The Enlightening Mat: Dealing with Craving


When we believe that something is not changing, we become attached to it. We may start to have cravings for a particular food, habit, person, activity, location, feeling, or way of relating, and this may lead to an intense desire to possess an object or maintain the consistency our outcomes. We may even begin to fight with other people to have complete control over what we are craving. In socio-economic terms this would be warring over primary resources such as land, water, and fuel. However, in the smallness of our daily lives this looks more like arguing over job titles, custody of the kids, your partner's travel schedule, where and when you are allowed to smoke, and who gets to drive.

All craving leads to suffering.

This teaching from the Buddha is essential to creating more peace in your life. If you are able to wrap your head around this concept, then you may momentarily get off the merry-go-round of your own personal suffering.

To awaken to how the universe truly operates is to have the understanding that nothing is constant, everything is changing in every moment, and to possess something in a static state is an illusion of the mind.

Can the mind consistently hold fast to this insight? I don't know for certain; however, I've noticed that I continually struggle. I have to keep reminding myself that my cravings for things is a futile attempt to keep my life from changing. One of the ways I practice coming in contact with my cravings and diminishing them is by doing Bikram yoga.

How does this work? When I dedicate my mind and body to precisely following 90 minutes of instructions from another person without grabbing for one of my cravings, I gradually learn to be with the difficulty of my suffering instead of trying to fix it or run away. If you do this exercise repeatedly, submitting to the precision of yoga instructions that move you away from habitual behaviors which lead to suffering, the mind and body become more attuned to leaving your cravings behind. 

A few of the cravings I've worked with during my Bikram yoga practice are relationship, food, alcohol, sugar, money, and shopping. Some of these cravings have stopped entirely like alcohol and shopping. In fact, just thinking about these two cravings I start to feel tired and want to take a nap. Drinking wine with dinner and retail therapy were behaviors I chose to numb out to things I wasn't dealing with in my life. Once I started paying attention to my problems and directly resolving those situations, then my strategies to numb out diminished. Doing Bikram yoga helped me dig into the things that weren't working in my life and gave me the tool to face the intense body sensations that come up when you are experiencing withdrawal from a craving.

Withdrawal from a craving stimulates physically painful sensations. Maybe we secretly think to ourselves, "Geez, I'm so lucky that I don't have to go through the painful withdrawal from an addictive substance like drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol." However, many of us haven't considered that similar body sensations may occur when you withdraw from a relationship, food, or a socially acceptable habit that is no longer serving you.

For example, some women are labeled as having the "empty nest syndrome" when kids leave home, but no one seems to talk about the heart of the matter, which is that they may be experiencing withdrawal from a craving -- the painful feelings and body sensations triggered by the loss of a relationship they were deeply attached to and were hoping would never change. People are not selfish and heartless because they don't want things to change, rather I suspect we are secretly terrified about feeling the emotional and physical sensations of withdrawal that accompany the loss of the thing we are craving.

There is no way around this matter of craving and suffering. Things change and you can either choose to substitute one craving for another and move on or you can dig into the messy feelings and body sensations that accompany withdrawal from a craving and possibly discover moments of personal freedom.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures.  

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