Hunger has a variety of definitions, and one of the commonly used definitions is "food insecurity." "Food insecurity is variously defined as experiencing hunger, inability to secure enough food of sufficient quality and quantity to enable good health and participation in society, and cutting down on food due to financial necessity." (cited from The Guardian's article, "More than 8 million in UK struggle to put food on table, survey says"). However we choose to define it, hunger is a major issue that creates a lot of physical suffering, which invariably causes lots of psychological suffering. It's prevalence in the developing countries is a fairly well-understood fact. But there is also a high prevalence of food insecurity in developed countries. Here are a couple statistics to help you appreciate the scope of this issue.
"Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth."
--World Food Programme Statistics
"42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children."
"New UN data show that an estimated 8.4 million people, the equivalent of entire population of London, were living in households reporting having insufficient food in the UK in 2014, the 6th largest economy in the world."
--Too Poor to Eat: Food insecurity in the UK
By Anna Taylor and Rachel Loopstra
These last two statistics can be particularly shocking to people. I think there is a belief that hunger isn't a major issues in rich nations like the U.S. and the U.K. Obviously that belief is wrong. But what does it mean to consciously engage with such a huge issue? Let's delve into this question and consider what it means to consciously confront hunger and other real world issues.
Disease, thirst, and other physical issues are real problems. They don't go away by wiggling our fingers or chanting some spiritual spell. If they did disappear so easily, I'm sure someone would have dispelled away such pains already.
Conversely, imaginary human problems are those caused by people from their own illusions. So a bad break-up/divorce may seem like a problem, but how you view the situation can radically change it. While you can't necessarily change your ex-partner's perspective, your response to the situation is totally up to you. When we're stuck in the ego self, we don't see how illusory these pains are. As you let go of more and more issues (like the need for external validation), suddenly your understanding of the situation like the end of a relationship changes.
To be sure, human beings are good at creating problems out of nothing. Wars and atrocities are created via ego delusion, and these delusions create issues that have to be addressed. But it truly is madness. These problems do not have to exist. We have so many real problems to address that these other made up issues can keep us from making real headway.
How People Create Problems out of Nothing
Being Upset Helps No OneAs always, I have to emphasize that doing your inner work is the most important part of helping to serve the world. The clearer you are, the clearer it is when and how to help with real world problems. When people haven't done their inner work, they tend to get upset by these problems. They get angry or sad or scared for others, which absolutely does not alleviate the suffering of others. It also can blind you to what you need to do to really help. Many people prefer to complain about unjust economic systems (and plenty of them are) or the greed of others (and lots of people are greedy). These upset feelings somehow make the person feel better. A lot of people confuse caring about an issue with being upset by it. But being upset brings us no nearer to any real solutions.
Actually, an upset response to a serious issue like hunger shows where you still have work to do on yourself. It suggests that you've been triggered by the issue, and there is some belief or old pain inside of you that still needs to be addressed. Thus, helping people address hunger often means finding your own pain that gets triggered by the reality of hunger. People who are food insecure don't need your pity, anger, sadness, or anything else. They need food, and they need solutions to ensure regular access to nutritious food. So resolving your issues is step one to being clear of mind and to clearly seeing where you feel called to impact positive social change in an issue such as hunger or another one.
Letting Your Interests ChangeInterestingly enough, when you do inner work, some of the causes that interested you most often change. A lot of times we find ourselves drawn to issues that reflect our inner states. A doctor may be called to help people fight deadly diseases because she hasn't dealt with the loss of her mother who died from an incurable disease. If she does heal this issue, she may find that she's actually called to be a pediatrician or some other vocation entirely. I know that many people would see what she is doing trying to fight deadly diseases as incredibly important. It is! But it seems that people offer the best and highest support to the world by naturally being who they are and not attempting to do something for the "right reasons." Thus, it is more important to let your interests change so that you are fully in your love and your passion for a cause rather than clinging on to an idea about what the right thing to do is.
The more you cling on to an idea, the more that reveals that part of you has already wandered off. Your energy is split. Part of you is waiting for the rest of you to come join the show. One interest has dissolved, and something else can now open up. If you persist in ignoring this truth, you can find yourself getting more quickly drained or upset by the work you'd been doing. You're no longer all in on this cause. Trust the need and the timing for change.
To be clear, this isn't a wandering attention. Those who have the issue of not being able to commit to something need to practice commitment. That's an important life lesson. What I am talking about is along the lines of coming to completion as well as opening to your true interests, not those that are dictated to you by your unconscious ego. The more you allow yourself to open and trust the changes in your interests, the more powerful you can become in the conscious change and action you can offer the world.
