This post is bound to be wildly unpopular.
...Because I have found that people, in general, don’t like to talk much about their addictions or substance abuse.
I know I didn’t.
Last year (November 2017) my husband decided to take a year off from drinking alcohol.
My first (internal) response was something like: “That’s great for you since you (obviously) have a problem; but don’t expect me to give up the "half a glass" (the reality was 2 glasses) of divine red nectar I imbibe most evenings...forget it! You’re on your own!”
My defensive retort was accompanied by a sudden stinging (and humbling) realization, like a spanking from the Universe.
I mean who was I fooling? My indignant loyalty to wine (over my husband) was a sure sign of delusion.
It was time for re-evaluation.
Allow me to take you deep into my past.
My sordid relationship with substances goes way back before, and much more interesting than, mom-wine at the end of the day.
I grew up in an upstanding, church-going (kinda hippyish) Christian household, where a subverted weed of addiction grew (quite literally) in the basement.
My dad liked to smoke. A lot.
I remember relighting the butts he left in the bathroom ashtray and relishing the strange—slightly queasy but super buzzy—sensation I got from just one puff.
In 1991, my homeschooled, bible-studying, “good choice” days came to a screeching halt when I descended upon the State University.
The very first weekend of my very first semester away from home, “The Doors” movie (remember the absolute wizardry of Val Kilmer!?) played on a huge outdoor screen in my campus quad and my eyes were widened.
It was Jim Morrison’s poetic depth that attracted me...and the mystical dance of the human experience, approached with new found inside-out and upside-down “clarity.”
From that time on, most of my boyfriends we’re (conveniently) holding.
To the tunes of Jane’s Addiction, Kate Bush, the Grateful Dead, et al., I experimented with uppers, downers, and hallucinogens. I was known to swallow something before asking what it was.
Life became a backdrop for out-of-mind experiences. Going to the city was a great time for cocaine. Camping was ideal for mushrooms. Most movies were complete with just a little bit of acid, and music always sounded better when I was high.
I tried it all, from ancient herbs to newfangled chemical cocktails. My favorite sensation: sinking into the oblivion of a purple opiate haze. There was an occasion, or maybe two, when I had to reach across the floor to make sure my friend was still breathing—or maybe that was my friend's hand touching me...
It's a little hazy: psychedelic memories.
Cigarettes burned almost constantly, and a tequila shot was best chased with whiskey.
I ate the cake and drank the drink and found myself time and again, in a magic bubble, dancing with a bunch of fantastical puppets and an elfin king who looked an awful lot like David Bowie.
Wait a minute, I might be getting things confused with one of my favorite childhood movies...
But anyway, it’s true. “Real life” had become an impossible labyrinth—sometimes fun, but mostly confusing, emotionally exhausting, kinda scary, and (looking back on it now) really dumb.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret those days one bit. I mean, “Drugs are bad M’KAY,” (and simply not worth the risk of addiction) but I learned so much from taking them...like how to truly sit in discomfort and where to find my abandoned mind.
It was as if I threw myself completely off-balance—in fact onto the very brink of insanity—on purpose; so that I would have to distinguish my center from the chaos...again and again.
Then I started practicing yoga.
Wait, that’s not right. Not quite yet.
...And I’m remembering now that it was Nature—Nature saved me first.
Because when we were out there, on our mushroom quest to reach the top of Pikes Peak by midnight, for instance...
...or when I wandered off into the woods drunk and alone.
I was never alone.
The winds, and trees, and moon were talking.
They were trying to remind me that I am one with All.
Within the hallucination was a sobering reckoning with Reality...a beckoning to come home to my innate wholeness.
So after I told that one guy I was leaving
...and after I threatened again
...and after I had no choice because I had no money, and I had no job, and he was in jail, and another friend had died (drunk and hit by a train)...
And I found my way home.
...Up on top of a mountain, hiking, rappelling, climbing, kayaking, ice climbing (hated that, btw), skiing, snowboarding, surfing, scuba...
