What You'll Learn:
In the Buddhist mandala, there are six realms of life, each characterizing a different aspect of human experience. “The realm of hungry ghosts” is a state of being in which we pursue external things in hopes that they will satisfy our deep inner longings. In the artwork, these hungry ghosts are depicted as scrawny, malnourished people with thin necks, frail bodies, and hunger-bloated bellies. This is the realm of addiction, where substances, objects, and activities are compulsively pursued to hide an ache.
As Hungarian-Canadian psychiatrist and researcher Gabor Maté puts things in his award-winning book, addiction is a state in which “we haunt our lives without being fully present.” Maté’s own passion and expertise in the addiction field come from decades spent serving the forgotten down-and-outs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—essentially a Canadian version of Skid Row. It’s the side of town filled almost exclusively with hungry ghosts, and he advocates passionately for an intuitive, but unconventional approach to treating them. Maté stresses, however, that addictions take many forms, some that hit uncomfortably close to home.