,Recently many of you know , I took a trip to see my daughter and her family. As I was waiting in the airport ( I am a very nervous flyer, so I always get there hella early!), I bought a copy of 'Yoga Journal'. March/April edition. It was the mindfulness edition with an image of 'free your mind" on the cover. I am always interested in more and new information to help my clients , students and myself to become more mindful in every day, so I was excited to read this edition.
Most of the magazine was ok, articles for how to's mixed with ads that are beautifully done. UNTIL... I got to page 53 " Into the Mystic" by Amanda Tust. I was shocked, horrified and saddened.
Here is an article extolling the virtues of taking psychedelics as a manner of enhancing the spiritual side of meditation and yoga practices. A quote from the article in the header even said " "while yogis host ceremonies with psychoactive tea".
Of course I read on, the information rolling out the same old arguments that these drugs can help with cancer and some mental health issues. ( I am so tired of hearing that argument as a justification for substance use). Also it was noted that the ancient yogis used psychedelics in a tea and the art has been lost as to how they did it. ( hmm wonder why the art was lost....and that may mean we don't have the tools now!) Within the article was also how 'amazing' the experiences of being "high" were for people who set their 'correct intentions' and a few people had 'negative' experiences .
BACK TO.............. WHAT????
I am a woman in long term recovery, a yoga teacher, a chemical dependency counselor and I work along side the mental health community. Let me tell you the other side of the story.
Every day, literally every day, I work with people whose lives have been trashed by all forms of substance use disorder. Some have permanent brain damage due to their use of come substances and may need to have psychiatric medications for the rest of their lives due to the use . ( the difference for me in this regard is that for some people the psych medications are due to brain chemistry issues; sometimes unavoidable and so extremely helpful in day to day living. What I am concerned about is the brain damage that drugs like mushrooms and LSD can actually do). Some people never regain the ability to remain abstinent and continue the devastating lifestyle of use until death . This is not me spouting scary information from a pamphlet , it is what I see in my every day at my work. and in the rooms of recovery.
This article was irresponsibility written. The information completely minimized the potential danger and impact of use, lack of medical oversight. The wording made it sound like yogis 'should' start having these psychedelic workshops and offering it to their students. ( yoga teachers ( entrepreneurs) are always looking for the next big thing to make money at in yoga...but this rant is not about that)
Let me remind you. First , all of the substances that were listed in the article are a class one drug...FOR A REASON. When administering any drug, you have to know about the potential for negative impact and side effects. ( not like the article suggests - to take a minimal amount, who knows what that definition of minimal is.) If someone has mental health disorder(s) or a brain chemistry issue, then there is a potential for a huge loss for the person and their family, even with just " one, minimal use". ( Not to mention jail time or fines for the yogi and yoga studio.)
Please, please, please. Substance Use may not be a practice within yoga that will enhance anything for you. Just the opposite. It may lead you away from your practice and all your power, into effects that may be unintended.
What I believe as a yoga teacher for 15 years and a chemical dependency counselor for 6 is that there is no fast way to spirituality or enlightenment. Being a woman in recovery, I have tried enough substances in my past to make me more than fully aware of that fact. I have lost friends and loved ones to the next high. " It'll be ok Sandy, " Next thing I know, I am at a funeral.
Melodramatic. Not in the slightest, it is a part of my life.
I enjoy working for my enlightenment, because of the empowerment that it gives me. I work every day to clear the wreckage from my past, lean into love and service and my self esteem begins to grow.
On that same vacation with my daughter, I was terrified to climb a very, very large rock. ( slippery shoes and an angry hip didn't help) I took a deep breath, connected to my core, said a prayer and up to the top I went. When I came down, I had ( what I call) the yoga smile. That experience of overcoming my fear was mine and my Higher Power's alone. I reached deep and found my miracle minute that I will always own.
I would never, ever want to give any drug credit for my strength, determination and achievement.
Maybe in my meditation I will never see things flying that are reported in the article, have conversations with those who have passed or see brilliant colors. But I also don't need to . I don't need the consumerism mentality of more is better. I live a life of gratitude for what I have and love . I have worked for almost 15 years on getting my confidence , strength, self forgiveness and determination back. I owe it all to my yoga teacher, Joanna, God, rooms of people who love me and a method of living that creates positive change.
Mindfulness does not mean playing with drugs to create gain. It does mean being alive and grateful in every minute of the day. For that I am eternally grateful, empowered and alive.
For more information about the potential for impact of psychedelics , click here.