or I might find myself craving (and purchasing) several pairs of new heels online, justified because the guy I’m dating is only an inch or so taller than me so “I need lower heels.” Obviously.
And let’s be honest, you don’t write an entire book about masterful flirtation if you haven’t regularly craved that rush when someone becomes smitten with you.
This may sound sad, but the strangest of all of these is the forgetting to wear makeup. To go out without mascara on is kind of like forgetting to wear pants in my world. Mascara is the pants for my self-esteem.
We all crave according to the particular needs (or should I say weeds) of our senses. But what we rarely question is the mechanism of craving itself. Why do you crave? Why do you intensely desire things you really don’t need?
Actually, this goes beyond don’t need, your cravings are often detrimental to your survival: foods that take a toll on your health, pointless clothing items that drain your bank account, intoxicants that tax your organs, romantic attention from people that you don’t actually like so you wind up having to sage your entire apartment after you’ve giggled them out the door… trips and technology and forms of transportation that are rapidly sapping the earth of its resources – the same resources our species needs in order to survive.
I’m not preaching here, I’m just saying – isn’t this whole craving thing a little suspicious? Something is most definitely rotten in Denmark. And by Denmark I mean our fucking heads.
Now let’s get back to yoga philosophy. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is my ultimate reference for all things awakening. 196 short phrases that altogether encapsulate what it means to be a liberated human being.
These are the sutras that seem relevant here:
1.15 Dispassion is the controlled consciousness of one who is without craving for sense objects, whether these are actually perceived, or described.*
1.16 The highest level of dispassion, leading to self-realization, takes place when the aspirant is free from all forms of “thirst,” … **
These sutras are where I first caught wind of the possibility of being without craving, or “thirst”. But if you’ve ever tried to force yourself to stay away from that tub of cookie dough ice cream in the fridge, or the sexy home-wrecker you’re lusting after, you know that you cannot simply stop your cravings. Your cravings will torment you endlessly until you give in. And if you don’t give in, you will likely be living in a perpetual state of psychosomatic blue balls.
So how is it possible to live without cravings?
This is where living on the edge comes in. The irrefutable truth is that you are unfathomably extraordinary. You are packed with energy, intelligence and creativity. You are brilliant and your brilliance is a force that must be fed. The way to feed it is to function at the edge of your potential on a regular basis. And if you don’t, your body gets really confused.
If you don’t live/create/function on the edge, those healthy urges to engage and evolve will atrophy and rot. They will become ingrown and infectious. You will then start to seek cheap pleasures and second-rate thrills as substitutes for the rich satisfaction of existing at your edge in this life.
If you have already committed the ultimate offense – that of turning away from your own ever-expanding nature, you will seek out the leftover pleasures you can easily score. You have already lost, so you may as well snort up the scraps you can sniff out. This is when the cravings kick in and you start stuffing yourself with whatever your senses desire. Hello brie wheel!
Well, at least that’s what happens to me. Perhaps I’ll write more on living at your edge tomorrow…
*Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant
**From Yoga International website
Photo: Toa Heftiba