Lately, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts and books with the theme of making space to create in our lives. With all signs pointing to summer rapidly coming to a close, I’m considering how to do just that in the fall. A lot of my thinking (and subsequent action) can be considered all or nothing which is a self-limiting belief. “Oh. Well, I don’t have time to bang out a chapter so I won’t write at all. I don’t have time to work out a hour, so forget it.” You get the idea. So basically, if I get caught up in this cycle of thinking, I don’t get a lot done.
In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the Chinese Buddhist belief of hungry ghosts. Hungry ghosts are widely defined as “unable to take in or assimilate what they desperately need. The problem lies in their constricted throats – which cannot open for nourishment. They wander aimlessly in search of relief that is not forthcoming.” Which is a really flowery way of saying they’re not very good at staying in and enjoying the moment. They land a new job and are already looking out over the delta and asking, “What’s next?” Everyone’s visited by hungry ghosts from time to time. The problem is when we greet them, offer them tea and invite them to make their selves at home and stay a while. A far more appropriate greeting would be to say, “Listen, I hear what you’re saying and you know what? I’m good! I’m grateful for all that I have and I’m enjoying the moment.” I live with someone who is frequently visited by hungry ghosts as well, which is a double-edged sword. It’s great in the sense that I have a very supportive partner who encourages me to pursue my goals. On the other hand, if Andrea wasn’t tight with the hungry ghosts, maybe she’d sigh and say, “Sit down! A Netflix marathon awaits us! No GU or training needed.” And I’d flop happily beside her and watch Ozark until my eyes bled.
At the same time, I feel visits by the hungry ghosts are often the kick in the ass that I need to kick off a new cycle of inertia. So hungry ghosts? C’mon in and bring a writing muse with you this fall.