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By Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa
An excerpt from a work in progress, Stepping into Meditation: Kundalini Yoga and the Path to Recovery
Addiction. What is it really? I ask myself this question a lot because even though I celebrated double-digit sobriety recently, I still struggle with other addictions: sugar, caffeine, love, the list goes on. With so many stories in the news of people destroying their lives because of compulsive behavior, I ask myself, “Is there something fundamentally different between one addiction and another? Or are the differences only found in the consequences?” I’m probably not going to die from eating too many cookies; while I would have certainly met death or incarceration if I had continued drinking and using. But this discounts the tremendous psychic pain that accompanies the ‘lesser’ addictions. In the end, I’ve come to see addiction as an identity crisis: a fundamental breach in our connection to the Infinite—and our identity within it. Addiction then develops from our efforts to fill that void—that God-shaped hole—with something, anything, that will alleviate the pain, loneliness, and isolation that is the life of an addict.
I’m still peeling back the layers of the onion but all in all, I would say my experience of recovery has been successful. I have recovered from that ‘seemingly hopeless state of mind and body,’ but I continue to work on that God-shaped hole; I continue to go deeper into the root causes of this dis-ease because I believe what I was told in the early days of sobriety: if you’re not moving forward on the path of recovery, you’re getting closer and closer to your next drink. Common wisdom and scientific research both recognize that long-term sobriety, without relapse, is rare. What has made my experience of sobriety so successful? Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®.
Kundalini Yoga was an integral part of my getting sober and remains the focus of my life today. From the very beginning, I recognized that the quality of my sobriety was due in large part to my personal practice. My capacity for self-reflection and the disciplines of meditation—concentration, commitment, and my capacity to sit and stay and not run away from discomfort—were the seeds of my transformation. I became a regular student and practitioner about a year before I got sober. Kundalini Yoga gave me the personal power to begin the process, and it continues to give me the discipline, values, and virtues to live not just as a recovered addict, but a realized human being. In the early days of recovery, the concepts and principles I learned seemed directly opposed to the basic principles of Kundalini Yoga, yet something within me knew that for me, both paths were necessary. In order for me to arrive at the quality of sobriety which would allow me to stay sober in the long run—to “stay stopped”—I needed both.
The first principle of a recovering alcoholic is powerlessness. The first principle of Kundalini Yoga is Shakti—the ultimate power, the creative force of nature, the Goddess. How do you reconcile these two positions, especially in the wake of those first few days of coming down from alcohol and drugs? In the darkness, confusion, and insecurity that accompany those first few days, weeks, and months, I can attest that it’s a challenge; but I’m also the product of reconciling those contrasting realities within myself. I’ll never forget my first private yoga class when my instructor asked me to lie down, place my hands on my Navel Point and begin chanting, “God and me, me and God, are One.” I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. Still under the profound compulsion of my addiction, the notion that I was one with God seemed incomprehensible to me. My admission of powerlessness allowed me to balance the notion of my potential power with the reality I was living in that particular moment—shaky, scared, and living one day at a time.
But each day added on to the next, and each step moved me closer and closer toward that delicate balance of Shakti and Bhakti—personal power and absolute surrender—which I like to think of as grace. Through all of it, I continued to come into a deeper relationship with my Self and my soul. The journey never ends, but it begins with the first step.
Step into your power—even as you bow to your powerlessness—with the practice of the mantra: “God and me, me and God are One.”
Sat Purkh Kaur is the Creative Director for the Kundalini Research Institute.