The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachment and Addiction – Tara Brach

Namaste and welcome in Buddhist cosmology there's a term that I think is really powerful and it's called the realm of the hungry ghosts It's a psychic realm and it's a description really of us in certain states and it's the beings inner depicted with these narrow narrow necks and these huge bellies which really are reflecting this endless desire for satisfaction and this incapacity to ever really be satisfied

the grasping and addiction that we we get caught up in so it's really that that space of living in that chronic sense of something's missing I need something more to be okay and i was reminded of this term because last weekend on Saturday night I spent about 15 or 20 minutes walking through a Sands Casino in Pennsylvania and you might wonder what was i doing in a casino and I was at a wedding and a lot of the guests were in that hotel so Jonathan and I decided we'd just have a sociological experience of our culture so we wandered through and the most notable thing to me – and it was packed on Saturday night – was that nobody was happy there was either this intense focus on being pumped up and this wanting you could feel or this kind of deflation or angry or in some way defeated there was very little eye contact possible I mean even couples that were there they weren't there together really you know one of them was on the machines and it was the land of hungry ghosts and it sounds extreme but when we're honest we realized that for many of us we live with a kind of non dissatisfaction – a kind of a disappointment that our lives aren't turning out the way we wanted and there's a sense of never arriving like we're trying to get somewhere and not and we're not there so can this hungry ghosts can have a whole range of degree, but along with that is that we have then patterns again chronic patterns on how we are trying to meet our needs and we use all these different substitute gratifications whether it's sugar, or approval seeking or our possessions and as we know, when we're doing that it's temporary fixes you know we feel we're on a roller coaster we feel better for a little bit but then the need is back there again so we have a lot of this hungry ghost energy that runs through many of us Some of you might remember one of my favorite kind of little essays on this kind of thing is called inner peace if you want to achieve inner peace you need to finish all the things you started so I looked around seeing all the things i had started hadn't finished so today, I finished one bottle of gin, bottle of red wine, a pint of Ben and Jerry's, my prozac and a large box of chocolates You have no idea how good I feel and how short we live that will be So this hungry ghost energy its fixates on substitutes but it can be really tenacious I remember a line from Woody Allen where he says, "i love this old watch you know it was my grandfather's

When he was on his deathbed, he sold it to me" I've shared that when i was in high school my introduction to buddhism was basically you need to let go of your attachments and not be caught and desire and I thought that meant that desire was bad and it was quite a number of years till I came back around to Buddhism But it was a misunderstanding and it's one that I see in a lot of people You see the teachings are not that desire is bad, in fact desire goes hand in hand with existing There's no existence without desire you wouldn't be here if it weren't for desire really and filling desire can be temporarily pleasant and not having to fill can be temporarily unpleasant but it's being caught that's the suffering

