A guest post by Marianne Elliott
When Rachel invited me to write a guest post here, I suspect she had in mind that I would be a bit like a substitute teacher – offering you my own teachings on true hungers, or something complimentary.
Instead, I’m here as a fellow student of the wise Ms. Cole.
Because here is the thing: I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for a decade, which means I am pretty in touch with my own feelings, hungers and desires. I know what I need. But until I spent a day at a Retreatshop with Rachel this fall, I didn’t see clearly how (and why) I was sabotaging my own nourishment.
What Rachel said that day – and what I’ve been reflecting and acting on ever since – was:
The way we meet and treat our own hungers sets up the pattern and norm for how we allow ourselves to be treated by others.
My ability to make clear requests of the people in my life begins with, and depends on, how I am in relationship with myself.
Can I be in open communication with my own hungers? Can I say to myself ‘What I want and need right now is [rest or touch or space or play or whatever else I might need]’ and not judge my own hunger? Nor freak out about how that hunger will be fed? Can I simply and clearly acknowledge and take ownership of what it is I want and need?
Because – as Rachel made clear to me that day – my ability to be open, kind and easy with my own hungers is a pre-requisite for things being open, kind and easy in my relationships.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate.
In August this year I went on holiday in Italy with my sweetheart. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly three months. I’d been on book tour in the US and Canada, while he had been holding down the fort at home.
We had planned our holiday long before we knew that we would be apart so long, and had chosen a boutique walking (and eating) tour of Italy with a small group led by some friends of ours. There were 15 people in our group. Every night the hosts invited everyone to join them for dinner, and also made recommendations of other places to eat for anyone who wanted time apart from the group.
Every night of our tour, my extroverted and sociable lover wanted to eat with the group.
I, on the other hand, wanted very much to have at least some of our meals alone. We hadn’t had any time together for several months, and it was hard for me to feel deeply connected to him when we were always with the larger group. Plus, being with so many other people all the time exhausted me.
BUT I wasn’t okay with my own need. I assessed it, judged it to be selfish, and felt uncomfortable ‘imposing’ it on my love. So instead of making a clear and simple request to have my need met, I tried to make him want what I wanted.
‘But don’t you want to have some time just with me?’ I asked.
And when the answer was no, instead of being clear that this was my hunger and I could ask to have it met, I took it personally that he didn’t want the same thing as me.
It was, to say the least, not fun for either of us.
A month later, sitting at Rachel’s parents’ dining room table, I had an epiphany. In order to have my hungers met in my relationship, I need to first make peace with my hungers. And learn to feed my own hungers where I can.
Only then can I make clean, clear requests of the people I love. Even more importantly, when their answer is no, as it inevitably sometimes will be, I can be reassured by the knowledge I can take care of my hungers myself.
Marianne is a writer, human rights advocate and yoga teacher. She’s the author of Zen Under Fire, a memoir about her time working for the UN in Afghanistan. She created the 30 Days of Yoga online program to help people get started with a regular home yoga practice. Marianne lives and writes in a converted wooden church on a hill overlooking the ocean in New Zealand.