It’s nearly two weeks since I announced to my friends and family that I’m Leaving art of living. (See, I can play the Unnecessary Capitals Game too!). In addition to lots of emotional ups and downs that I can compare essentially to any breakup I’ve ever been through, there are symptoms occurring physically (and of course psychologically) that I was not expecting. The first and most noticeable has been binge eating.
I have never had this problem before, not like this. I sometimes overeat; I put too much on my plate and then I finish it because it’s there– I strategically avoid buffets because of this compulsion to “get my money’s worth” and “clean my plate!”. But in the last 10 days I have been eating and eating, not from hunger or even from boredom, but out of a nebulous anxiety and a deep fear of emptiness.
What this reminds me of most is my experience of marijuana. Now, as a young woman dedicated to my Hippie Heritage, I considered it a duty to my culture to experiment with pot when I was 18 and living with my first stoner roommate. I had never tried the stuff before because I was afraid of liking it too much and turning into a loser, but I had this intense conviction that I *should* like it. After all, I was a neohippie with a crazy name and crazy parents, a former vegan living with my pet rat and doing yoga and a massage certification course in an uber-hippie university town. How could I NOT like pot??
But the fact is, I can’t stand the stuff.
When I got high (I tried about 5 times in total, all without success) I experienced a total inability to engage mentally. I couldn’t join a thought to any logical next thought; I couldn’t follow a simple conversation or the plot of a cartoon. I felt anxious and disconnected and completely ungrounded; I felt unable to express myself, unable to think or feel, and unable to get away because it was all happening inside my head. I had no connection to anything sensual, no real feeling of having a body at all. But I ate. I ate and ate and ate, I stuffed my face with anything available, unable to taste it, unable to register any sensual experience in anything at all– but I ate because I was desperately trying to get grounded, to re-embody, to end the nightmarish resoundingly anxious emptiness I felt.
To be perfectly honest, that’s very much like why I have been binge eating this week. Giving up SSRS as my guru and Art of Living as my spiritual community and the ashram as my Home has left a horrible emptiness at the center of my internal life; that emptiness is one of the most frightening things I have ever faced. I wonder if this emptiness is akin to the silence he always praised– only when I practiced silence under his tutelage, he was always there in my heart, watching appraising applauding critiquing or Celebrating my “silence”; there was no silence in that silence.
Now, it feels empty and terrifyingly quiet. I believe this was the very emptiness I came running and screaming to Him from. I sometimes think that our primary mythologies function most beautifully when they function in terms of facing that Void. Now, I have nothing to replace him with. Now in my heart there’s “no there there”. It’s almost a malevolent emptiness– like The Nothing in “The Neverending Story”…
So, I’ve been binge eating; before I admitted to myself and my family I was leaving AoL, I also self-medicated my depression with quite a lot of alcohol. Thankfully I’m not drinking like that now, and I’m sure the overeating will pass soon, now that I understand it better. Ultimately I think if there is a cure or solution to this sensation (besides a subsequent experience of Sartre’s nausea, and developing an existential eating disorder) , it is in greeting that Nothing as mine, as my own playground and kingdom and temple. One day, soon I hope, I shall hold my head high as Queen of that Void. One day. Soon, I hope.