Meditation

Craving: One Day at a Time

Photo by turk_stock_photographer/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by turk_stock_photographer/iStock / Getty Images

I crave therefore I am. My cravings have cravings. I want every goddamned thing. If it's salty, sweet, greasy, and moist, I'm interested. If I imagine that it will make me feel good, give me two of them. If you never gave Pookie twenty dollars to go get you one, while you waited in the rain for him to come back, you may not know what I'm talking about. For the most part, I operate without much self-awareness. I'm too busy trying to execute the algorithm to take a step back and analyze the software. I'm shallow like that.

What would planet Earth be like without craving? Much of the activity that takes place here is motivated primarily by people working to satisfy cravings. Without craving as a motivator, how would we get anything done? What if the first and only one of anything we tried satisfied us for life?

“Care for a piece of chocolate cake?”

“Naw, I had one twenty years ago and I'm still good.”

What if we had sex one time and never wanted it again?

You’re going to have to accept the fact that not only do you crave but also that you grow accustomed to people and things. You get used to new situations and once the shine wears off, it's over; you crave something new. You step onto that hedonic treadmill, rev that baby up to ten, and the hunt continues for the next salty, sweet, greasy, moist experience.

But what is a craving? Is it a thought that generates a feeling, or is it a feeling that generates a thought? Is it both? Does it matter?

Dr. Katrin Schubert, author of "Reduce Cravings: 20 quick techniques" writes: “Most of us experience cravings for pleasurable things such as food, a drink, shopping, or sex. That doesn't mean we are addicted to those substances or behaviors. Cravings are natural and only become a problem when we’re unable to control them and they negatively affect our well-being and quality of life.                           

We take in the world through our senses, any one of which can evoke thoughts and memories, that trip craving. But cravings are more than that. They serve as a way for one to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. At least in the short term. One of the best ways to avoid an uncomfortable thought or a feeling is to replace it with a more pleasant, less challenging thought or feeling, something that you can do without realizing it, something you can do repeatedly in a vain attempt to prevent yourself from facing challenging emotions. You can abdicate your responsibility to your cravings.

A different approach is to accept the fact that uncomfortable feelings are inevitable. It's the essence of being human, a natural part of life. Although your feelings may trigger cravings, you do not have to act on them. You can practice meditation and breathe so you can breathe again, and let the craving pass. You can turn to another person, a trusted friend, and talk to them about your urges and, in so doing, take the power out of them by coming to recognize that everyone craves. You can surrender. Cravings, distorted thoughts, and unpleasant feelings do not have the power to stop you. You are free to choose. Like storms, urges can pass.


 

Insecurity

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“My girl so insecure. She always looking for shit.”

“Yea. I tell mine, if you look through my phone it's a wrap. You got ta go. Why they always looking fa stuff?”

“What do you mean, looking for stuff? What kind of stuff?

“Man, they be lookin’ for other women numbers and shit.”

“So, what you got a phone or a grenade? You leave your cell phone down and she see a message from baby, and it will blow your whole shit up. You'll be starting the New Year  in a shelter or in jail.”

“That's only if she lookin’ for something. Why they so insecure?”

“I hate to tell y’all this, but you will not date secure women,” I said.

Every man in the room paused, cocked their heads to the side, and looked at me like the RCA dog.

A voice shot out of nowhere.

“Why?”

“You will not date an secure woman because you are insecure.”

The looks on their faces indicated in no uncertain terms that I needed to resolve the tension.

“I'm not insecure. She’s look’n fa shit.”

“Remember the meditation we just did? Remember how noisy it was all the shuffling, fidgeting, and stuff that was going on. That's insecurity. The inability to just sit still and breathe. What about all the girlfriends? You're supposed to be in a committed relationship and you're cheating. Cheating is a form of insecurity. Violence is the biggest form of insecurity there is. There can be no attack without fear. We all date and get involved with people who are equal to or less than we are. I suggest that we account for and learn to manage our own insecurity, and stop believing that it is a force outside of us, moving toward us, rather than a feeling inside of us, moving out.

The room got quiet.

 

Learning From Sitting

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“Good morning, gentlemen. It's good to see everyone. Let's do five minutes of meditation,” I said as I walked into my domestic violence group.

“Let's begin.” I set the timer on my phone.

As I closed my eyes, my hearing sharpened. With every breath, I absorbed the sounds around me. I could hear shuffling in the room as each man settled into the exercise. Cars rolled by outside in the distance. My breathing coalesced with the other men's breathing like factory noise. Feet shifted on the floor, both in the room and outside as movement asserted itself on my awareness. Conversations beyond the walls disrupted quietude. I felt like every thought and feeling made noise entering and exiting my mind.

Gently, I herded my attention back to my breathing. Someone coughed. The wind blew, windows rattled, and dry leaves rustled outside. As my mind wandered I heard different sounds. I reminded myself to breathe. More sounds. I surrendered with each breath. Buzz, buzz, buzz brought the exercise to an end. What seemed like an eternity ended in five minutes.

“What was that like for you? What did you notice?" I asked the group.

“I felt sleepy,” one man replied, embarrassed. Another man  said, “I don't like meditation, it doesn't do anything.”

“You felt sleepy? What does that tell you?” I asked.

His eyes rolled up as he searched for an answer.

“You're tired,” another man replied.

“What would you like it to do?” I asked the other man.

“I would like to clear my mind and relax,” he said.

“I see. You would like to clear your mind and relax. That's interesting. So, because you can't clear your mind and relax, you feel like meditation has no value? What about learning how to sit with what's on your mind? What about noticing your thoughts and feelings, without clinging, or acting on them? Would that be valuable?” I asked.

The men mumbled.

“Meditation is not to clear your mind but, to teach you how to sit with and accept what's on your mind. The object is to notice and not cling to your thoughts. Relaxation is a byproduct.” I said.”

“What did you hear while meditating?” I asked.

“I heard cars,” one man said.

Another said, “People talking outside.”

“Yes, but what about internal sounds?” I asked.

“I kept trying to keep my mind from wandering,” a man said.

“How did you bring yourself back to your breathing?” I asked.

“I forced myself,” he replied.

“Our minds and bodies wander both during meditation and in real life. Be gentle with yourself and come back to your breathing.” I replied, trying not to sound like a monk from the TV show Kung Fu.”

“Did you notice the sounds? It got quite noisy. There were two kinds of sounds, external and internal. Did anyone notice their powerlessness over the noise? Lack of control is a type of suffering. Often, we struggle against our vulnerability and we try to fix it only to make our situation worse. Think about the reason you're here. A thought or feeling you could not tolerate compelled you to act which initiated a negative chain reaction. That's what meditation is for, to help you prevent acting on every thought or feeling you have.” I explained.

I said, “The word “compassion” means to sit with suffering. Not to make suffering go away, but to simply sit with it. Compassion also leads to happiness. The more you get in touch with your own suffering and the suffering of others, the happier you will be. Keep practicing.”