In the Listen class this week, we’re exploring our relationship with cravings – befriending their energy and the cry, underneath them, for help.
Cravings can be such fierce things, and we can shy away from their appearance. And yet cravings, at their root, are what I call a prayer in disguise.
If I had to define cravings, I would do it this way: as a feeling, impulse, or bodily sensation that arises in the body for some substance or activity to hold, protect, nurture, accompany, and care for us.
They are a cry for help – some part of us whispering – or shouting – please help me, please hold me, please care for me. I feel overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do.
Often, what drives a craving is unknown but felt.
They can be tied to implicit memory – the memory that lives in our bodies but that lies below our conscious awareness. Cravings can also arise when our systems become stressed and overwhelmed and our resources, at that moment, feel insufficient to care for this distress.
It’s understandable why we shy away from cravings, feel ashamed of them, or try to control them. They carry such vulnerability with them.
The good news is that we don’t have to know where a craving comes from – or even why we’re craving – to care for them.
Cravings, when viewed through a lens of mercy, are opportunities to bring more nourishment, care, tenderness, listening, safety, warmth, and understanding to places within us that feel alone.
When they awaken in our bodies, it’s the very opportunity that our brains and nervous systems need to transform painful implicit memories and to nurture new pathways. For when our pain is met with holding and care, these fragmented places are no longer isolated, and alone.
Their appearance, although uncomfortable, is a primary way we can nurture healing in our hearts, bodies, brains, and nervous systems: where our being can be wrapped in greater and deeper compassion and love.
If there’s one last encouragement I can offer this morning about cravings, it is this: we do not need to feel and care for them alone. Often, when pain is unbearable, what’s needed is support, a greater holding so that we can care for the pain together.
If we’re going to serve tea in our Guest House, as Rumi says, to the many flavored guests that arrive, we may need someone – a loved one, a tree, a pet, the Friend – to sit and have tea with us.
My hope is that we may turn to these cries for help with the holding and care that they seek: that no place within is exiled outside the arms of love.
I will close today with a poem, what arose in my being as I contemplated my own relationship with craving. May every place inside you that aches for wholeness be welcomed in a warm, tender embrace. For there is no pain that is outside of the bonds of love.
Ode to Craving
Oh hurting one
for the ways
I brushed you aside
Pretended you were not there
Felt the hard coil of dread
The flood of pain
And soldiered on, fierce and fallow.
It was all I knew how to do.
To bear what was unbearable
Until I crumpled under its weight
Swallowed in the warm soft belly of food.
I long to come closer
To enfold you within something larger.
But you, pain – sometimes you feel so large,
and I, so small.
Hurting one, hear me:
Help me to soften
To sink into arms that hold you.
Help me to know: you are no longer alone.
As I am no longer alone.
That small one is held.
Help me to know:
This pain will not break me, but sings –
clear, and kind, and free.
*** Artwork: Healing Layers.