ok? it's the caught part of it – it's where there's a hook and we're going to look in our lives where we have that hook where there's a sense of I have to have this to be happy I have to have this to feel okay if life doesn't cooperate in this way it's really not okay when Thai forest monk Ajun Cha – very very well known – inspired a lot of this generation's teachers in the Western in Western Buddhism – it was known that he'd walk around his monastery and when he see one of the monastics looking like they're having a hard time he'd go up to them and say, "you must be very attached" and that was his comment you must be very attached and then the invitation would be okay where's the hook so I do think of our attachments and addictions when they reach the in a very strong locked in way as a flag and as a flag it's really a flag that we've left home it's a flag that our attentions energies are fixated outside ourselves and in some way we've we've pulled away from our own awareness and our own heart and if we can pay attention to where were stuck where most stuck if you can like really get it this is where I'm hooked and if we're willing to pay attention to deepen our attention than that very place of stuckness the hook actually becomes a portal to a very profound transformation and freedom and that's that's the promise so so this class what we'll do is we'll there'll be an inquiry and to where our attachments are addictions constructing our life force where for each of us and again it can get very very subtle the more you've been working on the spiritual path and deepening attention the more you find more and more very very subtle heart attack places where there are some holding on I think the best nutshell summary that was given a freedom is that to cling to nothing nothing at all whatsoever as line as me our mind so it's a non clinging it's a very alive one for me the particulars of talking about attachment addiction because my mother was an alcoholic and she stopped drinking when I was I think 18 and then that became her life work working in the field of alcoholism I had an eating disorder when I was younger I've had siblings and friends having every kind of possible addiction we can think of it's through the years working with students and as a therapist Most people when they start getting real with themselves find that they're hooked on something So it becomes part of our honesty in ourself awakening to get well what is that what's going on just out of curiosity I'm gonna do a hand raised thing happen if you feel like you kind of know your primary areas of attachment or addiction you're kind of on to yourself on that can receive our hands for those that are listening for fists like to share this with those that aren't in the room how many feel like you're consciously working in this area like you're really kind of trying to undo and loosen up yeah ok that's interesting so as I mentioned there's different degrees and so the first question let's just to ask is what actually is desire because it's considered this universal energy that all life desires to exist to flourish and I remember some years ago probably at four or five years ago I read a really interesting article in New York Times science section that described help mathematically perfect the balance universe couldn't exist in other words of matter and antimatter were exactly equal they cancel each other out ok but this is there was one of those demonstrations in the famiiy National Accelerator lab where they create that they created a little mini universe and and show how what happened right after the Big Bang and they feel in collisions that there is a slight about bias of certain elements in the electron to its charge opposite so there's this cosmically my miss killer leaning towards attraction so that rather than cancel each other out existence happens now my understand doesn't go any deeper than that but it's to me what with the intuition is is that formless being wants to manifest it's like the ocean wants to have waves and that the ocean knows itself through the appearance of waves that's my favorite way of describing it to myself that it's an intrical part of this whole universe that we awaken through for that through perceiving uniformed receipts than the ocean perceives itself to the ways we perceive what we are this awareness and love through forms so it's an organizing principle and desire takes on different dimensions of aliveness it takes on the dimension of the desire for food to connect with food and the Material Plane to be alive and sex and self-esteem and feeling safe and feeling bonded and self-realization and awareness itself there are different dimensions of desire what we yearn for so what turns desire into attachment in other words where where is that where do we get some hooks and stickiness in here the latin word for desire is de sitter ra and it means away from your star so when there is desire there's some sense of being away from home and a longing for homecoming and that feel that feels kind of intuitively true that I think of it that this r star is the energetic source of our being the awareness that's the source of our being and we have a longing to come home to our true nature to really rest in our wholeness so each dimension of desire from gross toques increasingly subtle express are the expressions of aliveness from the gross to the more and more subtle from wanting food to wanting the enlightened experience of awareness itself now the hook if our basic needs are not met for basic needs for food for security for bonding or not met then our attention narrows and fixates desire becomes fixated desire intensifies and the more on net needs the more we get fixing it until we call it attachment our addiction and some examples of this that they've seen with chimps that when there's poor bonding then the young chimp grows up not only to be very aggressive but that'd be a binge eater ok just it just that's what it is that's the sub to do gratification that's a primitive reward system and then with fruit flies and i found this from an article called sex and alcohol on a very small scale male fruit flies deprived of sex may turn to alcohol as a source of pleasure they did an experiment where they had two groups of mail fruit flies and one had sex the other was deprived of sex it's cruel cruel experiments era and the sexually deprived meals overwhelmingly selected the boozy brew they were given to either a normal mush or Rosie are a boozy mush and they drank four times as much as they're sexually satisfied brethren I love the way they write these articles under head but you get the idea that and and so you say okay so the unmet needs so what are the characteristics of attachment or suffering and there's a feeling of lack some things on Matt that something's missing and there is a mental delusion as to what will actually bring satisfaction and happiness that's where we hook onto substitutes that give temporary relief for pleasure but don't really solve the problem ok and uh and then when we grasp ok so there's a feeling of need a misperception of what's going to work and then a grasping onto the substitute just a comment on this delusion because it's really a pervasive feature of our psyche that we have ideas about what will bring us happiness and we're regularly wrong it's really interesting lottery winners are ultimately no happier than non-winners this everybody at the so that sense because you know it really didn't matter whether they're going to win or lose in terms of their happiness quotient it's not right away it takes some months to read it come back to your happiness set