At 10,200 feet—and sometimes in the Canyon lands—and sometimes in the Great Barrier Reef—I got an Associates Degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership.
Me. A degree!
I went from climbing the walls to climbing rock-walls.
Me. Rock climbing!
And that’s when I started practicing yoga.
I had landed a job with the Colorado Outward Bound School and those cool Course Instructor cats were downward-dogging by the river. They hand-stood in the canyons. They were tree-posing at 14,000 feet. It was as if they were striking these yoga postures to throw themselves completely off-balance—on purpose; so that they would have to distinguish their center...again and again. They seemed to know how to peacefully sit in discomfort and where to find their befriended minds.
I succumbed to peer pressure (everybody was doing it).
I took a deep breath. And then another. And then another. And then I remembered:
One with All.
Little by little, breathing interfered with my smoking.
Drunk yoga was no fun. Believe me, I tried.
My lifestyle just changed. It had to, if I wanted to keep living in this beautiful Reality.
They say: "Yoga heals" and "Nature heals."
And it's true. Yoga in Nature was my medicine; but only because it reminded me that the healer is within. It showed me that there is nothing—at all—wrong with me. There is no emotion, behavior, or personality trait that needs to be "self-medicated" by any outside substance. Love never fails; and that means Love for my whole and complete Self...truly, madly, deeply.
Continued studies and practice fortified my experience of wholeness. But then I started graduate school. It was intense. I felt a little like Cinderella at the ball: in rapture for the moment, terrified that at midnight they would all find out that I didn't really belong.
I remember visiting the bar after class one day with a bunch of 3rd year students...already working on their doctoral dissertations.
They were 2 and "half a glass" in when I asked:
"How can you drink while you are writing?"
The most glamorous one replied:
"The real question, darling, is how could I write without drinking?"
Getting buzzed was like a creative right.
I bought it.
I started writing my own PhD work...enjoying the creative rite of a simple sip of wine.
Little by little, one glass here and there, turned into "half a glass" almost every night.
I made some stupid decisions while drinking...said some dumb things.
It wasn't debilitating, sure, but I certainly felt more tired than I needed to. Less free.
And then, that day, I faced that needling decision: to take a year off from the drink...
or to continue to pretend I was totally cool. But I already knew the answer—because I remembered—I am already home.
This evening I had a glass of wine—my first in over a year.
I might not drink another until next year. Then again, I might have one tomorrow...
But I truly don’t want a second drink right now (not even just “half a glass”)
...and that feels a lot like freedom. It feels like Love.
There are many, many factors that lead a person into addictive behaviors.
There are many healing tools that can bring a person back home to their wholeness.
If you struggle with addictions or substance abuse, please know you are not alone.
YOUR POWER IS WITHIN.
...but if there is a lot going on in there and you have forgotten where to find your center, help is on the way.
In Infinite Love,
R.R. Shakti, PhD.
Recently Naropa University announced that Sakyong Miphan Rinpoche, leader of the global Shambhala community, has stepped down from his venerated role in response to allegations of sexual assault.
As many of you know, I am a graduate of Naropa University and the teachings I share from the Shambhala Tradition, including Mindfulness Meditation, Maitri, and Tonglen, have been passed down from a lineage of teachers through Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who brought the tradition to the West in the 1960s.
My direct teachers, including those at Naropa University and Pema Chödrön, have transmitted these practices with kindness, humor, humility, and grace.
...But Sakyong Miphan is not the first Tibetan Buddhist leader to cross the lines of ethical conduct. In fact his father, Chögyam Trungpa, was notorious for controversial behavior, alcoholism and sexual misconduct, in a time when women's voices went generally unheard—before the #MeToo movement opened the floodgates of accountability.
Since his death in 1987, people have been questioning the life and teachings of Trungpa with an understandable scrutiny. It is a considerable challenge to reconcile his transformational teachings on awakened living with the more savory aspects of his own lifestyle.
