On January 1st, I began a detox from my hedonistic holiday lifestyle. It’s been fun and tasty, but I am definitely ready for a reset. Through this month, I’m giving up some vices and consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Though my meals have been delicious and filling, a chilly breeze blows through my days, and especially my nights. It’s a sense of craving and emptiness – a sensation of drought, a lack of warmth. I recognize this feeling from long meditation retreats. It settles in during the first silent days, and I worry that I will get lost in a sad fog and never reconnect with my exuberance for life.
I am touching the emptiness that lies beneath daily activities, beneath my emails and texts, my flurrying from place to place, my podcasts, conversations and sparks of connection, my exercise, my food and drink. When I reduce the stimulation in my life, I feel this cool, arid breeze, a sense of barren landscape.
At first, I want to escape. I fear it will consume me! But having been here before, I settle in and treat myself gently, and allow the feeling to move through. I take baths and drink tea, I meditate and journal. I walk my dog, and connect with loved ones. I’m reading good books. I allow myself to slow down and lean into this experience.
Winter sets the mood for this kind of exploration, and perhaps you’re feeling it as well, as the holidays close and take with them the parties, treats and bustling activity. The days are short, the air is cold, and the trees are bare.
As I relax into this feeling, I discover warmth within. I can be with these cravings and allow them to pass, and each time I do, they lose power. I feel my care for myself.
As with anything we use to keep ourselves company – food, drink, drug, sex, phone – we strengthen habits each time we have an itch and scratch it with our snack or device. Similarly, when we sense an urge to fill the empty feeling, and we choose not to act, we strengthen this muscle instead.
Why do this? Why not enjoy the things that we love as much as we want? That’s certainly an option. I fully support doing the things that bring you joy. However, the truth is, if I ate an entire chocolate cake right now, it would not satisfy my craving. This craving has no satisfier. It’s just the innate sense of longing that is part of being human. When I spend time with my longing and stop trying to soothe its cries, it begins to quiet on its own. I learn that I can withstand its siren call without having to do anything about it. Thus I gain more freedom to choose, rather than being led around by my cravings.
If you’re experiencing anything similar, I recommend that you be kind and gentle with yourself. Can you trust yourself and your support system enough to touch these challenging places? Can you even fall apart, and know that you will make it through? Having support is crucial. If you’re struggling, let’s talk about it.