A Mystic’s Take on Hungry Ghosts, Karmic Setpoints and How to Truly Feed Our Souls


PLEASE NOTE: After over 100 newsletters over the last 12 years, this is the first one that is so good and so timeless, I felt called to repost it in my PERENNIAL FAVORITES:)

Beast Becoming Human—Joan Pancoe

“In the Hindu Religion, where harmlessness is the ideal and flesh-eating is prohibited, Shiva has allowed meat for psychics, for the very reason that psychic power is power of the mind and the body must be strong enough to sustain it.”—Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sufi mystic

“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
—Simon and Garfunkel

Dear One,
This summer we have the perfect opportunity to allow our enjoyment of Life to be exceptionally sweet. For, most of us need some extra time to relax and recover from the global pandemic PTSD of the last year.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the next few months are peak season to add to our spiritual bank account by replenishing our energy in Nature. This inner focus is supported by the current retrograde cycles of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto and Uranus (in August) all whispering: “Go within.”

To maximize the benefits of these planetary energies, a daily investment in our inner growth through mind/body/spirit practices will incrementally add priceless pearls of equanimity and stability onto an unbreakable strand within our beings. This will enhance our ability to withstand the vicissitudes of chaotic external reality, whose tumultuous nature will only be speeding up rather than calming down in the foreseeable future. Intensive inner work now lays the foundation for a good harvest in the Fall and beyond.

As we start feeding our souls from the infinite stream of creative life-force energy available to each of us from Source as our Divine birthright, it allows us to cultivate a taste for being fed by these intangible fruits from the Tao aka the Flow, as well as through our communion with all of Life via Nature.

When we choose to make this our primary food resource, the bonus is that we’ll be on the receiving end of a boundless ocean of unconditional love from the heart of the Universe to support this new relationship with All That Is. It also means that we’re finally ready to unwind some of the hungry ghost energy of our karmic setpoint, which only knows how to feed off ephemeral people, places, things and circumstances, rather than from the limitless reserves of Source, and thus keeps us on the wheel of samsara and suffering.

In fact, the majority of us have a karmic setpoint from dozens, if not hundreds, of incarnations in which our primary food supply—energetically and emotionally—is from feeding off other people. This lower-chakra energy dynamic is why so many committed intimate partnerships founder. For, if we make our partners our primary food supply, rather than All of Life, Source or the Tao then, sooner or later, power struggles will ensue on the ego levels, as to who is giving or taking more from the other.

The high road in relationships is when both partners are full to overflowing on the heart level through their inner work, thus allowing a playful interchange of fullness shared, instead of two half-empty vessels trying to get the other to fill them up, which is all too often the case.

This hungry ghost phenomenon is also evident at some of the seemingly advanced levels of spiritual attainment. In fact, many self-styled spiritual teachers or masters, who may be at their highest expression while teaching, when “off-duty,” choose to feed like psychic vampires on their students, lovers, partners and others. This does not negate their teachings per se, but rather it merely indicates that their overall karma has not fully ripened yet.

Even though they could decide to be fed directly from Source as most have this capacity, they’re like whales, high-up in the energy food chain, who find other human beings—energetically, at times sexually and especially emotionally—far juicer than solely feeding on the intangible fruits of All That Is/Source. That’s also why they need large crowds of devoted guppies to feed them (not to mention their bank accounts.) For more on this:On Spiritual Teachers: Buyer Be AWARE!

So, this hungry ghost facet of human nature is not an isolated phenomenon by any means. The majority of us don’t know any other way to be—as per our karmic setpoint—and even those that do know of a higher way to be, may not desire to raise the level of their interchange with others.

The vast preponderance of human beings who form the mass consciousness (which is always the lowest common denominator), are still asleep to their spiritual nature and soul purpose. I call this unawakened state “deep cover”—meaning that they’re on assignment but they’ve forgotten what it is.Their personal reality is one either solely based on the struggle for survival—food, shelter, clean water, etc., on the root chakra levels or, at best, to feeding the ego through the lower centers of personal power, delusions of control and over-indulgence of the sense pleasures.

