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  • Writer's picturemonettevanlith

Your little and big hunger

A friend recently recommended a book called “The Awakened Woman” by Tererai Trent. In it the author describes a concept that I frequently discuss with coaching clients who are in search of meaning and finding their sphere of usefulness in the world.

I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs from the book that explain the idea further.

The indigenous hunter gatherer peoples of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa have a strong belief and understanding that there is much more to life than material existence. They describe two kinds of hunger.  The little hunger and the great hunger.

A story set in a village illustrates this concept in a profound way.

There once were two sons of a powerful family who had everything to satisfy their physical needs yet, they always wanted more. One day the father asked the community elders to help him find a way to make his sons more responsible and grateful. The elders determined that what made the boys unhappy and unsatisfied was a hunger for meaning in their lives.  The father said that he gave the boys anything they could possibly want. The elders pointed out that wants are not based on needs.

When not met, a need may result in inequality such as poverty or oppression. Wants, on the other hand, are things that we desire and are not required to find happiness.  “I give my sons money so they can buy what they want and feel good about themselves” said the rich father.  The elders pointed out that money does not create happiness nor does it build self esteem. We raise responsible children they explained, by teaching them empathy, love and respect. Our wants are often driven by little hungers that create a false sense of self and satisfaction.

The rich man was silent.  He had never thought about needs and wants or happiness in this way.  He was advised to send his children to work with others in the community.  To have them repair old homes, mentor orphans, and to contribute to the welfare of their neighbors.  The boys went to work. Not long after, they started to receive compliments for their contributions. They soon began to organize community services and rally other youth to rebuild the community school.  Once their hunger to do good was awakened these two boys never looked back.

Tererai continues:

The great hunger, the greatest of all pangs, is the hunger for a life with meaning. It enables us to move beyond immediate gratification and toward fulfillment.  The great hunger inspires us, leads us to discover new ways to grow, give and help others.

Today we live in a society driven by little hungers that overshadow our true happiness and stifle our self esteem.  But what is it that you are truly hungry for? What does your soul need?

Deep within us is an innate desire to support one another.  The power of the great hunger leads us on that path. Once we find our great hunger, a surge of purpose fills us.

Now, you may wonder, how do I find my great hunger?  You may start to discover it by asking yourself this simple question:

“What breaks my heart?”

Find some quiet time in a peaceful spot and deeply reflect on this question.  Write down all the thoughts that arise from your heart. Come back to it several times until you feel you have reached a deep understanding of your heart and what causes it pain.

You can be fulfilled and living in comfort yet have a great hunger. When you watch the news or think about the state of the world today, what breaks your heart?  You don’t have to start big. Just ask yourself, what causes my heart to ache?

When I shared this idea with a few friends, I found that some people knew immediately what breaks their heart.  One said, I feel heartbroken when I hear of puppies being abused. I feel I can contribute to the well-being of these animals.  This friend mobilized her talents and resources to open her home to foster abused dogs. After some time she found herself fully engaged in finding good homes for these dogs.  Another friend said, I don’t feel at all silenced or disempowered, I feel I have everything I need and do everything I can. When asked to explore the question anyway, a few days later she came back stunned and amazed. She said, I worry about a lot of issues these days but the answer that came up again and again in response to this question is the Syrian refugee crisis.  That is what most breaks my heart right now. I felt initially that there was nothing I could do so I prayed and held it in my mind not really knowing what would be next. Then I got an email, it was a volunteer request forwarded to me by a neighbor, from a local organization that helps refugee families adjust to life in the US. It turned out I was living near one of the largest refugee communities in the nation.  I realized I had been feeling disempowered without knowing it. I assumed I couldn’t do anything to ease the pain in my heart and the pain in communities so far away from me. I was wrong. I had way more power than I knew. Today, I am friends with a whole family of Syrian refugees whom I’m able to help with grocery shopping, learning english, and job searching among other things.

This is the awakening of our true purpose and soul’s desire to give and to serve others.

The concept of finding our purpose in life also relates to raising our children to become happy and contributing members of society.  Self-esteem and happiness are connected to a sense of worth and purpose which in turn is linked to finding ways to give of ourselves and our talents to the betterment of our fellow-men and the world.

Contact me to schedule a few coaching sessions to find your great hunger. I'd love to help you discover how to transform your deep heart's desire into a life of purpose and meaning.

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