as they described it paraplegics are usually as content as people can walk we intense we anticipate good things happen like a job offer a raise or even having a child make us happier and that bad things will make us more measurable and it's true we have spikes but it evens out so then we look at all so what are our common substitutes what it what are the things that most of us get hooked on and I won't spend a long time on it because you know they're mostly that when we're missing some sense of security our bonding maybe we'll go for accumulating well they're overworked and proving ourselves or maybe you know it will be on physical beauty or social status or power there's a little line that says when women get depressed they eat or shop and what manner to press the attack another country and how so one of the most pervasive false refuges our substitute gratifications I think of them as the same thing is this never-ending effort to try to improve ourselves – and it's not not the kind of improve ourselves of you know if you can really sensing the creativity and the knowledge we longed for but really a kind of like from a deficit I need to be a better person kind of striving there's a there's a cartoon I've always loved that has a dog on the psychiatrist's couch and he's saying to the psychiatrist you know it's always good dog this and the dog that what is it ever great dog and that's what goes on in US this is part of the hungry ghosts that so wanting to feel like we're good enough I mean if we're honest how many of us are really content and feel better enough again I'm not talking about the kind of impulse to manifest our true potential that's not what I'm talking about talking about the kind of internalize standards we have that make us think we should always look better do more be more now I've been naming socially condoned substitute and of course we all know that the more they there's unmet needs the more we get hooked on substitutes that are really really quite harmful in an over way whether that is a binge eating or drugs alcohol sexual compulsions gambling ok they're really difficult because to work with because and they also at their genetic tendencies toward some of these because the more we do it the more they create a whole cycle biology and us to keep them going and summer purely biological addictive so again but they're all unmet needs and like the chimps and like the fruit flies we can blame ourselves but it's conditioning we can say my lack willpower and I'm a bad person and we're going to talk about how we do that but it's conditioning so let's look at the suffering that comes from attachment because some of its really obvious like the suffering of losing a job in a marriage because you've been drinking too much for using cocaine but there's all different levels one level of the suffering is that we really don't get satisfied that the that there's never that sense of enough you might ask yourself how many moments in your life there's really not feeling like well you know I could die right now I mean this is the fullness and the enoughness this is it there's not that sense so there's that we can't get no satisfaction thing that it's like always wanting more story of a man on a California beach and deep prayer and says out loud lord please grant me one wish and the spy clouds over and booming voice comes well because you've tried to be faithful grant you one wish so the man says please Lord build me a bridge to Hawaii so i can drive over anytime I need two beautiful sights and alleviate the stress in my life Lord that you know that's a very materialistic kind of old request think the logistics you know to reach the to go over the Pacific the concrete and steel would take and so on very resource-intensive anyways take some time to think of another wish so then thought about for a long time finally said lord I wish that I could understand women I want to know what women really want how women can really be made happy and after a few moments God said you want two lands on that or four lands that have you know the acing that one drink may make you feel like a new person then the new person has to have a drink all right so it's like that wanting begets wanting is the idea and the the typical metaphor is it's like drinking salt water to satisfy thirst so that's one level of suffering we don't get satisfied the second i refer i alluded to a little bit before which is that along with be hungry ghost energy of wanting we have an aversion towards herself for that how many you have noticed the shame or self hatred that comes along with the want in mind how many of you have noticed that okay it's a little harder to raise your hand for in the Buddhist tradition we call it the second arrow the first arrow is i want i need i'm not satisfied and second arrow is I'm a bad person for wanting and needing and feeling I'm not satisfied it's the self aversion we pile on very very notable as part of the addiction cycle you know eat too much feel really really bad about yourself feel like such a bad person and feel so miserable that you eat more and then feel bad about yourself and it just keeps fueling the cycle ok so that's one other level of the suffering is the self version and then the last level on on them is when we're at our casino and we're really waiting to win or wanting to win and not quite there yet and it might be because we're seeking the approval are we're trying to in some way get something we don't have a job or whatever we're not present it's kind of like we're leaning forward wanting the next moment to contain with this moment does not and this is the heart of the suffering that comes with the hungry ghosts with wanting mind with addiction with attachment that we can be present we're on our way