Craving is definitely one of the more uncomfortable issues that can arise for people. It can have that uneasy, itchy, I-gotta-do-something feeling that makes people feel a need to take action. Sometimes, that craving is very clear like craving sugar. Sometimes, craving is ambiguous. We feel like we want something, but we don’t know what.
That ambiguity can be a real nuisance. People can find themselves during the time after a spiritual awakening having a strong sense of needing to do things or wanting things with no clear idea of what to do or what they really need. I view this kind of craving as awakening having exposed a layer of dis-ease we have with ourselves. It’s peeled away some top layers, and now here is this next layer.
In Western Culture, we expend huge amounts amounts of energy doing things and feeding these cravings, so the advice to addressing craving is precisely the opposite of what a lot of people have been taught. The advice is to stop doing things and stop giving the craving what it wants. However, when we finally stop feeding these desires with addictions, adrenaline rushes, video games, sex, work, and more, they start screaming. It’s not fun.
But as strong as craving is, it’s not a core issue. Not by a long-shot. It’s just the guard dog to the issues hiding behind it. It keeps you distracted, and you don’t really know the true issue craving is trying to solve.
So let’s crack open craving and have a look.
Craving is another word for desire, and both point towards wanting. They want something and are trying to resolve something else. Unlike a natural urge like the urge to eat, these cravings tend to be very poor at resolving an issue because they are largely ego guesses about what you need to feel good, happy, safe, relaxed, or something else. The ego and its cravings are kind of like asking a 5 year-old what she wants for dinner, and she tells you ice cream. Well, you are the parent to your ego, and to be a good parent means you need to do a little self-investigating to figure out what exactly the child in you truly needs. That usually means stopping and being present to the sensations of craving to inquiry further.
Healing Desires: The Differences Between Urges and the Need for Fulfillment (aka desire or craving)
This, of course, is the opposite of what craving is telling you. Craving tells you to do something. Sitting and being still with the discomfort of craving generally feels so counter-intuitive and quite uncomfortable. But until we sit still with our issues, it’s really hard to investigate them in any depth. Once you do stop moving, you can now pay closer attention to decipher what this craving is about.
Focusing on Your Body Sensations
Anyone who works with me or who listens to me at my livestreams on YouTube knows that I’m a strong advocate for body wisdom. Our bodies tell us so much stuff. But we tend to not be very good at interpreting all those sensations. Yet, you don’t get any better by not listening, and usually the craving body sensations are just the tip of the iceberg. So when craving comes, you sit and be still with yourself. You focus on different regions of the body and see what you are feeling.
Where do you feel relaxed?
Where do you feel tense?
These and other body sensations will help you hone in on what is actually happening in the body to which the craving is a reaction.
I can honestly tell you that the times when I have the least amount of craving are usually after a good massage, yoga session, or something that has really opened up my body. So you may experiment with “doing” things, but not excessively. Yoga and other forms of body-work can just as easily be used as a kind of drug to mask craving too. However, the point here is that when the body is properly nourished and at ease with itself certain types of craving go away. So sometimes, doing something for your body to help it come in alignment will resolve the true issue.
In general, this is a reminder that body alignments and inner balances of all kinds (biochemical and so forth) are central to our experiences of life. When people are physically out of alignment, that can cause a lot of upset emotions and sensations that your ego may try to address in a variety of ways. And the ego uses craving as the way to incite you to take action.
Lots of Different Types of Issues Hidden by Craving
However, there are plenty of non-body issues that craving can mask too. In the example of the desire to call a friend, maybe the bodywork helps for a little while but then the craving comes back. If a person is honest and sits with the craving after the bodywork, it may be easier to notice what is going on. In this example, let’s say that the real issue is loneliness.
Loneliness is a powerful issue, but still, it’s not a core issue. With more investigation, you could find an issue with abandonment from childhood. Going deeper, you may find a primal fear of pain and death from not having community. This last one is a pretty powerful fear for most people. Community serves a powerful function in making our lives easier and helping us survive, but just intellectually knowing this core issue around community isn’t enough. We really have to sit with that fear and let it break down mentally, emotionally, physically, and energetically. The more that fear comes up and breaks down on all these levels, the less craving you are likely to experience in response to this deeper issue. Craving is, after all, just a mid-level issue. Without the foundation underneath it, this mid-level issue collapses and disappears.
Maintaining a Healthy Body
This is just one example of many kinds of fears and issues living under craving. I encourage you to inquire into this issue when it comes up rather than just doing what it tells you to do–eat that, talk to her, go there, and so forth. Really question craving, and sit with it. Do some gentle work with the body to help you get clearer on the body sensations and emotions you are feeling. The healthier your body, the easier it is to interpret your physical sensations. Then see what comes up. You may be surprised at some of the issues that have been creating craving all along.
For some more thoughts on craving and desire as well as working with the body, you can check out these posts: