Yoga and the Addictive Process

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Yoga Magazine. 2006.

Yoga and the Addictive process.

The spiritual journey is such an abstract concept. So hard to grasp yet tantalisingly held up as the goal.

As twenty first century humans we are faced with a total loss of sacred ceremony. Certainly there is ritualistic behaviour, such as sitting in front of the computer, writing text messages in the middle of the street, queueing for a take away. But there are no “sacred moments” in the biblical sense. We have allowed ourselves, as a civilised society, to become disconnected from our soul. For many, the “sacred” is lining up cocaine on the top of the loo cistern, the rolling and sharing of a joint, the removing of a tiny G string.

It is easy to connect with a fake intimacy to the person who takes the joint, or the rolled note or the kiss, but we are not truly showing ourselves. We cannot. It is deeply challenging to really connect to the Universe at these times. The moment of thrill is so completely empty, so devoid of any feeding of our soul, yet we chase that endless emptiness in the hope that it will miraculously transform into fulfilment. For many this longing becomes a journey to the gates of hell. Addiction to anything that removes the pain, be it sex, shopping, food, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, intensity and more. The list is long because the pain can be so great, and the grasp so tight. Many will start with just one “issue”, and manage eventually to stop, but if the connection to the higher self is not made at that moment, an almost impossible task alone, then another demon, another addiction will rise to take it’s place and the descent to the inferno begins again, often bringing with it more and more ways of acting out.

Over the years I have been teaching Kundalini yoga I have met many recovering from the lists of ways to disconnect and many more who are not addicted to anything in particular but need to journey inside. The increasing isolation and loneliness that is felt is beginning to touch everyone. Depression has become epidemic. Anger is everywhere. The journey inside has never been more valid than it is now, but how to find the way in? The notion of God can turn people away, the discussion of the spiritual can bring such a feeling of inadequacy and bleak emptiness. How does the door to within open?

I remember at the end of my using drugs and alcohol, I longed for some kind of contact with the Universe, to know there was a God, to belong in some way. My abuse of all the different substances and the associated experiences had pushed me so far away from my connection to any person or faith that it was a real struggle to come into a spiritual life. I had joined NA and AA, both spiritual programmes, yet the attainment of any kind of soul connection was a dream and a longing rather than an actual developing experience.

It is said that intention is everything, and it is all of us who teach or practice yoga who hold the key. We may have come to the experience because we wanted to loose weight or meet people, but it is a soul calling, the greatest opportunity for a sacred connection. The word yoga means Union with the Divine. The most profound opportunity to connect with our higher self exists within our yogic practice. The most transforming act, that which brings the most healing, is the act of devotion. Yoga is the perfect vehicle for the inner journey. It serves the recovery from any form of self abuse so well. Healing mind, body and spirit, regular yoga and meditation brings self esteem, vitality, and an easing of depression. Beyond all of this it can become the time for an exquisite act of devotion.

Today, when you make the time for your practice, take a moment. Breathe slowly. Change your clothes and prepare your space as if you were going to meet the Divine. Intention is everything. Have no expectations of how the Divine will come, but be as focussed on your bodily sensations as you can. Let the world and it’s needs slip from your shoulders as you prepare for your time inside. Light incense and a candle, bring your hands together in prayer pose and commit to your journey. The act of prayer brings us into the neutral mind. The space that allows, the space that makes no judgement. Breathe slowly, to savour the moment. And now begin. Every breath dedicated to your higher self, to your soul connection. Eyes closed, tongue pressed to the roof of the mouth, opening the crown chakra, each asana becomes a meditation. Each space between the positions an opportunity to strengthen the connection to the soul. The journey takes place inside as well as outside, but it needs to start within. The leap from self-obsession to compassion can only be made within ourselves, and alone. No one can do it for us. The art is in the remembrance. Bringing yourself back to the connection. The mind, the ego, does not want you to discover this place inside. It will do anything to stop you and your work, indeed your battle, is to remain true and remember, come back to your commitment. Wherever the mind takes you, pull it back down to sit. All is here. The act of Devotion is the most potent tool for transformation. Feeding your soul you become the light. Teaching others to do the same you lead them to their own light, to liberation.

You may have already begun this journey; squeezed through the door to your inner self, or this may be the light you head towards, still not really sure how to get there but tantalized by the light that you keep turning to look for. Wherever you are, there is always opportunity to expand. And more importantly, the chance to open the door for another. If you are in recovery, want to be in recovery, or work with even just one person who is also searching for release, then remembrance, the act of devotion, is the way through the gates of Hell and back into the light. Just the idea that you can feel the light upon you, that you are worthy enough, can be the instant that changes everything. The biggest healer for any addictive process is to build self-esteem. The connection to the soul, to the Divine within is the trigger.