In my understanding of Buddhism, hell is being stuck in a state of desire, of craving, of wanting anything other than what is right here, right now. Jizo is the bodhisattva whose role it is to help us out of these realms, making a vow to evolve to a higher state.I am in Florence, Italy. I am jet lagged and my body is having arguments with my mind. My stomach is not empty — I just had a protein bar and an apple to tide me over until dinner at 8 p.m. (That’s here; at home it will be 10 a.m.) So why am I still hungry? Mouth hunger? My husband is napping beside me. It is morning at home. Here, dinner is not for two hours. I feel restless. My legs are very very tired from walking all day. All day, really.
My mind flits around. Meditating on my breath seems impossible. Meditating on my husband’s even, sleep-breathing is even less possible. My mind is flitting over the images of the day, the photographs I shot, the history of the streets I am walking on. One of the easiest things I am tethered to for relief from restless cravings is a Great Human Pastime: food. I think to myself that the hunger is the expression of being tired and not accepting it. I am craving something other than What Is Right Now.
My belly glares at the clock, confused. I wonder if my soul is floating over the Alps or somewhere. It does not feel as if it is inside me. I am ungrounded. Where is my Jizo? Around my neck. Suddenly, it is just jewelry. I pause. I try to be open and kind. Could I walk across the street to the little market and get some sparkling water? Yes.
I drink the water. I still feel the hunger. I find it easier not to judge it. I feel less irritated by the hunger. Less annoyed that I am sleepy. That’s why I’m craving — I don’t want to accept jet lag OR hunger. I think of others who are suffering because they have no water. My water tastes like gratitude, refreshing and light. I feel compassion toward people who are thirsty or whose stomachs are always hungry because, truly, there is not enough food.
I am more peaceful. I accept the discomfort. Held safely by my Jizo, the home movie of my conjured suffering comes to a peaceful ending. For now.
…I wonder, if you are in the restlessness of hell, craving something, what do you crave? What do you do with the feeling?