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Day 28: Three Poisons

November 11, 2023

Think positively. Just be happy.

We hear these phrases all the time, but when it comes to living a joyful, peaceful life, this advice isn’t necessarily helpful because it makes these things “good” or “desired” while the alternative becomes something we think of as “bad” or “unwanted”.

Today I’ve been learning about “The 3 Poisons” – Passion. Aggression. Ignorance – or, put another way, they are ‘craving’, ‘aversion’, and ‘couldn’t care less’. (Start where you are by Pema Chödrön)

In this post, I’m thinking particularly about ‘craving’ and ‘aversion’.

I’m away on a girls weekend to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday and, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of alcohol involved. 

If you know me or listen to my podcast, you know that alcohol is one of my ‘trouble spots’, in that it’s something I “hold tightly” – either in the form of craving or in the form of aversion.

This is true of food as well. I’d say I’ve probably turned both of these things into “moral issues” – I am “good” or “bad” as a result of my choices in relation to both.

In Practice

I’m learning that joyful living requires us to hold everything lightly – to not take ourselves, our lives or other people too seriously.

It’s all a passing memory.

As I sit typing this morning, my head a bit sore from a night of over-indulgence, I realise that food and alcohol are part of a whole ecosystem of things I “hold tightly”. 

I live by SO. MANY. RULES. So many. I take myself ridiculously seriously and expect so much of myself. There is a constant commentary in my head about whether or not I’m doing things “right”. This is particularly true as a parent. 

I remember one of the therapists we worked with through our adoption agency saying, “That sounds exhausting!” when I told her what my thoughts sound like in relation to parenting. 

Now I see that these thoughts are forms of ‘craving’ and ‘aversion’ too. I crave and value certain behaviours and I have an aversion to everything else. Again, I’ve made them moral issues – good or bad. 

Then, to escape the constant “tight hold”, I crave food and/or alcohol as sources of comfort but have an aversion to both because they’re “bad”. 

I’ve known for a while that I’m prone to medicating stress with food and alcohol but, until writing this, I hadn’t seen the common thread of “craving” and “aversion” lying beneath them. 

That thread feels important because craving and aversion are both forms of “holding tightly” and now I’m seeing that I’m holding everything tightly – including the things I have traditionally relied on to provide release. 

Again, I’m not sure where to go from here but it feels like another little nugget of gold has been revealed. I was about to say, “now all I have to do is keep mining” but perhaps that’s just me continuing to “hold tightly”. 

My instinct suggests that “holding lightly” involves humour. It is all quite silly and ridiculous when you think about it. 

So today, I’ll take a seat between the two poles of passion and aggression / craving and aversion, and enjoy watching my little mind gremlins doing their dancing, and I’ll see where the day takes me. 

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