Eat when tired, sleep when hungry (or Zen and the art of getting your needs met)

A student once asked his teacher “Master what is enlightenment?”
The teacher replied “Eat when hungry, sleep when tired”
(Disclaimer: Though I may be filled with wisdom I am not a Zen Buddhist and this story is largely open to interpretation, we can take as little or as much from it as we choose to.)

If I took this literally I would probably only get out of bed to eat!

For me this story is about identifying what you need and then asking for it. It sounds so simple doesn’t it and yet so many of us struggle with both aspects. We live vastly complicated lives that are sometimes far removed from our innate animal nature, we work, parent, diet, drink, self medicate and we don’t even have to do these things in excess to lose our ability to recognise what we need. We can become irritable, isolated or develop a low mood with no idea of what is happening and how to sort it out.

And once we do know what we need it can be really tough to ask for it, we feel like we’re selfish if we don’t always put other people’s needs first, or lazy if we need a nap or a duvet day. Or we can feel like we shouldn’t have to ask because those closest to us should be able to see how frazzled we are and take care of us. We can become resentful when that doesn’t happen even though we have become adept at hiding our wants and needs from them and even from ourselves.

Asking for what we need can feel really risky, what if we get turned down? What if we disappoint other people or make them cross? It’s scary but it’s an important skill to learn because we can’t drink from an empty cup, we can’t be there for other people if we can’t care for ourselves. And by asking for what we need we give other people permission to ask for what they need to, it opens up a dialogue.

And yes it can be hard when you ask for something and you don’t get it, but if you do get what you need 8 times out of 10 isn’t it worth the risk? And if you keep asking and still don’t get your needs met? Well that’s a whole other blog!


  1. Thanks, Hazel. I need reminders to simplify life. It makes everything more manageable.

  2. Love this Hazel… awesome xx

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