In Tibetan Buddhism, Hungry Ghosts have their own realm and are represented as teardrop or paisley-shaped with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food, such that attempting to eat is also incredibly painful. Some are described as having "mouths the size of a needle's eye and a stomach the size of a mountain". This is a metaphor for people futilely attempting to fulfill their illusory physical desires.
i set out
grasping for some latitude
the day and I
searching for a clue
some small sign
a flash of light
a remembered tune
it will be a miracle
a scrap of myself
that i can hold up in the wind
here i am
I am here. I am alive, but sometimes I feel invisible, as though I am really half ghost.
I wonder where I belong. Why am I here?
I sense myself lost at sea, a vast internal ocean that keeps me separate, keeps me searching, keeps me hungry. I have a hunger that is never satisfied. The ghost in me is ravenous, with a sieve for a stomach. She is a bottomless pit, a sinkhole. She wants it all, and all would never be enough. All the success, acclaim, friends, beauty, wealth, love, in the world, would never fill the gut of the hungry ghost.
I have tried to soothe this part of me. I have tried to send her away. I have denied her existence and tried to put her in the attic or the basement, but she just rattles her chains, deafeningly loud. I have tried to numb her with alcohol, drugs, food, accomplishment and all manners of escape.
I have tried to feed her. She always wants more. She is the mother of addiction. Addiction is the definition of this hunger. She can't be fed, she must be healed.
I am finding a way to heal my hungry ghost.
I have walked through so much fear following the trail of chains that bind my ghost and me. My search led me directly into the heart of a dark void, the core of this hunger. In order to free my ghost I have to know her, deeply and intimately, as a sister, my kin. I have to look her in the face. I have to hold my eyes wide open and see the truth, full and clear and painful. I have to open to the grief that this ghost embodies. Things that have been lost along the way, dreams that withered, yearnings unfulfilled, wounds that have been inflicted, and all the ways that I have come to the wrong conclusion that I am not enough. There was a moment that planted the seed of this misshapen idea that I must strive to be more, something other than just me. That seed grew, and it was nourished by all the messages, coming from so many directions, messages that I could not possibly be whole as I was, as I am. As it grew, it strangled pieces of me, starved some of my aliveness, leaving a hollowness that longs to be filled, that aches for nourishment.
I have been on a quest to fill that hollow. I want to set the ghost free and bring her peace.
After so much frustration at attempting to fill that hole from the outside in, I realized that this hunger must be met from the inside out. No one else could ever love me enough to bring me contentment. I would have to meet my ghost alone, out in that sea. I am the only one who can finally heal her.
I am enough and I possess the medicine and wisdom to bring this to completion. I have always had it. I have the perfect and infinite power of divine love in me. Just like you. Just like everyone. I also know I am not the only one who has been harboring a ghost. Maybe this sounds familiar in some way to you. If it does, I think we are in good company.
We forget who we are. The ghost distracts us and leads us away from ourselves. I forgot myself, my true and complete self, for a long time. I fade in and out now, moments of remembrance are increasing though. I catch glimpses, that are becoming gazes of truth. Clarity is coming, I am stepping out of the fog. I am reaching out of the darkness and reclaiming my light. It is a long and arduous path, and yet, such a rich journey, it offers so many gifts.
I did some intense work on this at a retreat this summer. I told my spiritual circle about this ghost, and how I have been hanging on to things that have passed, how I am haunted by regret and how I long for a self that seems out of reach. My inner little girl still crying and heartbroken over what might have been and if only. We acted out a burial of that little girl, lost and wandering, and we brought her back, whole and new, fully alive and in the now. Then my dear friends told me how they see me. They named the gifts I bring to the world. They helped me see myself. Together we worked to put a bottom on the sieve that has been leaking my power and emptying my joy.
Something shifted at that retreat. I took a large step towards integration. Integration is the key. Healing this wound is not an extraction. It is not an exile. It is in fact, a welcoming, a homecoming; a way of speaking to this spirit about coming to shore after a long time at sea. I say to my ghost, "I see you. I love you. Come have a rest." I take her in my arms and separation falls away, and really, it never was. Our wounds, in truth, are our gifts, and to that I deeply bow.