The universe is expanding, so says Alvy—Woody Allen’s inner child in Annie Hall—and some cosmologists. While I won’t pretend to understand the big bang or string theory or frankly anything even vaguely connected to this proposition, it sure feels true to me. This is the sort of thinking that made making friends difficult for me when I was a teenager. I can still recall the inner panic when being confronted with the dilemmas of my peers. Are you into Simon Le Bon or John Taylor? I hadn’t really thought about it.
My existentially-angsty adolescence was consumed with nerve-wracking queries such as, is astral projection really a thing? And why do we experience time differently in different scenarios? It all got marginally better when I found a friend who wanted to discuss whether or not I thought Marylin Monroe’s death was a Kennedy conspiracy at our first sleep-over. It was at least a step in the right direction
But, I digress.
It’s this business of expansion that I want to talk about because it seems to me that for as long as we have been human, we’ve been battling with and trying to control what is possibly the most natural and organic aspect of nature: the reality that we are always being called to more. And yet we are so seemingly terrified of our appetites and our natural state of expansion and evolution, so untrusting of life to provide us with what we need, that we live in a perpetual cycle of trying different ways to stop or to control our ever increasing need for abundance and growth, which seems to me to be a little like trying to resist gravity.
So here’s my proposition for how an expanding universe is reflected in our human experience. We are born with all sorts of appetites, desires, and curiosities, and because every human being is different, our appetites and desires exist in a unique form, much like our fingerprints. We are a complex cocktail of needs and hungers all designed to pull us in the direction of wholeness and actualisation as specifically intended for us. Hunger of any kind, so it seems to me, is the human experience of the universe’s expansion into greater consciousness. The more we grow, the more we evolve, the more fuel we need for that growth and evolution.
So how have we got into so much trouble around this issue of appetite, because we are shaming each other left and right for wanting more of almost anything. In fact, the only thing we can want more of with impunity apparently is ‘nothing,’ the illusionary and therefore elusive arrival point where we have ‘enough.’ But there is no such thing as enough, not really. There is momentary enough, there is enough right now, but then a new appetite, need or curiosity will surface almost immediately, which is exactly as it should be in order to propel us further into evolution and greater levels of consciousness. It is surely the way we were created, to always want more.
The thing is, that your ‘more’ might not be mine. This is the exquisite perfection of diversity. Your Mercedes might be my prison. My bowl of strawberries might be your anaphylaxic shock. My need for perpetual adventure and experience might be in direct contrast to your ‘perfectly designed for you’ need for consistency and stability. Our obsession with sameness, a one size fits all rule book for what it’s ok to want and need more or less of seems only to feed the poisonous delusion of right and wrong or good and bad we’re constantly trying and failing to conform to. So instead of learning how to correctly name and celebrate and allow our ‘unique to us’ appetites as the universe’s way of calling us into being, we keep trying to apply a generic set of rules to control our fear of scarcity, guilt or not belonging. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy theory run by a few people understanding that there’s more than enough to go around but let’s try to keep them all in order by pretending there isn’t enough. It feels more true to me that there is a genuine belief in scarcity and a universe operating in a state of stasis where everything that will ever be already exists and we have to divvy it all up equally or frantically grab at stuff to make sure we get enough for ourselves.
As a result, I believe we are creating a world of addiction, anorexia and everything in between. Both conditions operate from scarcity and fear but also huge doses of guilt and shame. Addiction says, ‘consume consume consume to fill your incorrectly identified appetite or to compensate for the appetite you don’t feel worthy of or feel guilty for having.’ Anorexia says, ‘Deny yourself, transcend need, survive on as little as possible, it’s the only way to stay safe in a world of scarcity and loss, plus you will receive love and approval for your self-control and selflessness.’ Addiction’s ego says, ‘I don’t care about you as long as I get mine because my fear of not getting mine is running the show.’ Anorexia’s ego says, ‘Look at me and my incredible capacity to control my hungers, live on nothing and transcend need, appetite, indeed all things human. I so care about others, about the world, about God that I have no need of material things, food, relationship, money, anything at all, and I’m telling myself this because I have no faith at all that I can have my true needs met.’ AKA anorexic pride.
We have come to use our relationship with an appetite to feed our ego or silence our guilt, shame, and fear, whereas the only true measure of appetite is truth. We are growing and shrinking in all the wrong places because we are over-feeding and starving ourselves in all of the wrong places and trying to apply ‘one size fits all’ set of rules to everyone. We might think, ‘I want more love,’ quickly followed by ‘that’s needy and codependent,’ or ‘I’m not loveable,’ so the hunger goes into shadow, and we start feeding it with attention seeking behaviour or food or a compulsive search for God. Or we might feel, ‘I want more money,’ followed by, ‘that’s greedy and unspiritual,’ so the hunger goes into shadow and instead we become judgmental or superior around those who have more money and feed the hunger with compulsive internet use or volunteer work. Often we believe our needs will create destruction. ‘I want more freedom,’ might be followed by, ‘I would have to leave my wife and kids, or not need money.’ We don’t trust that our appetites and needs will always, always lead us to love.
