It was registration day. I had looked forward to travelling to Rishikesh, India, to study the Kundalini Yoga Level 2 component, Authentic Relationships. I stared at the screen in front of me – India: yoga paradise. What happened next is still a mystery to me, but it was to change my life forever. I unexpectantly recalled the words of my dear teacher GuruJivan: ‘People turn to yoga when all else fails.’ And true enough, through my personal practice and teaching, this had become my own experience and reality. This distraction led me to typing the words I had first typed years ago when I was looking to learn more about kundalini yoga – ‘adrenal exhaustion, anxiety, depression, overwhelm…addiction’. And it was from this search that I can now begin to share my experience of Yogi Bhajan’s SuperHealth® program for health professionals and teachers – yogic science as therapy for addictive and compulsive behaviour.
The course was scheduled to begin in two weeks’ time in Espanola, New Mexico – a far cry from India. Guru Ram Das Hacienda Ashram is an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, in the middle of the desert. American Indian legend warns that this is no ordinary desert: ‘This desert is the land of enchantment; it will change your destiny forever’. It took but a few minutes of my life to register, yet my heart assured me that the facilitator, Mukta Kaur Khalsa, was someone I had to meet. India would have to wait. I knew intuitively that I was about to embark on an expedition that would lead me to the most authentic relationship of my life – that with the ‘Self’.
I was blessed to spend time with SuperHealth® co-creator, Mukta Kaur Khalsa PhD, and some 30 beautiful souls from 14 different countries, most of whom were kundalini yoga teachers and health professionals. It is an experience which will stay with me forever.
I am addicted to addiction – it fascinates me. How is it that without a thought or any unpleasant side-effects, one person can control or stop self-defeating habits or behaviour, and yet another will spend years in a state of self-inflicted torture and a never-ending cycle of hopelessness?
Addiction has been called a disease of the mind, and takes many forms, from the relatively benign to the deadly: drugs and substance abuse, alcohol, coffee, sugar, sex, gambling, the internet, television, relationships, work, money, procrastination, gossip, celebrity idolatry, negative thinking, criticism, technology, exercise, social media…
Dependency is always a manifestation of crisis, and in order to ‘get well’ we must drop the shame attached to our dependency. So we must find a way to surrender, to let go, to lighten up. The ancient yogis had no access to pharmaceuticals, therapists or rehab; yet they devised a way to live, to cope with life. Emotional dependence can be as strong and powerful as drug or alcohol dependency. Some addictions are so deeply assimilated in our system that it is difficult to recognise them. Addiction to power, success and control are not easily identifiable, but their debilitating effect can be felt only when the person is deprived of them.
A student once prefaced a question to Yogi Bhajan: “With addicts, what is…?” Yogi Bhajan stopped him: “What do you mean ‘with addicts’? We are all addicts…of something. ALL OF US!” And yes, I too am guilty, in that my first image of an addict is mostly negative. But we are all in the same boat to some degree, and must be careful that our prejudices do not create social divisions.
Kundalini yoga has an important role to play in the rehabilitation of obsessive compulsive behaviour, substance abuse and the addictive lifestyle. It is a powerful tool for detoxing the body; it addresses the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of addiction. It works on the glandular and nervous systems that are so often damaged and depleted by neurotic and addictive behaviour. A person wishing to begin a yoga practice for rehabilitation may be tired, weak and emotionally exhausted; he or she may also be undernourished and devoid of spiritually. For example, for people who feel they have too much to carry in the world, emotional release can be experienced by the execution of a simple shoulder rotation. For some, this movement may equate to losing the feeling of being burdened by too much responsibility.
The practice of Kundalini yoga incorporates the power of sound and language which are potent tools for change; they permeate our cells and neurons. Sound has the ability to activate the glands, change our thoughts and alter the subconscious. Often we act on impulse – angry, confused, exhibiting stupid behaviour. This is the worst of all possible states of mind; it is the mind of the addict.