In a 2013 interview with Tricycle Magazine, Pema Chödrön speaks of her teacher:
"Trungpa Rinpoche was a provocative person. In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism he says the job of the spiritual friend is to insult the student, and that’s the kind of guy he was. If things got too smooth, he’d create chaos. All I can say is that I needed that. I didn’t like being churned up and provoked, but it was what I needed. It showed me how I was stuck in habitual patterns..."
The Shambhala Tradition is based upon being absolutely truthful. Mindfulness is cutting through the bullshit of ego's habitual self-serving patterns. Maitri is courageously staring right into the heart of the shadow, and cultivating compassion within that conflict. It is making peace with the inevitable discomfort of being human.
I am uncomfortable.
The day before hearing the news of Sakyong Mipham, Drew reminded me of the recently released film documentary on the incredible story of Osho's renegade commune in 1980's Oregon. Six hours of footage in "Wild Wild Country" tells the story of how easily corrupted the human ego can be. Three days later another friend sent me this article on the "Dangers of Tantra". It is a commercialized warning of the dark magic that has been associated with Tantra's left hand path.
I close my eyes and remember stories of perversion within the Catholic Church—the insidious abuse of power. I recall the first time I learned of the Christian crusades and the millions of people brutally murdered in the name of Christ. I was a teenager. I was devastated.
It is deeply disturbing, heart-breaking, maddening--profoundly uncomfortable—to face the shadows of humanity: to realize that no matter how pure the intentions, anything on Earth can be manipulated and used for the glory and power of the ego.
The teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and the non-dual Tantrik texts tell a different story. They offer a message of unity, compassion, freedom from suffering, and LOVE.
That is where my heart is.
Pure light is without shadow. As soon as light makes contact with any matter, a shadow is cast. Darkness is not the absence of light. It is the obstruction of light.
For some, that obstruction is as simple as holding eyes closed.
But patience cannot be cultivated without trial.
Courage does not exist in the absence of fear.
Compassion is awakened within my own sadness.
As we cried together over the world's madness, Gretchen reminded me of this:
"It hurts so that we never forget why we are here"—to Love.
It is time to open our eyes...to get courageously honest...to face the shadows that accompany the human experience as uncomfortable and as painful as it may be. Together, we must cultivate compassion for ourselves, and compassion for each other, even within the conflict.
As Chödrön writes in The Places that Scare You: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
R.R. Shakti, PhD
August 15, 1928—July 9, 2018
On July 9 the soul of my beloved guide, Marion Woodman, set.
She was an incredible inspiration to so many. Her life an example of love in real-world service to humanity.
In moments like this, I honor words for their healing power and their ability to unify. Without words we might not share the exact insight that wrote: “To me, real love, the move from power to love, involves immense suffering. Any creative work comes from that level, where we share our sufferings, just the sheer suffering of being human. And that's where the real love is.” (Woodman, Conscious Femininity).
Marion taught that true compassion requires courage. We must embrace the entire package of this human experience. She taught that true freedom comes from loving your Self—that to heal the soul, we must attend to the wounds of our culture and of the earth. We must nurture the inner child, honor the feminine principle, and remember the sacredness within nature. I am beyond grateful that she shared her heart's wisdom with us through her beautiful words.
Below are some of my favorite words from Marion.
To learn more about her, visit https://mwoodmanfoundation.org/
R.R. Shakti, Ph.D.
“This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known.”
“Only by discovering and loving the goddess lost within our rejected body can we hear our own authentic voice.” ― Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body and Soul
"Dismissing poetry is dismissing the glory of the imagination." ― Bone: Dying into Life
“Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather, and listening. Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions. It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present."
“Having a body that is like a musical instrument, open enough to be able to resonate, literally resonate with what is coming both from the inside and from the outside, so that one is able to surrender to powers greater than oneself.”
“I can tell you that it takes great strength to surrender. You have to know that you are not going to collapse. Instead, you are going to open to a power that you don’t even know, and it is going to come to meet you. In the process of healing, this is one of the huge things that I have discovered. People recognized the energy coming to meet them. When they opened to another energy, a love, a divine love, came through to meet them. That is what is known as grace. We all sing about amazing grace. It is a gift. I think that it comes through the work that we do. For some people, it can come out of the blue, but I know that in my own situation, the grace came through incredible vigilance.”
