“One of the things that is interesting about children is how much appetite they have…but also how conflicted they can be about their appetites. Anybody who’s got young children, or has had them, or was once a young child, will remember that children are incredibly picky about their food. They can go through periods where they will only have an orange peeled in a certain way. Or milk in a certain cup.
…there’s something very frightening about one’s appetite. So that one is trying to contain a voraciousness in a very specific, limiting, narrowed way. It’s as though, were the child not to have the milk in that cup, it would be a catastrophe. And the child is right. It would be a catastrophe, because that specific way, that habit, contains what is felt to be a very fearful appetite. An appetite is fearful because it connects you with the world in very unpredictable ways. Winnicott says somewhere that health is much more difficult to deal with than disease. And he’s right, I think, in the sense that everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves.” – Adam Phillips, child psychologist, in an interview published inThe Paris Review, Art of Nonfiction, no. 7
We settle into home. Into family. into a containing structure. Most of us spend a good deal of our lives with structure. We know what to expect and we follow that road map. We keep our appetites in check to make sure our weight, our health, our emotions, our tribe, our beliefs, our very beingness is not threatened.
In Eastern traditions, this structure and containment is considered the male principle.
There is also the equal and opposite deconstructing force of desire, a creative well spring of flow that surges, ebbs and flows that requires from us at different times in life a leap into the unknown. It is the force behind the adventurer, the inventor, and the mother. Through the mother’s desire* to nurture and give life, the baby comes forward in its own unique form. *(energetic and biological desire which may be different than what the mother mentally desires)
The unstructured force of desire is an aspect of the feminine, with the ferocious sister of appetite as our guide.
Much of the last 1000 years has been about containment, logic and structure. As we can see in the current earth and political climates, much desconstruction is going on. This is the Kali, the deconstructive force of the feminine. The cellular matrix of life requires this constant deconstruction and construction.
So it is not bad that we have the different aspects of structure and desire. They are not mutually exclusive.
Yet most of us do not allow, and maybe some are living in paradigms, mental/emotional/spiritual or otherwise that do not allow for the awareness of desires and appetites. When this happens, the feminine principle is sequestered into the shadows as the “whore”, “the fatty”, “the sinner”, whatever term you want to call the desire or appetite for something else. That feminine force does not go away, it is looking for expression. To be truly healthy, truly alive and vibrantly doing the work you are here to do, we must be aware of the polar forces of desire and appetite that are the invisible and governing force behind all of what we do.
To balance both requires time to relax and let go. Not going away per se, but just to put the phone down, to go outside without the phone or music, to have moments of movement and quiet before you go to bed or when you come home from work. We did not always have cell phones!
Giving oneself a few moments to breathe and pause is another way to balance and build up one’s awareness of appetite. A square breath is lovely for balance. Put your hands on your belly just above the navel. Bring your awareness to the belly under the hands. Inhale in for the count of 4, Hold for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, hold for the count of 2. Repeat that sequence 8-10 times, focusing your awareness at the diaphragm. Breathe in and out through your nose if you can. If you are hot, breathe in through your mouth, out through your nose.
Many people come to mindfulness because they want less stress and to lose weight. Unlike other modalities, the intention of mindfulness is not to control your behavior but to become aware of your behavior. With greater insight and awareness, you have more freedom to make the choice to eat a donut or make love. When we negate, suppress and blame another for awakening our desires, we effect our relationship within ourself, with our immediate family, and the world.
So time you reach for your cell phone to text, to make another project, another date, or another email, ask yourself, “am I relaxed? Just how much aliveness can I bear?”