Banishing the hungry ghost

There is always room to ponder over war fare, child labor, chemical fertilisers and unfair working conditions. And while I don’t watch the news, I keep a eye out for the activities of big businesses, manufacturers, and farms, and tend to look at whether they are working with nature or turning away from it. I try to focus on the positive actions of others, so that I may be inspired to create myself, but occasionally I need to dabble in the darker side of humanity so I can keep my awareness levels in check and acknowledge the problems to which humanity faces.

We live in a world where those with greed have power and consciously take advantage of and oppress others to grab land (for its resources, fertile soil, or sacred histories) all for money, more power and to feed greed.

There is a concept in South East Asia, that of hungry ghosts- said to arise from ancestors who were murdered or committed suicide but did not have a proper send off (and no closure) in death and consequently roam around possessing the bodies of people and making them greedy and hungry. They can never satisfy their emptiness. It’s a reason to why offerings of food are given, which you may notice on shrines or altars (we call them spirit houses) of Chinese and Buddhist temples.

 The hungry ghosts are what possess people to be greedy and have addictions. Many of us have had this experience, whether literal or symbolic. The desire for more, and more… And never feeling full… like when you eat a salty meal and then keep drinking water or sugary drinks but you still don’t feel hydrated. 

For those who have moved past these feelings or are moving through them at this moment, there is no doubt that it has arisen from some energy or events from the past; they trigger the hungry ghosts within us and if you believe in spirit in this way I speak of, when we are vulnerable and allow ourselves to become unwell, it is easier for these spirits to possess us. A little bit of therapy or self-asessment will uncover the reasons, but one must be willing to do the work.

It’s so important that humanity, individually and collectively, do not create more of these events of suffering because it is the next generation that has to work through the pains of their parents and grandparents. We take them on as our own. I only assume that at this point, now, you have come across the concept of ancestral trauma or epigenetics.

At this point, I speak as a child of a refugee. And while I never experienced what my father had to go through, I have suffered with him and his pains, some of which are from his experiences and some of which come from his parents. The experience with food during the civil war, in prison and in refugee camp is partly how I came to be a bulk buyer- a habit I picked up for a variety of reasons, both rational and imagined. Many who lived under communism will exhibit this same trait.  It took me a long time to realise that all the food I have in the shop is not going to suddenly just disappear. I didn’t grow up around war, it’s not my issue to worry about scarcity, yet, I worried about scarcity –   because my father obsessed with making sure there was always food, because my mother hid foods which were considered ‘rare’ and expensive. Starvation. The need to hide and store food, because for long periods of time in their lives, there was no food. And here, because of these experiences, it became my issue, because it was theirs.

Occasionally when tired, I can slip into an unconscious need to over consume, because I think that tomorrow there may be nothing left, especially when I watch how big businesses destroy the good land and contaminate the soil with anything from bombs to bulldozers and chemicals. I have much respect for the work of those who preserve and collect seeds, because in my worst state of mind, there is a time that we may well need them.

This cycle of never having enough continues every time there is violence paired with warfare. Of course, at this time, I have Palestine in the back of my mind when I speak of these things.

The tactics of denying the safety of somewhere to live and not having the land to grow food, or the access to food and water is violent in its expression and intentionally seeks to harm. Every single survivor of these conflicts must deal with their experiences; coping mechanisms are developed or therapy is sort out. It is no easy task to heal from violence and terror, and each unhealed experience is passed on to our children, sometimes not obviously, but in subtle ways. It can be as simple as hiding a chocolate bar in a tin in a cupboard.

If we continue to allow these actions to happen, we also have to deal with the consequences of healing the wounds from those events. While they not be our actions directly, if we are able to see ourselves as part of humanity and not separate from it, we can understand how our actions here and now can ripple through the actions to others across the seas.

 Every time you buy a cheap item from Primark, it’s a contribution to the lives of people working in unsafe factories- it is a way of saying that we are okay with them living in such conditions. That for the money we save on a t- shirt is totally worth it, without realising that a child across the sea may have little to eat because of the ‘saving’ we just made. Sometimes, depending on the company and how they invest, we are also saying its okay to build weapons of war, because yes its what a lot of companies do – it is something a lot of banks do and is a big reason to why people are actively changing banks from the arms investing ones to those who do not.

The internet has allowed us to connect with those on the other end of our consumer goods, we can see how things are made – videos filmed in factories in China and India so we know where our purchases come from. The information age has given us more power and freedom to choose, and to ask questions of the true ethics behind brands and products. We don’t want or need to tell people how to live, but there is a gentle human kindness is wanting that everyone has the basics of shelter, clean water, food and access to education. But many purchases often counteract this human kindness. We know of the factory buildings of which have collapsed, we know of the minimum wages or forced labour in some of these places. Yes, it is complex trying to figure out who owns what and what company is doing ‘wrong’, but once we know, once we have the information, there is no turning back and pretending you don’t know, there is only the choice to act upon it. Even if that act is to pretend that you don’t care or that you are unable to change.