somewhere else and how many moments of our life this is some sense we're on our way to something rather than this moment counts second this right now listen this talk are we on our way to the hub of the talk or to the end of the talk or what we're doing later tonight or to the weekend it's such a deeply grooved habit to have some discontent and feel something's missing and that we need something more that we can skim over the surface and not really arrived and and taking the Sun satyr feel the wind on our cheek or see the the gleam in a child's eyes are here the child's laugh you know we're not able to connect be right here which is ultimately what desires want it it's like we're away from our star can we come back so it can't be happy and the deep teaching here is that are real the real way we need desire the real way we find happiness it arises from presence the only place you can really be happy as when there's an openness and wakefulness and a tenderness right here so the pursuit of the hungry goes actually blocks present it blocks us from feeling the light of our own spirit the light of that star the word desire away from our star the satisfaction of desire is recognizing that our star the late and love we seek is here in this moment and as long as we fixate outside ourselves we can experience that at a ma MIT conference there was a roomful of scientists and addiction researchers and this is a bill moyers who writes this he's he's there and he's been asked to speak and he says I have an illness with origins in the brain but I also suffer the other component of this illness Sal cohoes and he told the gathered researchers and scientists I was born with what i like to call the hole in my soul a pain they came for the reality that i just wasn't good enough that i wasn't deserving enough that if you weren't paying attention to me all the time that maybe you didn't like manna the conference room was as quiet as it had been all day for us addicts he continued recovery is more than just taking a pill or maybe getting a shot recovery is also about the spirit about dealing with that hole in the soul so this is the key that the healing from attachment or addiction is really discovering how to find the spirit that's always been here but feels like it's been draining out or empty how to discover that star that's inside us the light in our own heart because when we do when there's a sense that it's right here there's still a natural play of desires and we can enjoy when those particular focus desires are mad and we can not enjoy it when they're not but there's a basic sense of contentment there's not craving I love the was a cartoon that as a picture of a dog who's having a dream and a as Zen dog dreaming of medium-sized bone so the last part of our exploration really is how do we shift when our attention has been fixated as for most of us we have our fixations you know whether more money more food more approval how do we shift from that outward fixation – really that light and warmth of awareness that's right here how do we undo the conditioning to fixate out work and there's two steps that we have to repeat ten thousand times you know that any master of anything takes many repetitions and want us to keep pausing in the midst so that whenever you sense that the hungry ghosts energy whenever you sense ok going after approval here ok I'm fixating on more money or status or prestige or different body or whatever it is pause there's a a a sponsor who describes the sacred pause he says that it's worth you know two years of meetings that just a pause of 10 seconds the amount of freedom that's possible and of course it's not either are because we need both but that's the first step is that we need to have that kind of commitment that getting well these attachments are running my life are keeping me from my full life keeping me from feeling that that light and that that soul force it's here pause be willing to pause now sometimes you pause and then the next step is deep in your attention pause and deepen your attention that means awaken these two wings we talk about regularly of mindfulness and heartfulness we pause and we say so what's really happening here and we bring a kind attention and sometimes it'll work so powerfully that we can absolutely change our patterning in that moment and sometimes we go back to the old patterning but each time we repeat it work on some level deconditioning the habit so let me give you an example of when i worked with that that came in who is very much that kind of sense of a hole in my soul that something is really wrong with me and she's basically so everything I i do i fail at and I hate myself and I'm ashamed of myself and then I end up you know smoking too much weed and drinking too much alcohol and drinking was the worst problem she said she'd gone to a new sheet to go back her closest friends were really encouraging her to go back but it was really she just couldn't convince her to stop using so I asked her to get right into it like okay in the moments when you have to have and this is a really important inquiry to go right into all right in the moments when i'm really it really matters when another person's thinking our I have to have that bowl of ice cream or whatever the false refuges what's going on inside you that when I asked her she said it was kind of like this heart-pounding like she was about to get something she really wanted like the anticipation of the the satisfaction there's a shortness of breath but along with that the results are kind of a scared feeling like I might not get it and then I asked her to keep investigating as part of mindfulness the wing of mindfulness is to really invest again I said you know the part that's compelling you what is it so it feels like