Hungry Ghosts

Our society is sick. We have a disease. It ravages our lives, steals our time, and makes us greedy and selfish. That disease is called productivity and it is deeply embedded in our cultural psyche. We work, striving for more money, better benefits, better relationships, the perfect home, the perfect life. But is there such a thing as perfect? Are we simply waiting for the right alignment of many small pieces to fit into place – all the time knowing that we are not in control of most of the pieces? What is the cost of this hunger? We are like a hungry ghosts, swallowing everything in our path, always hungry for more, never satisfied. All too often we get trapped by thoughts of grandeur, slaves to the disease of productivity, all with just one purpose in mind. To be happy.

This reminds me of the story about a Mexican fisherman who lived in a small village. He would wake up early, spend his morning hours fishing, catching just enough to sustain him and get his family by. In the afternoons he would spend time with his kids, his wife, and in the evening sit around with friends chatting away or playing music. Then one day a tourist, who turns out was a business professor at Harvard, came to visit the small village and became friends with the fisherman. During their usual afternoon conversation the Harvard professor said, “hey, you are extremely good at fishing, why do you stop when you have caught enough? Why not fish for longer and catch more fish?” The fisherman replied, “well, ok, then what?”

Plans unraveled forming dreams of grandeur, the professor replied, “well, then you could hire some men to help you fish, buy some boats, and really grow a business.” Ok, replied the fisherman, and then? “Then, you could create a huge company, even a corporation and manage whole fleets of ships, move your company headquarters overseas even to make better business deals. After that, you could enlarge your company, grow rich, and perhaps one day when you are old and finally decide to retire you will be able to spend your time fishing for fun, have much more time for family, and friends.” The fisherman smiled, “ah my friend, I have everything I need already. Right here.”

When we are happy it seems that time flies, the world is a bright and sunny place filled with goodness, hope, love and many other warm fuzzies. When we are down, the opposite. So does that bigger salary make us happier, research on happiness says no. If we look far enough in our past we may come to the conclusion that certainly money can bring us comfort, but happiness – probably not. The trap is so easy to fall into because we compare, we plot, and we forget past lessons. How often have we heard that happiness is found within, probably everyone. And yet, we continue to make decisions based an belief system that assumes happiness comes from the outside.

This is where the practice of yoga and meditation come in. When we practice looking within, we see our beliefs, our desires, and our thoughts hung out on the film of our


awareness. The scene expands, time slows, and we are able to really look at all the ‘stuff’ that makes us tick. Examining, prodding, questioning, we bring into our consciousness not simply the notion but the understanding and the wisdom of the true cost of this disease. Thus we begin to unravel our assumptions, question our beliefs, and generate alternative thoughts and behaviours.

Can we cure ourselves of the productivity disease. Maybe, or perhaps it can be transformed. There are many types of hunger: physical, emotional, sexual, but the one that interests me the most is the spiritual hunger. The kind that consumes our selfish desires, our personal sense of me and mine. This hunger is the fire in our bellies that makes us question everything we value down to the very bones of the meaning and purpose of our life. Make this the hunger that keeps you going in your practice, in your search for wisdom and peace. This type of hunger is safer, causing less harm to others. Let us be more gentle with ourselves, with the expectations we put on our lives and the lives of others and practice every moment giving instead of taking.

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