So, when I speak of hungry ghosts—a Buddhist term for those who, out of greed and addiction, keep trying to fill the black hole or infinite void in themselves with the ephemeral seeking of more, different or better on the lower levels—I’m not referring to those in challenging incarnations on the basest survival levels.

I am addressing those of us who have awakened enough from sleep-walking to be aware that there must be more to life than just feeding our egos. I’m not into ego death by any means, but rather that, ideally, the ego be utilized as a translucent tool, with no armoring, which the soul uses to function in 3D.And yet, so many of us still continue to be stuck in karmic ruts of hungry ghosts living in the earth plane as a hell realm rather than experiencing the joy and bliss of being in paradise or heaven all the time by making the Tao, the Divine or all of Life our primary relationship.

I wrote about this at length in The Nature of Addiction—It’s Only Human. The main premise is that addiction is an integral part of human nature. That being said, as we awaken more to our spiritual identity as souls learning and growing through cycles of lives in Earth School, we can consciously choose to continuously upgrade and refine our levels of addiction.

This means moving from those on the lower-chakra/ego levels that feed our death urge through anesthetizing us—such as sex, shopping, power, money, romance, drugs, alcohol, TV, etc. As well as (added to the list more recently): computer, smart phone and social media addictions. All the above can become habitual patterns for distracting our monkey minds from ever being fully present, heart-centered and embodied in our being.

If we choose instead to raise the level of our cravings to habits which feed our souls, then we are recommitting to the Life force through our actions as to how we invest our precious time and energy on a daily basis. This means nurturing a taste for activities that operate from the midpoint of the heart center upwards in the vertical channel through focusing more on transpersonal love and service, mind/body/spirit practices and study with spiritual books and/or teachers.

However, desires to fill the being on the more subtle levels can also bring out the hungry ghost in us if we become overly attached to teachers, gurus or even higher-center practices that feed us in an addictive, unhealthy or disempowering way.

So, even here, once we become aware of feeling empty and dissatisfied without our daily fix or stagnating with it, it’s time to raise the game once again so that we can merge with the Tao more unequivocally and be at peace with this direct communion. I call this level of awakening “eliminating middle management.”

This is especially true for addiction to fire-method practices in the Taoist tradition and kundalini practices in the Yogic tradition. These practices, in particular, feel so good because they raise our energies in the central channel, whether our nervous systems can handle it or not. As we begin to experience that the more accelerated (and hotter) frequencies create the best “high,” we become addicted to this feeling, as is also the case with many mood-altering substances. But, even more than drugs, we may just discover that psychic energy is the most addictive of all.

So, over the long-term, these higher-center addictions can be, at times, almost irreparably harmful, especially if we practice them to get this “seeker’s high” at the expense of frying our nervous systems and psychic circuitry and damaging our sexual organs.These warning labels are especially relevant for those under the age of forty and, even after this age, they’re only relatively safe if we’ve already done enough inner work to be full grounded, rooted and embodied in our bodies and continue to maintain this grounding—before we start checking out by leaving the physical body behind. As I always say: “The only way out (of the wheel of karma) is through (the body).”

Also, if we’re operating from the goal-oriented ego-levels when pursuing spiritual awakening, this also feeds our hungry ghost as our seeking comes from greed, addiction for more, and acquiring success as spiritual dilettantes to add to our resume of external superficial identity.

All bottoms have infinite trap doors, as do all hungry ghosts, and to the degree that we’re still trying to fill ourselves up from ephemeral sources then to this degree will we remain as hungry ghosts living in the earth plane as a hell realm rather than being in paradise or heaven all the time.The only solution is to reach a point where we draw a line and say “enough” to the endless and impossible task of trying to fill the infinite inner void, aka god hole, with finite external fixes—as nothing less than an infinite supply can ever fill the black hole, which we all contain in our central channels as microcosms of the macrocosm.

What is a karmic setpoint? We may be familiar with the term’s use in referring to the body’s setpoint in terms of weight management. Those of us who have been heavier and then lose weight but have a hard time keeping it off long-term have learned that our body’s setpoint holds on with a strong attachment to the heavier weight, as if for survival, especially if we have kept this weight on for the greater majority of our lives.