this clutch in this heart-pounding what does it look like and she said it has a black piercing evil eye and it's in the middle of this dark shadowy shape ok so that's what she had so I said okay go inside that you know and since what is that part really want it she was asking that question is part of a mindful investigation what is this compelling place really want and she asked and said it wants me to drink and drink and drink and then I said well what will that do what is it really wanting what does it want the drinking to do well then I'll feel relief then I'll feel better it wants relieved and I said will ok what will that do if you feel relief dimensions at all then that part will feel lovable I can really relax and feel relief will feel lovable so I asked her can you give that part some love right now part fulness remember mindfulness and heartfulness can you just and she said I don't feel like I have any love to give and so I asked her the next step the heartfulness as well if you don't have the left to offer yourself and we often put her hand on our heart and since you know loving ourselves who might or what might in the universe and she said well my my two friends and that you know keep trying to friends it keep trying to get me to go to a and also my mom so I said okay put your hand on your heart and and let their love come and so she did that for a while and she said Let there love go right to wear that that creature that you know it's going to work her version of the hungry goes to let it let it go right in there to that part of you that doesn't feel lovable and after a while she said ok now I'm feeling more loving and and what I said what's the creature like now she's a well it's shrunken and it's black is sad its glistening tears that's to give it more than let it let it have even more love and she's at all my stomach's loosening I can breathe real relief and then she kept going a bit more but this is what she did many around so I'm giving you an example of what you get every time she'd feel the urge to drink she would pause and she would feel her body and feel those feelings and since that kind of compulsion part in her and since what it wanted and offer love and she said that sometimes it was enough that the craving would kind of come his cravings have a kind of you can charge them they ride there is a vector their eyes they have a peek and then they fall away if you can wait long enough you can wait them out most of us can't but sometimes the craving would come and go and she could actually make a healthier choice and other times she couldn't but over time she started beginning to loosen the grip also want to say she needed a a so it wasn't this I'm describing the inner work of bringing the two wings but we also need that relational field to support us and for her it was quite important I remember her describing her last set on our last time i got together she had at this point she was a sponsor and she said she understood spirits she said that she was driven to it to have an experience he was driven to the alcohol have an experience that's driven to spirits but the real spirit she needed was what she found when she brought presence to her own heart and that that evil eye that gleaming spirit i was really her source of wisdom and love this is her experience and not all of us have such a the kind of imagination that that can feel what kind of a creature is represented some of us do but we all have of this is where the deep invitation is is that our attachment and addiction can be a flag to pause and deepen our attention to what's here and if we're willing if there's willingness we can't well it you cannot will yourself out of an addiction but if there's a willingness to pause and deepen your attention you can begin to discover that rather than the pad addictive habit that you are a bitch to you can be just begin to discover that that star you felt away from really is here it's in the presence it's right here right here I i began describing my little adventure in the casino and I wanted to acknowledge with you that when i first went in there and was watching people it was again it's like sociological experiment and I had a add a whole layer judgment and you might have picked that up it just felt like it was kind of like oh you poor things but it was from a kind of superior like oh all the smoking and alcohol and stuff I don't do you know and I realize okay so this is a second arrow I'm seeing suffering and I'm having an aversion to the suffering and judging it and and then I started sensing wow it this is in in most of us you know that we most of us have whether it's the most overt like gambling and slot machine or something else keep trying to do the achievement that will finally make us feel like we're okay whatever it is we have stuff and I could so easily seeing myself through my life you know whether it's how i've used food or have some way sought to prove myself or accomplished or be good and get approval all the different ways I've been hooked and that shifted and so somewhere after the first few minutes I got this realization i really want to have contact so i tried to I kind of resolve to have some contact and there's a few eyes that I you know I could have contact with but mostly I just sent mehta and i sent message to all of us not like this high being floating through is any metal but it's like to all of us that are hooked on something feel what we feel away from our star were hooked on something may we all trust the goodness and the love and the aliveness and creativity of our own beings may we turn to presence not to something outside ourselves so maybe as a way of closing of just to say that we have a habit beyond just the addictions and attachments of not noticing what's already