In December I made up an on-line order to be delivered from Sainsbury’s. It included one of my favourite food items which I’d been delighted to find on offer. And because it was Christmas (which I don’t celebrate), a ‘holiday’ (not that I work in the traditional sense) and because it was cheaper than usual I put it on the list as a ‘treat’.
Around the same time, I’d been investigating ‘craving’ with more intensity. There was more interest in what was happening in the mind that ‘wanted’ something. But clearly, there were things like the shopping list moment that slipped through the net.
At times craving seems to have a certain authority and ‘rightness’ that bypasses rationality. It doesn’t occur to me to question it. Luckily this time my partner was on hand to draw attention to my blind spot. He knows about my weight loss diet and me practising with the ‘wanting’ mind.
“Ah, salted caramel ice-cream. Are you sure you want that?”
You have to know how much I like this stuff. All creaminess and sweetness with a salty edge. A perfect fat and sugar combination.
Of course, I want it, that’s why I put it on the list. It was cheap. It’s Christmas!
Oh, craving, wanting. That’s what’s happening here, right? Rationalisations too. Mmm.
In a moment the reasons not to buy and consume came centre stage.
Weight gain when there was already plenty of extra food to navigate through visiting relatives over the holiday period. It was a moment of ‘greed’ that I didn’t need, strengthening the tendency to further greed.
Just in that moment, I was clear ice-cream was coming off the list. However, I decided to play with it further. I sat down in front of my computer, an image of a big tub of the stuff on the screen, just feeling out the pleasure seeking, grasping mind reaching with a big spoon into full on mental tasting.
This might sound like someone’s idea of torture but actually, it was fascinating seeing how I’d been ‘caught’ like a fish on a hook by the attractive idea of this particular object. And to see how much it was all happening in the mind. Without any ice-cream actually present!
There were memories in the form of thoughts and images and these whooshy, fizzy pleasurable, reaching out feelings and sensations. And the thoughts and the feelings seemed to be feeding each other but when there was awareness they didn’t grow. In fact, there seemed to be a space between them. They weren’t connected after all. What could seem inevitable – that the thoughts and feelings combined would lead to a growth in craving which I would then act on – was clearly not.
A further thought led me to see that the lack of inevitability of craving meant not just for this particular object but for everything I craved. That sort of relationship with experience just wasn’t necessary. It was a little sobering to think I might not go after the things I enjoyed but it was also tremendously liberating. I wouldn’t be dictated to by the whims of the ‘wanting’ mind.
In the weeks following this small incident, I noticed 2 things. One was an unusually strong sense of well-being and relaxation, especially around things that I usually experienced as stressful e.g. solo long distance driving trips.
The second thing was I found myself visiting supermarkets and standing in front of their pudding counters for a minute or so and then walking out. At first, I thought I was torn between consuming and not consuming but after a while, I came to a different conclusion. Again and again, I was letting the mind go through the process of seeing how craving wasn’t necessary, letting it get more familiar with it. There wasn’t a sense of giving up something but more that it didn’t make sense to have it.
I would love to finish with that last paragraph, but there is further to go. Various sweet things have been relished and consumed recently. The commitment to exploring the process has gone off the boil. Craving has been rearing its head without awareness and right view being ready with interest and discernment. There was an opportunity and I took it up only partially. So, I’m re-making that commitment to investigating craving, particularly in the form of sweet edibles.
I will let you know what happens.