I quit/got-fired-from my job on November 1st in order to go to Geneen Roth’s retreat in California. As of right now, I don’t have the money for rent due on January 6th —- reality check.
I quit in a binge-y sort of way: yes, I’ll go to the retreat! I’ll have free time! I won’t have to wake up early for a while! The retreat will put me in such a different frame of mind for so long! This is it! Yeah, I’ll get what I want! I’ll have it all!!!!
That last bit there – that last little line – is a blaring buzzing neon light signaling binge-mode.
“I’ll have it all.”
It’s the mark of a deprived, out-of-touch mentality. It’s a defense against guilt and loss and anger. Had a fight with a family member? Next thing you know you’re saying Damned right I’m having Chinese takeout WITH the extra egg roll won ton soup duck sauce and Snapple.
Anyway – I went on the retreat in a binge-y way, I was sort of aware of it at the time but considered the expected benefits of the retreat (I had gone once before) to outweigh this fact anyway, so I went. And it WAS brilliant and revitalizing and sweet. But. Now, the rent check is waiting to be written in a few weeks, and I am madly rebelling. I feel like I DESERVE time off and that I want my next job to be perfect for my life before just jumping into another one I will eventually want to leave. Ah – that other blaring signal word – “perfect.”
What I’ve said so far is to provide a backdrop for this main point: Binge or no binge, reality remains.
Whenever you “act out” about something, you’re left with the original conflict that precipitated the acting out, and in addition the consequences of the acting out. Plain english: After you eat all the Chinese food you want, you now still have the fact that you had a fight with a family member, plus the discomfort and self-loathing that results from the compulsive eating.
The only ways to deal with this truth are to try to stay in a stupor as often as possible (eat compulsively all day, drink every day, get high every day, buy something every day), or to face what needs facing.
To be blunt, often, I only stop being self-destructive when something demands that I crawl out of my hole. I may only stop eating when I feel like I’ll get sick if I don’t. I may only get myself to go to my soccer game because if I miss a 3rd one in a row it will look too bad. I may only say I’m sorry to my boyfriend when it becomes explicitly clear that I’ve gone too far and hurt him. I may only pay attention to the fact that I don’t have clothes that fit me when I have 15 minutes to get ready to meet a friend and then rage about it, trying to find something decent enough.
These behaviors are the manifestation of a mentality of avoidance. Essentially, avoidance of reality. Avoidance of psychological and emotional truths, and the truths of being human. This is why the Buddha focused so much on the nature of reality, and declared his central teaching to be that “Life is suffering.” Why would a guy who says shit like that still have so much influence today? ;)
It’s because it IS true – If you find yourself being a human being, it is true so far as anything is true: that you will die, that you will get old and sick and die if you are lucky, or die in some accident if you are not, that you will feel physical pain just by virtue of having a body, that you will feel emotional pain whether it’s because you have love or lack it… As deeply as you believe the sun will rise tomorrow, you may believe that every human being will experience these sufferings in life.
What does this do for us? It can smash the delusions that lead to mental self-torture and lack of compassion for others.
When you dive into the chicken and broccoli and egg roll and rice and scent of the duck sauce and chewing and swallowing and chasing with sweet drink.. When you take the dive into oblivion, no matter how long it takes (a quick swipe of the credit card, a few seconds of obsession in the mind, a 5-hour binge), you are diving into the delusion that you can have it all, and that you can control how you feel.
How many grown people do you see jumping up and down outside, trying to launch into the air and fly?
Because as deeply as they know anything, they know that humans can’t just jump up and fly, so they don’t try.
Self-destructive/addictive behaviors indicate denial of realities that are equally true, such as
– It is impossible for us to always feel happy.
– Suffering is inherent to living.
– You cannot change the past.
– I am angry at a family member.
– I am so tired that I need to go to bed now.
– I hate my job.
– I never figured out what I really wanted.
– We are always getting older, closer to death.
The good news is that working with reality is easier than working with layers and layers of compulsion and denial. Reality is unpredictable, scarier, and more raw, and it means change.. But it is also where you can actually meet yourself and taste this life.
You can’t have it all – but you CAN have what you DO have.
We’ve got limits, but we also have freedoms.
Gotta die? Choose how to spend your life.
Your body only needs 5 bites of food at the moment? Pick which deliciousness you’ll feed it.
You need to work to live? Decide what job will most enable you to be yourself at this time.
Find yourself undeniably tired? Angry? Hopeless? Heartbroken?
Clink an imaginary glass with all of the human souls who’ve ever lived who were brave enough to feel, and know, how they felt. These are the souls who learned compassion for others by facing their own suffering and in so doing faced everyone else’s as well. These are the souls who undoubtedly opened their hearts most to the world, and transformed it. This is what we all seek – offer your exhaustion to this. Offer your anger, hopelessness, and heartbreak to this shared courage and opening. Let screams and tears and laughter and sighs come. Imagine a soul putting her hand on your shoulder, nodding with a slight, knowing smile, communicating with no words, “Ah.. Yes.. That moment of facing aloneness. Mm-mm. Yes, yes..” Just that shared knowing. “Ah, anger with your friend.. Ah, yes.. Ah, that burn.” The humanity of feeling anger. The humanity of feeling the love underneath it. This is so much more precious than what a binge can offer you.
Facing the realities of limits and suffering can be excruciatingly painful, but is also the only way to feel your own heart, to look into your own eyes. If you can do this, you will be most able to be intimate with joy itself when it is time for joy – which it often is.
Offering encouragement for staying with your true way,