just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
July, 2019

Freedom From the Craving Mind

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

I’m currently on my sixth day of a water fast.  In addition to the freedom from arthritis pain due to my reduced weight, there’s huge freedom from not craving food.  I’m not advocating fasting without thorough knowledge of how to go about it.  It’s serious deprivation that can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Yet, there’s a huge reason it’s part of many spiritual traditions.  When we’re deprived of something essential we build gratitude for it.  Having the experience of no shelter, no food, or reduced safety, we come to better appreciate the blessings of food, shelter and safety.  If we haven’t known ‘not having’ we tend to take things for granted.  As a child, I don’t think I can recall going to bed with hunger in my belly.  I always had shelter and in the ’50’s, things felt safe and stable.  When I was twelve I had a farm accident that had me in a wheel chair for three months and crutches for nine months.  I no longer took mobility for granted and craved the day I could play outside again.  I never lost shelter, but the Cuban Missile Crisis happened that fall and the sense of safety was gone.  We had routine drills where authorities tried to comfort us with drills that were somehow supposed to protect us from a nuclear bomb.  It seemed like everyday we heard slogans against the Russians and replays of Kruschev’s statement that he would bury us.  I took my shelter for granted, didn’t worry about food even though we had to have milk mush often because the bank account was overdrawn. I obsessed over walking again and the Russians killing us.

In the ’50’s and ’60’s things seemed much simpler.  Advertising technique was pretty basic and often consisted of adult products I didn’t understand.  They hadn’t gotten to my craving mind.  I was a devote religious child and didn’t question authority.  I felt at peace with my relationship to Jesus and had fear instilled in me to follow the teachings or risk going to hell.  I had no idea of climate change, environmental concerns, technology or a global economy.  Military jets frequently broke the sound barrier over our dairy farm and I remember intense craving to one day fly one of those jets.

My knee surgeon picked up on my intense desire to one way walk normal again.  I’ll never forget the day his sparkling blue eyes pierced my soul.  The exercises I had to do were excruciating and caused tears every time I did them.  I had a limp and he transmitted with a loving firm heart, “Randy, if you ever want to walk again and play sport again, you have to do these exercises without excuse.”  From that point on, I’ve not taken my knee for granted and recognized the gift of the body and the need for my participation in it’s healing.  The sense of stewardship to the body was the gift of my injury.  The early life of poverty on a small dairy farm carried an appreciation for having and for not taking things for granted.  The faith from my Lutheran religion and my mother gave me a solid sense of being supported, feeding a courage to be a pilgrim without fear. 

The relationship of intention, deprivation, not taking things for granted and the craving mind seems central to a successful life.  Perhaps one of the greatest liabilities to our material prosperity and more secular craving mind is our failure to practice gratitude for what we have.  We used to get propaganda advertising telling us our life would be better “if we bought what they sold”.  They went further and aimed to convince us that we couldn’t be happy without buying what they sold.  Some religions applied this with their approach to missionary work.  Some politicians applied this to their approach to foreign relations.  Our minds craved for people to be “like us”.  The simplicity and wisdom from my father and his small dairy farm was evaporating as the American mantra seemed to be “bigger is better and more is necessary”.

I look at this today and witness the supposed winners of this mantra and cry “ants in a sugar bowl”.  Whether for money or power, we’ve ended up with a bunch of ants bloating themselves in the sugar bowel failing to see the wisdom in moderation and the gifts that come from conscious deprivation.  I’m much more willing to listen to someone who knows the experience of deprived food, shelter and safety than someone who has mainly known the having experience.  I’m much more willing to listen to someone who has also been a pilgrim, having the experience of the minority of race, nationality, religion,  and sexual orientation.  I definitely want to know about their experiences with oppression and injustice.  

Real freedom comes when we can escape the craving mind, even in those situations where food, shelter and safety may be deprived.  If I’m voting for a representative in politics or religion, I want to know how free they are from the craving mind.  If they don’t know the freedom and faith that comes from ‘not having’, how could I ever expect them to understand and meet those in deep suffering.  If our aim is to not cause harm and hopefully meet those in need and suffering, it seems foolish to put our trust in those who have no experience in deprivation.

It seems we can continue to grow our material craving and secular worship, honoring those with most power and/or wealth, or we can move from a nationalist power thirst to true patriotism, finding freedom from the craving mind in philanthropy, charity, and aiming to give priorities to feeding, sheltering and providing safety to those  who’ve lost it.  Rather than worshipping the gross hoarding of our ever increasing billionaires, it’s now time to recognize that we’re all in the same boat.  We need interviews with the ants in the sugar bowel so they can come to see the absurdity of their wealth and greed.  We need to meet them with our hearts rather than through shame.  We need to move away from any sense that they are some how the ‘winners’ of the monopoly game we played as children.  We need to explore deeply how they have come to understand the various depths of experience that come from ‘not having’.  We need to find ways for our economy to once again find a moral conscience that recognizes how we all are in the same boat.  We need religions and governments that always ask ‘who gets hurt’ with any policy or belief before implementing special interest agendas without regard to collateral damage.  We need to place our greater emphasis on diplomacy departments over military budgets that deplete our capacity to function as a democracy. We need to make America kind again.