On an even deeper level than just this lifetime, we also have a karmic setpoint in terms of our weight based on past lives in which being larger served us optimally for security and survival. This creates an unconscious karmic attachment to the idea that bigger is better. I’ve written about karmic attachments to being physically bigger than current cultural standards at length here:   Why is This Happening to Me? Body Karma Explained

One of my spiritual teachers, who lived in a cave in the Himalayas for over forty years, when speaking in a darshan in Mysore, India in 2007, said: “Greed is the number problem plaguing humanity from time immemorial.” And so, especially now, with dwindling resources, climate migration, global warming, pandemics etc., it behooves us make it a priority to raise our karmic setpoint to vertical feeding as our primary way of nurturing our souls—as there is an infinite supply of energy in the Universe.

The vast majority of our suffering comes from the hungry ghost part of our karmic rut of identity, who dwells within the delusion that more, different or better—in terms of horizontal feeding—must ultimately satisfy our greed. This is one definition of insanity—of continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results for millennium.

After almost fifty years of doing psychic readings in this life, I’ve found that many of my clients have a karmic setpoint of emotional suffering as an integral part of their identity—especially in affairs of the heart. This is caused by the ego or little self’s resistance to growing pains.

This setpoint of suffering also means that if their relationships—personally or with life itself—do NOT cause enough ongoing suffering, then they will create an almost endless supply by resisting What Is. They wouldn’t know who they would even be without this emotional tone and have minimal tolerance for handling any prolonged states of emotional wellbeing without mentally sabotaging any good feelings as they conflict with their karmic setpoint of identity. For more:  On Pleasure, Joy and Bliss

Another prevalent limiting karmic belief is that: “If only I had the perfect (fill in the blank)—mate, job, home, body, health—then I’d finally be satisfied and satiated.” HA! When I work with those who have this belief, I’ve found skillful means becomes quite the balancing act. For, if I only feed their hungry ghost aspects with hope and faith in the future—without also guiding them towards a higher way of being by learning how to feed the self directly from Source—then the stagnation of soul growth becomes a downward spiral karmically over time.

Also, comparing our karmic journey with anyone other than with our own history—either slows us down or makes us feel inadequate. I call this “the grass is always greener elsewhere” syndrome—another major cause for having a karmic identity/setpoint of suffering.

Desire for more or different is the not the problem here. It is attachment and clinging to the timing or outcome of our desires as the basis for our satisfaction with life as it is that is the issue. In fact, I believe that it’s the Divine’s desire to know herself that created the manifest Universe and so, as budding cocreators, our desires are natural expressions of our Divine heritage and identity.

I like to say that we need to make all of Life our cake and our desires for “fill in the blank” the icing on the cake of life. For, if we make, say, a life partner or mate, or a certain level of money, or more perfect health or body image the cake that determines our setpoint of wellbeing, we are truly missing the point of how the earth game is a school for the soul to learn how to be at peace with What Is as our cake—while simultaneously being a cocreator for icing.

Now, I’M ALL FOR ICING—as a preference—and while we’re certainly entitled to have preferences—we’re never going to experience being in heaven while incarnate if we’re addicted to getting our preferences or desires—aka icing—on the ego’s time frame.For those of you who have known me personally over the years or have read my memoir Cosmic Sugar, you know that I’m totally supportive of manifesting our desires as cocreators, as long as we’re not attached to timing or outcomes.

The correct interpretation of the Buddhist Second Noble Truth is that it is the attachment or clinging to desires that causes human suffering and subsisting as a hungry ghost, not the desires themselves.

 Second Noble Truth: “There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.”

The truth is, in this relative plane, events rarely occur on the ego’s timetable, and even expecting this is an illusion of control that causes much suffering. But rather, when we can hold the faith in the Divine timetable aka the Flow—in which all will be manifested at the perfect time for soul growth and karmic healing in the Divine plan for each of us—it helps us release and dissolve components of our hungry ghost identity. And, in the meantime, we always have our cake—our primary relationship with Source, the Tao, the Divine and all of Life.