So how do we continue to collectively allow people’s homes to be taken from them, or allow others to wipe out generations of a community? All to allow a minority of people a bigger chunk of power. Because we forget that our actions, however small we ‘think’ we are, affect the world stage. That everything we buy is a currency of money, a currency of energy that flows into the hands of others. And so we should ask ourselves, where is our money going? How is it used? Do those who gain the majority of it use it in ways that benefit humanity’s growth or is it used for the destruction of others. Does that money work with nature, or against it?

It takes a little more time to consciously ask these questions, to take the time on our adventures to seek out clean food, or clothes made by locals instead of unethical factories, but when we turn that energy into a love for it, it flows beautifully. It is a joyful thing to stand at a market stall and hear a person talk about their bees and sell us their honey, so much more enriching and memorable than buying sugar water from a supermarket shelf. The love and care that goes into producing at a local independent level can trump the unhappiness that goes on within underpaying companies who produce for nothing more than money and the consumer demand.

 The reason why I am so involved in retail is because I genuinely believe in the collective power of how we spend our money and how it directly affects the way businesses and governments conduct themselves. As individuals we may not always notice the ‘trends’, but there are indeed, trends, and our spending can set those trends in motion. Because the trend can only exist due to the collective.

 So what if we don’t engage with what ‘they’ are selling. I say they because I am talking about an energy rather than any one particular company or group of people. The ‘they’ is whoever you have decided doesn’t align with your own value system. And to engage with, I also refer to the newspapers and the radio and not just with what you buy.

I’m awfully meticulous in figuring out what company owns who, despite what they produce and where their investment goes. Research is slow and long, sometimes you see products come and then go because new information has been discovered. Sometime I forget what I’ve learned because I’m just so desperate to offer a better solution to the current one, but trust that I’ve made the right choices. The ethical consumer movement is in constant movement, and is most definitely not perfect, but it is always easy to spot who is trying their best to do the ‘right’ thing and, those who are ignorant to world issues (but still trying), and those who are simply in it for the money. My work is mostly silent, often emailing companies with research papers about their materials and where they come from. In the past, I have had honest suppliers do the same for me. In a seemingly capitalist market, I find that those who work with nature always reach out to help and encourage one another.

If I’m not learning about herbs, I’m trying to figure out why the price of chocolate has sky rocketed or why x, y, z are suddenly out of stock. Over recent years, its because land has been destroyed by bombing, some times it’s the changing climate and a bad harvest, other times it turns out people on the producing end were being underpaid, or new international policies have been introduced that raise the costs of transport. It’s a lot to keep up with. Its tiring sometimes, and its also why local produce is so important. Its less work chasing local producers, because you can more often or not meet them where they. Literally. Local economy allows an autonomy and a self empowerment in communities when they can provide for themselves. But in times of less fruitful harvests, its also why good international relations in trade is helpful, but nobody should have to suffer for it. Trade should be fair and not be at the expense of others.

And so, back to hungry ghosts!  Not everyone *wants* to kick out the hungry ghost and so we see this greed everywhere.

The hungry ghost resides, too in those who’s ancestors have suffered and passed down their survival methods… Because not everyone feels safe with abundance. Those who at some point had nothing can embody it so deeply then when power and success come to them (even with hard work) they still cling on, they become corrupt, they crave more, because once in their history they didn’t have enough. For some that is over eating, for some it’s acquiring wealth and others corruption. I have seen it in many forms in various positions of power around the world on my travels. I’ve watched a women set up an orphanage with good intentions become corrupt and steal donations, attempting to do it right in front of me, (I did not allow it). And because, she too once had nothing, and with that desire to help others, she helped herself too – just a little too much. It didn’t help that in her environment, resources and money were scarce, but that is no excuse to continue the cycle. You often hear of the stereotype of people becoming police officers because they were once bullied in their past and this too is a coping mechanism and while the police may have their place in the world, people becoming police officers lead by ‘wrong’ intentions is not what the world needs.

 We can’t always predict how these pains will manifest but they will manifest if not acknowledged and dealt with. But hey, when you are so busy basking in all the power you have, who has time for therapy right?! So these people, they continue to lead, plot and scheme without having relocated the love in their hearts which was once there. And that is very much what we need, collectively within humanity. Love.

And, dare I say it, there are some that just roll up with evil in their hearts and intentions to dominate and harm, and yet as I say that, I don’t truly believe that to be anybody’s true nature. Its just that these people have lost their ability to keep their hearts open and acknowledge the buried pains within them. They have not dealt with their mummy issues or their Daddy issues and they take it out on the world. But not to acknowledge that people make dark and evil decisions is to live in a world of illusion. We can understand it without agreeing with it. We can choose to acknowledge these people and what they are and what they do without engaging with them and thus becoming and reflecting the same nature, the same fear and greed.

To become consumed with all the wrong doings in the world does not lead to creative solutions. It indeed helps us embrace what we feel when we encounter what we consider to be evil and bad, but we must never get stuck in that place, as this is how we become the thing we consider to be wrong in the first place. We cannot eradicate hate with hate.