“Without an understanding of myth or religion, without an understanding of the relationship between destruction and creation, death and rebirth, the individual suffers the mysteries of life as meaningless mayhem alone.”
“A flower won’t open if I yell at it and say “Bloom!”
“This is the point where love becomes possible. We see the other with the eye of the heart, an eye not clouded by fear manifesting as need, jealousy, possessiveness, or manipulation. With the unclouded eye of the heart, we can see the other as other. We can rejoice in the other, challenge the other, and embrace the other without losing our own center or taking anything away from the other. We are always other to each other — soul meeting soul, the body awakened with joy. To love unconditionally requires no contracts, bargains, or agreements. Love exists in the moment-to-moment flux of life.”
“The feminine takes time for spontaneity and slow time, honors inner reality, and gives values to feelings without brutally repressing them as “sissy” or meaningless.”
“Once we get used to listening to our dreams, our whole body responds like a musical instrument.”
“When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living—or suppressed—in both men and women.”
"Storytelling is at the heart of life... In finding our own story, we assemble all the parts of ourselves. Whatever kind of mess we have made of it, we can somehow see the totality of who we are and recognize how our blunderings are related. We can own what we did and value who we are, not because of the outcome but because of the soul story that propelled us."
What would it look like to release all my fears?
...because that's what was happening. That's what I felt.
But the moment was greedy for my full attention
—no projection, just tears
tears, and rocking, and shaking, and heart melt
like heat and cold mixing and swirling around--
alchemy in the half-light of a medicine more profound than I had even imagined.
And was I imagining freedom?
...Come back to the breath, to the completion of
"in it right now!"
Imagining the moon's face over the sun.
Imagining shadows like tendrils of smoke, ribbons of silk
dancing their way to the inner circle of darkness
while a radiant ring promised emergence of fearlessness
...And all along returning and returning and returning
to my body and the breath and the images of Marley's dream--
where, there, the mermaid of white
points to a sunken ship and gravely proclaims:
"It mustn't be stopped."
Oh! What treasures must hide inside.
What's LOVE Got To Do With It? (The Solar Eclipse Through the Lens of Tantra, Jung, and Esoteric Alchemy)
The solar system is poetry in clockwork motion. Tomorrow, that dynamic rhythm presents a synchronization that will eclipse the sun's light for a moment and cause a shadow to fall across the surface of the planet. So what?
Just like every single aspect of this human experience, the significance is up to you.
According to the tantrik teachings that inform Inner Power Yoga®, there is a Love that pervades the entire universe and each moment provides an opportunity to remember it.
Tat tvam asi: You are that.
Foundational to tantrik yoga, esoteric alchemy sought to unify the principles of the sun and the moon as symbols of the sacred marriage, or coniunctio, of opposites. Psychologist Carl Jung adopted those same symbols to express the paradox within the human psyche. He wrote: “The factors that come together in the coniunctio are conceived as opposites, either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love” (CW 14, 1).
According to Jung, the opposite factors of your psyche are two:
1. your ego consciousness and persona
2. the unconscious contents of your soul—the mystery that informs your whole Self.
Unconscious contents include the shadows that your persona rejects. Those undesirable qualities that you are unwilling to recognize as aspects of your own Self. In enmity, the ego projects those shadows onto "others."
In other words, the “civil war” between conscious and unconscious content manifests as outwardly projected conflict among genders, cultures, and the natural world. Sound familiar?
The casualties of shadow projection warfare have become increasingly visible to us lately. I have connected with many of you who are heartbroken, angry, and/or numb. Now we turn our eyes (protected by filters, of course) to the sky as the moon literally blots out the light and pulls us into the shadow...if only for a moment.
What will you do with that moment?
Will this fleeting coniunctio be a symbol of enmity or of Love?