In the immortal words of Ram Dass:“As long as you think what you’re looking for is outside of yourself, it will never be enough.”

In other words, it’s always an inside job—we just need to expand our concept of identity to the eternal soul or Witness and, from there, to becoming one with the Tao. Ask yourself: “Who would you be without needing people, places, things or circumstances to fill you up, as you’re already full from within?” I remember being impressed long ago by Ted Turner saying, just after he acquired his first billion, that “Success, power and money are an empty bag.”  This reminds me that some of the unhappiest and most dissatisfied clients I’ve worked with are supermodels and billionaires, followed by trust-fund babies. Can you figure out why?

In closing, if we’re ready to release more of our hungry ghost karmic setpoint of identity, there couldn’t be a better time to wean ourselves off of addictive ephemeral pleasures that have become stagnant in terms of any growth potential and choose to go with a primary relationship with all of Life to truly feed our souls. And, please remember, it’s not either/or here, as we can also enjoy a multitude of relationships with others as heart-centered direct vehicles through which we can playfully commune with the Flow together as a form of dual cultivation.

Ultimately, we can experience vertical and horizontal feeding becoming as one, as the space/time continuum naturally dissolves as we evolve. This is most empowering—as no one can take our infinite food supply away EVER—and this creates a Flow of sustainable joy and bliss in Being as our new normal. What a heavenly way to play the earth game!

Whether we choose to fill ourselves with the infinite bounty of Source, the Divine or the Tao—vertically or horizontally—this communion can be transmitted viscerally through practices of merging with all of Life most easily through Nature. Mindfulness is key. For more: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Miracle of Mindfulness and  Walking Meditation

For me personally, as is true for most of us, communing with Nature is the easiest way to become one with the Tao, or Flow of Life. But if we add on to being in nature some mind/body/spirit practices—such as mindfulness and deep breathing—then we are upping the ante of our return investment a thousand-fold.

I remember with eternal gratitude the final day of my first long Taoist retreat in the early nineties, when we practiced chi gung on the beach while simultaneously merging our energies with the energies of the ocean. I started weeping uncontrollably during this, as I viscerally experienced the priceless gift I had just received of becoming one with the Tao directly through Nature and the vehicle of my own body. It was the most empowering moment of my life!

The next level of communing with Nature itself is to become one with the Tao by communing with all of Life via human Nature as a whole single entity—thus my metaphysical philosophy in a nutshell:  One Being with billions of faces. And it also explains the famous Taoist adage: “The lesser sage lives in a cave in the mountains; the greater sage lives in the heart of the city.”

The practices which have served me well over the last almost 40 years, in addition to yoga and breath practices, are the Taoist water-method practices of chi gung, including moving practices and, especially, standing chi gung and sitting meditation. They have kept me fully rooted and grounded in my body as well as with a karmic setpoint of equanimity and inner stillness. No small feat, as being a trance channel in NYC for almost fifty years is one of my final karmic exams.

But first, in my late teens and early-twenties, I had to bottom out on lower-chakra addictions to mood-altering substances, mind-blowing sex and sick excitement in general. I had to firstly activate and play out my karmic pleasure rut by experiencing the Flow of Life as level-five rapids emotionally and erotically. And, then, by my late-twenties, I slowly chose to refine and upgrade my addictive human nature.

So, now—and for the last few decades or so, I can honestly say: “Ah, the joy of calm waters at last!”   These days, this is my baseline attitude, regardless of what is going on externally on the planet—which I view as ripples on the periphery of Being. For more: Taoist Practices MP3s (only $20 each/$35 for both)

Finally, for some very addictive beach reading, I hope you’ll enjoy my psychic/erotic memoir under the pen name, Leela Jones:
COSMIC SUGAR: The Amorous Adventures of a Modern Mystic

Wishing us all a summer filled with much joy in Being any which way you go,

J o a n

Guardian of Transformation—Joan Pancoe
“They say the excitement of love is not part of soul growth. They say all this talk of love is sentimental mysticism. Those are the worst lies.”


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