Instead, become aware of the things you do to fill a gaps and avoid discomfort and experience it. Conscious living is crucial part of opening your eyes, taking control of your life as you know it and being happy.
Being in India on yoga teacher training, we had this daily routine of rise and shine at 6am for 2 hours of yoga at 6:30am, followed by a 30 minute tea break and then an hour of theory. The four hours before breakfast during the first week got me so ‘hangry’ (angry hunger) I could have eaten my neighbours mat. The hangriness faded out during the second week as some level of acceptance, physical or psychological, kicked in and by the third I felt more energetic and had more clarity about my thinking than ever before.
The four weeks changed the way I experienced the feeling of hunger because, before India, I would never get past the hunger pangs without eating. I was simply eating to avoid the discomfort of hunger. What’s wrong with that? Well, it’s more about a pattern of unconscious ill-discipline. By having a later breakfast I was forced to deal with the hunger in a conscious, disciplined way that didn’t involve satisfying it.
In a way hunger is a form of empitness and it’s got me thinking about the other things I and the people around me do to satisfy an emptiness. Eating in between meals, the TV or radio always on, avoiding boredom by scolling through meaningless posts on Facebook, jumping into another relationship to avoid the feeling of heartbreak, etc.
“Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it fate.”
The thing about living unconsciously is that we see the world with blinkered vision. We see less and because we see less, we don’t have control of our lives. In the words of Allen Saunders:
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
This October, I hiked up Sulphur Mountain above Banff in the Rockies and passed a group of people who had music playing out of a speaker as if they were trying to drown out the silence of nature. It may have been that they needed music to motivate themselves upwards but I think they missed the experience of nature’s music in doing so.
Silence is really uncomfortable for some people. There are always moments of silence during a yoga class and when I first started teaching, my inclination was to fill the silence by talking because I felt uncomfortable. Now I know how important silence as one of the five factors that enable us to truly rest. Being in silence brings us back to the present and its emptiness gives us space for self-reflection. Given time and discipline, the discomfort of silence will ultimately lead to a wiser existence.
The Buddha had a simple test for measuring wisdom.
You’re wise, he said, to the extent that you can get yourself to do things you don’t like doing but you know will result in happiness, and to refrain from things you like doing but know will result in pain and harm.
Make the unconscious conscious. Raise your awareness to the way you do things and take the direction of your life out of fate’s hands and into your own. If you eat between meals maybe ask yourself ‘what am I eating for?’. Notice if you do things to fill a gap, maybe to avoid some kind of discomfort. I encourage you to experience the emptiness no matter how uncomfortable. Be with it and in doing so you may begin to view your relationship with the world around you with open eyes.