For me, the solar eclipse presents a time to embrace the shadow. It is a moment to contemplate those darker spaces within my own psyche, to gather the scattered projections and realize my Self as whole—ego and soul. When I realize my Self as whole, I am unified with all people and the planet itself. I am available to compassion, forgiveness, and spiritual grace. I remember the play of consciousness as an act of divine LOVE.
The tantrik texts personify the conjunction of sun and moon, as spirit and soul, in the marriage of Shiva and Shakti. Theirs is a cosmic game of revelation and concealment as embodied soul forgets itself as universal spirit...then remembers again in an ongoing cycle.
In the text: Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shakti beseeches Shiva, “Lord,” she asks, “How can I know you more?” Shiva lovingly replies, “You are me” (Saraswati 23). The practices of Tantra Yoga psychodynamically move Shakti toward remembering her Self as one with Shiva—realizing her true nature as infinite Reality.
Hatha Yoga is “the union (yoga) between sun and moon, the conjunction of the two great dynamic principles or aspects of the body-mind” (Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition 328). It is an earth-affirming, embodied experience of samyama: when the lover, the beloved, and love itself merge into one pulsation. It reveals the deeply known secret that body, soul, and spirit are a continuum of One.
According to Jung, Alchemy, and Tantra, infinite Reality may be experienced through nature's manifestations. The Self is realized through the ego, transcendental spirit is realized through humanity's immanent divinity—through earth, body, and soul.
And the light of LOVE may be realized through the shadow.
...in any given moment.
♥ R.R.Shakti, PhD
You know what annoys me?
When I was a kid, things were built to last.
A "Lifetime Warranty" was a thing.
My clothes were hand-me-downs, and we actually outgrew our shoes long before they fell apart.
In the "lucky" parts of today's world, to maximize consumerism, everything is made to break.
Everything, it seems, is considered disposable, from plastic wrap to relationships.
Even the human body—the most amazing miracle—is treated like it's expendable, as if we can just go to the "human parts store" and get replacements as needed. No biggie.
I'm not trying to get on a soap-box about the world's favorite vices: smoking cigarettes, eating trans-fats, consuming sugar... Obviously, drugs are destructive.
What I'm keying into, these days, is the postmodern tendency to over-emphasize a psycho-spiritual quest toward transcendence. Transcendental thinking, I have noticed, often comes with a notion that this whole human experience is expendable. If it isn't working, move on. Get up and out of the conflict. Ascend to mend a broken heart. And don't worry! ...a perfect, more peaceful, experience awaits beyond...
I mean, I get it. We have been in the midst of a mystical surge, one that calls for "rising above" the present situation—transcendence of the human state, transcendence of nature toward heaven, transcendence of self toward God. Rise, people, rise. There is no need to remain bogged down in the unnecessary limitations of the human experience.
Unless, of course, you are actually interested in BE-ing human. Which I am—
at least for now, while I AM.
Being human is the best that I can be.
After all, my body is amazing. The Earth is full of wonder. This experience of being alive, right here and right now is an absolutely glorious miracle.
The guru in the cave of the heart is speaking to me right now—and to you—through our emotions, sensations, and human experience.
The quest for transcendence is a noble drive, as long as it doesn't pull you away from the exquisitely raw realness of being a human, which essentially means you are an angel/monkey—part transcendent spirit, part stinky feet.
When the human experience is valued as perfect—exactly as it is—some important shifts can happen.
You come to realize this:
It is time to get real with the ego, to embrace the shadow. Let's get raw with each other, and celebrate the perfection of vulnerability. Let's fall in love with this messy human life.
I'm not advocating attachment.
I know I am more than my body; more than my mind...or my family...or my things. Transcendence, however, is for the birds.
Let the spirits ascend, but I'm not dead yet.
I want to get deep down in it with you. I want to value this life experience while I am alive. I want to value my body, cherish my relationships, appreciate my things.
...And I want them to last a lifetime. ♥
(original post date: March 24, 2014)