Hunger is a funny thing. I’ve had the chance this winter to experience this in a lot of ways.

In a literal sense, I tried cutting out some foods that I was eating a lot of but didn’t think were really nourishing me. This is always challenging: food is central to our well-being in a very literal way, and so changing it is an easy way to get to hear a tribble chorus of but we’re going to diiiiiiieeeeee! One of the things I noticed was the inconsistency of my cravings: there were times when I really wanted this or that, but since I had committed to not eating them for the time being, eventually they passed, usually within just a few hours. There were a few things that came up cyclically, but I never spent a whole week wanting something — not even a whole day!

I also noticed that there were some things I enjoyed more because they were harder to get. Coffee is something I’ve enjoyed for years, but because of the choices I was making about food, it turned out to be plausible to have it only at home, for the most part. That meant that I was drinking coffee only occasionally, and also that each cup made me ecstatically happy. My morning can’t-think-until-cup-number-2 routine was broken and I started to experience each cup again.

I’ve observed a similar pattern in my emotional cravings. They tend to last longer — days or weeks instead of minutes or hours — but they also often wax and wane. I go through a phase of thinking that what I really want is a particular kind of work, or a particular kind of relationship, and then, without me really noticing, my focus on that particular thing wanes. My eating experiment brought this similarity into sharp focus.

I have been tremendously lucky these last few weeks to also be participating in a course on hunger led by the wonderful Rachel Cole. Rachel sends us these gorgeous notes several times a week, reminding us to think about what we’re really hungry for. For me, this answer lies beneath the hungers of body and heart that I’m finding turn out to ephemeral, for all their immediate power. In the last few weeks, the answer has been peace of mind: I’ve been trying to keep too many balls (and oranges, and chainsaws!) in the air and have been living in fear of dropping one of them.

Rachel’s Wisdom Notes have also invoked deep gratitude for me, because they’re helping me remember times when deep hungers dominated my life. I spent years reaching for connection, love, and rest before finding the deep wells of those qualities that feed me today. They’re also reminding me that having my basic needs — food, warmth, shelter, love — met is a tremendous privilege, and so connecting me to my desire to serve.

What is it that you’re truly hungry for this season? How full can you give yourself permission to feel?

{The signup deadline for Rachel’s Wisdom Notes is past, but you can see what else she’s up to!}

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