We talk about a consumerist society of more, more, more, the easy answer to which is to stop wanting more, more, more. But I believe the more difficult answer is, learn to authentically identify the true nature of your desire for more. Because if an addiction to more is a problem in our society, then I believe that the equally if not more insidious killer is anorexia and deprivation—the shaming of more. The contempt of appetite, the reverence of martyrdom, self-sacrifice, and self-denial is not the solution to out-of-control appetites; I believe it is what creates them. Because a person does not always need more spirituality or more simplicity or more discipline or to do more charity work. Sometimes a person needs more money, more fun, more food, or more experience. We are not all the same. Our circumstances and paths are wildly, perfectly, different.
I have spent a lot of time in my life living on very little by some standards, and very happily. This doesn’t mean anything about me, except that it was right for me to have that experience. It doesn’t make me spiritual, or in touch with what’s really important in life, or a good person. There may come a time when my needs change and simplicity and a frugal life aren’t a fit anymore. That won’t mean anything either. It’ll just be what’s right for me and what I need in my life at that time.
Scarcity is a terrible, poisonous myth, but I believe so is the idea that the solution is to divide everything up equally so that we all have what we need, because we just don’t all need the same thing at the same time. Who are we to say that some of us, in alignment with our true selves don’t need a mansion, more carbs, hundreds of relationships? Some of us need to meditate more, some of us need to meditate less. One person’s self-sacrificing behaviour is the abandonment of the false self. For another, it might be the abandonment of their true self. Most of us are out of balance somewhere on the giving or receiving or consuming or starving continuum, but only we know where. The adage “to thine own self, be true” and how to apply it is where I feel our focus truly needs to be. There is more than enough to go around, but let’s not try to divide it equally because while we are all equal, we are not the same. Your appetites have a different size, shape, evolutionary path and nature than mine and there is a perfectly designed reason for that.
Imagine if this were true: Everything that you could ever want and need for your total fulfillment is available to you, all the time and will always be. What if every human being on the planet is a perfectly-designed energetic jigsaw piece that is evolving into wholeness, balance and total fulfillment, not by trying to make itself the same size and shape as all the other jigsaw pieces, but by becoming conscious of the perfection of its uniqueness and then expressing that uniqueness. What if the more we become who we truly are as individuals the greater our collective wellbeing will be. What if it is far more important for you to be you, and to become fully conscious of and available for what you personally and authentically want and need, than any other thing you could ever do? What if from that place of subsequent fullness we are all innately wired to then give and serve each other as our cups runneth over.
It is deprivation and judgment that creates voracious, out-of-control appetites. It’s the belief in scarcity that creates greed. So let yourself right now for 10 minutes go crazy and feel and write and express every single need and desire and appetite that you have. Write it down, tell it to your best friend, take turns, go nuts! Imagine nothing is off limits. Feel and express it all without limits or boundaries or shame or rules or worrying what it means about you and your character or your current circumstances. Just go for it. Do this regularly. You don’t have to act on any of it. Just feel and express it all.
Here’s what you’ll probably find in time, if not immediately. That actually you don’t really want most of that stuff, you just want to be allowed to want it as a part of your self-discovery. By allowing yourself to want anything and everything without judgment, you’ll begin to discover the golden nuggets of truth, the things that you really truly do want. And you might be surprised at what they are.
I have a friend, a professional nurse, who speaks about becoming a volunteer in Africa as a full-time vocation the way other people talk about drinking champagne under a palm tree in Hawaii. She’s not a saint, a martyr, kinder or more loving than the champagne drinking Hawaii tourist, it just happens to be her idea of bliss. So don’t stop at the usual wish list stuff. Really go for it. “I wish I was never going to die, I wish I was 20 years younger, I wish everyone loved me all the time, I wish could eat all the Pizza in Italy without putting on a pound, I wish I could give it all up and become a trapeze artist.” Feel the want and the desire all the way through. It will rise and fall. Don’t try to control it, just feel it. Desire just wants to be felt and listened to and indulged. It doesn’t always want to be acted upon, although sometimes it does. But the more we allow desire without judgment or restriction, the freer we are to discern the authentic hunger from the false hunger, thereby allowing our true paths to unfold.