The Return of the Ego
Embracing the Lack of Clear AnswersSocial issues are generally multi-faceted, and hunger is no different. There are regional issues that range from economic to environmental to societal. So tackling hunger requires different tactics depending on where you want to engage with it. Certainly, I like to encourage people to start with their local communities. That's one of the reason I posted the U.S. and U.K. statistics (since this is where most of my readers are based). Those of us in wealthy nations like to think that we don't have these types of issues. But rich countries absolutely have serious issues like hunger as well as poverty, which is a key player in a lot of food insecurity. Thus, getting involved locally is a great start to learn about hunger or any issue. It's a great place to practice humility and to ask a lot of questions. It's a great place to practice compassion.
Where those who are more immature on the spiritual path just get upset about issues like hunger, the more spiritually mature people practice compassion. It's important to see those afflicted by hunger as no different than you, and how they got to their individual situations can vary widely, although many have similar themes such as poverty. I encourage you to expect the unexpected and to talk to those who are hungry in your community. Reach out and get to know them. They are as much a part of your community as anyone else, but since so many people get triggered by real world issues, people avoid these conversations. Additionally, those who are food insecure may feel a lot of shame, so don't try to demand people tell you how everything has happened. In whatever way is true to you (like volunteering at a local food back), practice making a safe space. While you may not have any clear answers how to end hunger for the world or even one person, you can learn to engage with the situation through compassion.
BTW, for those in the U.S., here's a link to help you find local food banks:
Find Your Local Food Bank
Embracing the Abundance of Clear AnswersOn the other hand, some answers are quite clear. The more money people have, the more likely they won't be food insecure. As you continue to investigate an issue like hunger, you are going to see some very clear answers. This clarity can help you take action on many levels from donating to volunteering to advocacy. When your eyes are open, it's not hard to find ways to help. Investigating an issue and educating yourself are important ways to begin. This is just another form of beginner's mind. We return to the place of "I don't know." Obviously, we don't stay there. Humility is as much about understanding what we don't know as well as understanding what we do know. False humility--denying what we actually know about a situation--serves no one. In a situation like hunger, people suffer when those who are aware of an issue do nothing. Thus, a call to conscious action often naturally rises up inside someone when they get clear on what solutions they can help support.
Then, you have to get out and do it.
Too often spiritual people get confused around concepts like "non-action." We start by going within and finding clarity When we see something like hunger and feel called to address it, then we act. It's very simple. To not take action when you truly know you need to is a kind of self-denial, and it stunts your growth. In this example, it also impacts others that you could have helped. Inner clarity also brings with it a responsibility to remain true to what you know to do. There's no passing the buck here to someone else. You are responsible for your doing your part in this world whatever that may be.
The Many Meanings of "I Don't Know"
Working With Others on HungerFor any major real world issue, you're going to need help. There are already thousands (maybe millions) of people working to help people have enough food to live healthy lives. So there is a lot of good company to join on this issue. This absolutely isn't one of those issues where one person is going to solve it all, and there is no need to take on more than is your share in this issue. It is my general belief that the more people take actions as their heart and soul calls them to, the more the work of a major issue naturally gets divided up into manageable amounts. No one person is responsible to handle it all, and like the droplet in the ocean, you are surrounded by a lot of other droplets that need to be part of a wave of action to overcome hunger.
The more you can help from an authentic space within you, the more you are teaching others how to come from a space of love and clarity when combating a major issue. That has even deeper impacts on healing the hidden wounds many people have who are working to end hunger as well as those who are suffering from hunger. Never underestimate the power of your own loving presence. It's amazing. It's why we spend so much time doing inner work and learning to listen to it. The more we reside in and move from that space, the deeper the healing we offer with any action we take. That's part of what transforms an action to help into a truly conscious action.
Letting Your Light ShineThere are many ways to let your light shine, but I'll just re-emphasize the importance of being true to yourself. That inner truth is a beautiful and powerful light. Even when you feel like you can do very little about an issue like hunger, that light shines. It illuminates and inspires others in ways none of us can ever fully understand. Just being engaged in a simple way like helping to unpack donated food at a shelter or food bank can have a profound impact. So I can only encourage you to not think so much about what you are doing as how you are doing it. Where does this action come from? Is this truly in alignment with your soul? Or are you just trying to do the right thing?
The more you take conscious action, the more your light expands. It never can be predicted what that light will reveal. All you can do is continue to trust what is shown to you and to take action accordingly. In this way, conscious action builds upon itself and the energy of that action calls to others. It helps them see more. The more people gather together and move from a space of their own love, the more anything is possible. And perhaps in this way, we could one day finally end hunger on this world.