here we're so on our way that we really don't see that that that what were longing for us right here and we're going to we're going to explore then a bit but I thought maybe I could try just a little bit of bringing the two wings to your own attachments and see how that works for you stick a moment to find a way to sit because this is the key reflection will be doing tonight that I think will be useful and keep in mind that that example i gave you with this woman it took what it took a while like that was probably 45 minutes we're going to do something and maybe four minutes so this is a template for you to explore causing and deepening attention and in the face of attachment so let your eyes closed and sense if you know already maybe you do have you don't some area that you feel that you're hooked some area of attachment that you that you kind of can tell keeps you from being as spontaneous as relaxed as really trusting yourself and moving from your potential and it might be something in relationships where you are hooked on getting approval or hooked on being in control being the best might be something at work where you're really looking for fame or attention are might be something to do with substances to do with accumulating more money and more possession it might be something to do with your appearance could be the overt behaviors like gambling or shopping or sex where there's a obsessiveness around to choosing one area and see if you can focus on a situation that illustrates that attachment that lets you know you're hooked do it and for the sake of exploring and investigating you might exaggerate so that you really feel into the situation how it is to really want what you're wanting how much it matters to you whether it's I the wanting to be in control the wanting for approval or whether it's a wanting for chocolate whatever it is what's it like when you're wanting and as an experiment right now let your body actually take the position of one thing like play with it a little you might find you're leaning forward maybe your fist titan let your faces expression be what is it when you're really wanting something to be a certain way and it's not okay if it's not that way so give yourself permission to like really inhabit that find out what it's like you might feel where where the wanting is most in your body this is there a tightening in the throat or chest or maybe the belly yeah just feel you're wanting self and notice if there's a second arrow if there's also a part of yourself that's judging or wanting so whether you don't like you're wanting self include that and what you're aware of and sense how that impacts the one thing now imagine that you could step away that you're wanting self whatever that experiences is here but you could kind of step away and you can call on your high self right now is a rich history like calling on the wings of wisdom and heart calling on that in you which sees through clear eyes and has a forgiving and kind heart so you can look through those eyes at the wanting self give yourself a little distance little space just looking through the eyes of kindness and understanding what does the wanting part of you really want or need you know if you could get that approval or have that ice cream are be in control or have your body the way you want what would you really get since what you're really trying to experience through the particular attachment and sometimes you have to ask again like well if I got that and what would I really be getting see how deep you can go how are you away from your star how are you really wanted to come home what is it you really wanted to come home to ok for these last few moments from your highest self that wings of wisdom and love how much you communicate to the part of you that's been stuck your understanding your forgiveness your care what in this moment will most address the unmet need that's there and you might experiment also as we often do with touch because that brings a more energetic intimacy in relating to your inner life can you communicate the forgiveness that understanding of ok this is coming from an unmet need letting go of all blame that is a necessary precursor to healing any addiction is to let go of flame from your highest self can you let go of blame can you offer very pure care and understanding to the place in you that's been attached and addicted to the wanting cell and as you offer your presence and your kindness and your understanding just sense your own experience of your being right now can you sense that star that that late and tenderness right here can you sense how this presence heels that hold the soul allows you to come home to what's really the source of what you long for the happiness we seek is available in the moments when there's really no clinging they're simply openness and presents and ease just feel as you imagine into the next days and weeks to come this invitation to let the flag of attachment call you to pause to deepen your attention and to shift from that outward focus the substitute gratifications to discovering the presence is always an already here will close with the verse from the Zen poetry or con without desire everything is sufficient with seeking myriad things are impoverished plane vegetables can soothe hunger a patch drove is enough to cover this been told body alone I hike with a deer cheerfully I sing with village children the stream under the cliff cleanses my ears the pine on the mountain top fits my heart cheerfully I sing with the village children the stream under the cliff cleanses my ears the pine on the mountaintop it's my heart and thank you for your beautiful attention many blessings

Recommended

Free Email Updates
We respect your privacy.

Alchol

Alchol

Recommended

Alchol