If you are currently in the grips of any kind of self-deprivation, whether it be emotional, food, financial, relationship or otherwise, you can bet that you are in the grips of a terror of your appetites and are using control and perhaps egoic pride or shame to keep them in check. Perhaps you’re afraid you will be judged, shamed, that you’ll become grossly overweight, lose everything that makes you feel safe, lose an identity you’ve built for yourself, lose your money, your freedom, your security, your good name, your reputation . . . in short, you will lose control and then you will lose everything.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re in the grips of an addiction of any kind, you most likely believe at some level that the solution is going to involve deprivation, scarcity, and starvation, being forced to conform, start being ‘good’, that you will be put into some kind of malnourished prison and who wants that? But even then, if your appetites are currently at the setting of addiction no matter how mild or severe, then you are right where you’re supposed to be. Your appetite is perfect for what you’re learning. Yes most likely, at least hopefully, you will find that whatever you’re consuming compulsively is not the food you’re seeking, but nobody judging or educating you around that is going to fix it for you. Only an inner awakening and recognition of that truth will fix it. Likewise, if you’re currently in the grips of self-deprivation, whether that be food control, compulsive volunteer work and ‘helping’ at the expense of your own personal needs or relationships, too much spiritual work and not enough fun, under-earning and depriving yourself of your material needs . . . the same solution is true.
I am a personal believer that the answer always comes through a spiritual connection to whatever it is that delivers the answers for you. But we don’t all get the same answers. You may receive direction along the lines of ‘Work less, take more vacations, for heaven’s sake relax and have a slice of cheesecake and don’t worry about it.’ Somebody else may get, ‘Time to get a job, start thinking of others more, oh and maybe ease up on the Netflix.’ Whoever you are, the result is the same. Joy. A state of wholeness. Essentially, directions to bring you back into balance where you are off, and to a place where you feel abundantly nourished.
The more I trust my appetites to rise and fall and be perfect and that all of my authentic needs will be met without exception, the more I can relax into them and be guided by them. They don’t kill us, they don’t create destruction, they don’t in and of themselves do anything. I can allow myself to want and need anything in any amount and to trust that it just is what it is, and if it’s a need that needs to be met, it will be. When you get really truly connected to yourself and that inner compass we all have, you can start to differentiate pretty easily between the curiosities that are simply leading you to clarity, and the things you need for your wholeness to be fully nourished. A good place to start is, check your motives. Do you think having no money or a frugal lifestyle makes you a good person? That being emotionally needless and always putting others’ needs first makes you virtuous and more attractive to others. You’re probably off beam. Do you think you’ll feel better if you get that promotion and get more money or just have more money? You maybe took a wrong turn somewhere. Do you think that if you meditate every day, do yoga and never put a toxic substance in your body you’re by association in great shape? Maybe not. Maybe your path to wholeness is to allow yourself to put on a few pounds, watch some vacuous tv and screw spirituality. Your true needs will make you feel alive, excited, relief, relaxed, at peace, in love, full. And in the end, it’s all about balance, right? Where are you out of balance? Only you know.
There’s no point in me coming over to your house and creating a multi-colored wheel and filling out how balanced you are in terms of hobbies, work, relationship, family, health, spiritual practice . . . you know the one. Because you might be on a path that requires you to spend 45% of your life focused on health, 25% on a relationship, 10% on work, 5% on family, 5% on spiritual practices and 5% on hobbies. That’s your perfect state of wholeness and balance according to your path. And of course, it will fluctuate according to your evolution and time of life. There’s no way anyone can fill out that chart for you except for you. So if you want more or less of anything, it’s your call. If you need more of something, and you already have a lot of that thing by somebody else’s definition, that is not your judgment call or theirs; it’s just what is, and if its true then you need to allow yourself to want it and to let it in.
So I trust in the jigsaw. I believe that if we all move into or at least towards our own personal state of wholeness, some people will want to start to feed Africa and some people will want to start to feed themselves more. And I believe that the only thing we can do about our collective need for us all to have what we need is to start with ourselves, and by identifying where our own unique appetites and desires are calling us. In the end, we are all truly called to give and to be of service, but only from a place of authenticity, wholeness, and fullness. And while you may be called to give service through Doctors Without Borders, that is no better or more virtuous than the person who has been called to give service by raising a single child in affluent circumstances, so long as its the truth. Perhaps being of service for you is simply becoming the best, and by that I mean the truest, version of yourself you can be. If you are a multimillionaire, you are not by definition greedy or disconnected with what really matters in life. If you are living a very frugal life, you are not by definition kind or connected or transcendent. More is not always a greater amount of money or stuff or self-indulgence but it might be. More may be more self-sacrifice, more silence, more simplicity, but it might not be.
The bottom line is, more is the universe’s expanding consciousness that we are being perpetually, magnetically drawn to. The real challenge is to attain the greatest capacity you can to hear your own definition of more so that you can move into the prosperity I believe we are all supposed to be living in. A daily commitment to following your own unique coordinates towards the giant, limitless, magnetic cornucopia that is calling us all home. Find whatever works for you to quiet the external directions of your environment and to listen to where your own inner directions are guiding you. Your appetites, your hunger, your wants and needs are just one way that you are being guided right to your ultimate well-being, and by association the well-being of the collective.
So throw out the rule book, the measuring stick, and those loud judgmental voices in your head and ask yourself right now, what are you hungry for more of today?
This article originally appeared on NataliePeatfield.com