While, I believe in violent situations we are free to defend ourselves, when we live within a physical place that is peaceful, we must use our minds and the resources available to us to tackle the problems of the world instead of turning to violence. And in violence, I mean that thoughts in themselves can be violent. If we look where we are now, right now, here, reading this, we look around, and more often than not, people are going about their day peacefully and so it is within us that violence and unsettling thoughts reside. We can make a choice to act them out, or we can acknowledge and dissipate them so that thoughts and feelings can transform into something more productive, more useful, more creative, more joyful.

 The reality is that while everyone can ‘heal’ and grow, not everyone wants to. It takes courage and commitment, and courage, for many, takes practice. Psychology teaches us that humans seek comfort and quite often it is the coping mechanisms that are most comfortable and familiar that we turn to; much easier than doing the inner work needed to adapt and evolve. If we cannot see our own short comings, we will instead see them in others and while this may at times be helpful, it is much more enriching that we reconise the need within ourselves to ‘do better’, so that we can also encourage the same in others.

 It is the desire for power and the greed that comes along with it that makes people put aside the needs of others. So I say this over and over, and people may find it difficult to do, because it is a change of habit — we don’t need to engage.

We don’t need to eat the food that has been overly manipulated. We don’t need to buy the latest I phone or pair of trainers. We don’t need to listen to the bias on the news channels or the terror which is fed through the tv or the radio. Where is the good news instead?

It is there, but we must actively seek it out. If we focus on what interests us and is important to us, we can be inspired to do the good that we enjoy and consequently genuinely helps others.

Much of the resistance we see on social media in Gaza comes from people who are dancing and playing sports. They continue to seek out activities that bring them joy, as a form of resistance and resilience. We too, in our own individual circumstances must do the same. While in the West we may not have to encounter bombs and displacement, there is still poverty on our doorsteps, a lack of housing and a massive epidemic of depression. To tackle these issues facing our physical eyes, we must do that the things that bring joy and share it with others. Have you ever noticed how a queue moves much faster when people are talking and laughing with one another? That is the power of joy.

If we can move through life with kindness, you never know who’s life you may touch, inspiring them to make better decisions based on logic and love, rather than fear and emotion.

 I think of all the suffering that has gone into fast food, the factory line workers who live long repetitive days, the pesticides sprayed by underpaid farmers which they breathe in along with the insects and animals, the CEO’s rolling in money and investing it on building missile drones, the staff at the counter on minimum wage, the consumer who gets cancer and can’t figure out why.

 You can choose to boycott the problem companies and what they stand for and simultaneously boycott chemicals that your digestive system can’t handle. Your body will thank you for it and the companies will have to deal with the loss of revenue until they can rethink the way they do things. It’s an obvious win for humanity, if everyone everywhere just stopped consuming. It sounds simply because it is. Because it has power. 

 Can we imagine that these companies would be forced to invest instead in greener projects (even if just for show at first)..  that they should start to think about working with nature and not against it. And if they can’t, then they simply die out and in the worst case, their wealth is passed on to the next generation who with all the energy we have given to doing better, will realise there is no place for the hungry ghosts, that they too need to rid themselves of generational greed and corruption.

My hidden cave of a shop, in its own way is simply a starting point for tackling many of these issues in a gentle yet productive way. I insist on sourcing from companies and people who love what they do, are driven by compassion for people and our planet and move forward with purpose, knowing that health starts with the soil and those who tend to it. Organic growers reject the ‘against nature’ of the now, now, now greed mentality. Organic growers respect the seasons and come up with creative solutions to problems, and this is much easier to do when the knowledge can be passed on. Every time land is grabbed and farmers are taken away and disconnected from their land, knowledge about that land, the crops and its ways are lost.  We cannot afford to keep loosing loved land to the greedy and corrupt. It is important that we continue to show support to those who are working with nature, who love their fellow humans and who are able to foresee and dream up more balanced ways of living of society.

I acknowledge that this is long term change and not a overnight affair – but for you and for me, this is health and happiness — and good health and happiness is how we will ripple out our actions into the world, while directly and indirectly influencing how our money flows around the planet. Quite literally.  The most lazy choice is most likely the choice that puts money into the hands of the greedy. A hungover trip to McDonalds is not kindness to yourself or the planet. We continue to underestimate the power of the individual, and what we can achieve together and that needs to stop.

At the simplest level, we must heal from the pain of our collective actions, we must seek to avoid the same mistakes, we must love, we must create, we must realise how powerful our seemingly small actions are and we must educate ourselves to what is happening in our world, always with the intention of doing something about it. We can only use what resources are available to us and we can create the things we dream of if we hold true to our values, whatever they are. We must find courage to challenge ourselves, our bias in thinking and our bad habits.

Can we stop making excuses and can we instead, go fourth with joy and with purpose, knowing whole heartedly that what we do ripples out into the world and that every choice we make that comes from the heart, is always the right one.