In most cases, our addictions support one another. Our compulsions have their source in the subconscious mind, and when something comes from the subconscious mind and we think consciously about eradicating it, it often becomes unnatural and impossible. Our emotions cause intentional blindness; and from earlier times of development many old habits constantly cause difficulties. These may manifest in procrastination, self-pity and the desire to compensate. So by the time we come to practise kundalini yoga, many habits have been established. Gradually we become aware that the mind interprets everything we experience in reference to ourselves, and that psychological habits are far more difficult to change than physical ones. SuperHealth® teaches us that a focused and energised mind is the first attainment of mind management. Yogi Bhajan commands us to call on our own spiritual strength, assuring us that we have been given everything we need.
Negative habits belittle our lives; we adopt them to disguise our pain and hollowness. Lying to ourselves about our addictions and negative habits is the most common way to harm ourselves. Lying, too, is a habit, and a very damaging one. Living a life of falsehood and lies leads to dependency on someone or something outside our ‘Self’. Most of us want to change our negative habits and attachments to emotional attitudes; and many kundalini meditations have been developed for this purpose – to strengthen, refine and balance the parts of the mind that underlie the behaviours we want to change.
The mind is terrified of being controlled, which is why positive change seems so difficult. But as we change, we immediately begin to live more authentically, more righteously and more sensitively. Yogi Bhajan tells us to be warned: your friends may leave you. Yet living a more righteous existence necessitates that we be honest with ourselves. Who are our friends? Are they friends because of consciousness and commitment? Are they friends because of fate and circumstance? Or are they friends of our habits? And, can we confront the truth?
If we are sincere in our efforts to overcome destructive habits and compulsive behaviour, we must confront the conflict that exists between our strengths and our weaknesses. We want to be strong but identify with our weaknesses, and this creates a point of conflict. We can start then to lose touch with our inner world, our inner source; we are devoid of self-awareness. Whatever our issues, every day we are confronted with decisions that will affect our well-being. From a kundalini yoga perspective, we can learn to use our addictive tendencies as a path to empowerment, and in the process ‘claim the gifts from the garbage’. Security is our greatest asset, yet we must also be willing to feel uncomfortable and to experience our emotions; to sincerely believe that with faith and dedication to our practice we will experience a transformation that leads to inner power, peace, self-love, and a renewed consciousness – which is our ultimate goal.
Yogi Bhajan said the choice is ours: Live in excellence and awareness or live subject to the stereotypes of your subconscious habits. It takes the same effort and energy to walk either path. So to the beautiful girl who has battled eating disorders and struggled to find her voice in a family fighting its own addictions; to the equally beautiful young Russian film-maker, who too has a personal history of addiction, and who for the past three years has shared the benefits of kundalini yoga with addicts via daily kriyas broadcast on national television in Moscow; to the addiction counsellors and therapists; the psychiatric nurse; the divine gynaecologist and obstetrician, who took Amrit three years ago, and who still finds time for a 3am cold shower and sadhana, and to teach kundalini yoga. To the selfless young teacher and foster mother of 12 children; to the brave breast cancer survivor; the visionary app developer; the young mother struggling with addiction and relationship issues; to the gorgeous self-confessed alcoholic and recovering cocaine addict, who battled anorexia at college, and who now teaches kundalini yoga to women in prison. To the girl with the court-enforced electronically detectable ankle bracelet, who is training to become a kundalini yoga teacher; to the angel, who at 11 was sold into the sex trade by her crack-addicted mother, and who now teaches kundalini yoga to children with a similar history. To the young woman who teaches celestial communication as therapy to returned veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; to the divine young man, whose brother died of a heroin overdose. To the many early pupils of Yogi Bhajan, who loved him and his teachings; to the generous-to-a-fault Sangat and Sikh community at Guru Ram Das Hacienda; and most of all, to my new, dear friend and teacher, Mukta Kaur Khalsa. And to Yogi Bhajan, who taught me that if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all – thank you.
Would I have found you all in Rishikesh? I don’t think so… Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji ki Fateh! – ‘My purity belongs to God, all victory belongs to God!’
Mukta Kaur Khalsa PhD is the author of Meditations for Addictive Behaviour. For more information visit: http://super-health.net/ The first SuperHealth® workshop will be held in June 2013.
Written by Susie Seale / Bhajanjeet
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