Thursday, March 24, 2011

My ashram

Chris and I attended our first Sahaja Yoga meditation last night. I couldn't help shaking my head; the venue was within spitting distance of where Chris spent two years attending a psychiatric outpatient program. Two words that come to mind about that program are "expensive and lame."  It looked upon psychic distress as mainly a medical problem, and of course, medication management was a big part of the curriculum. Impressive, if you judge these things by the number of staff with professional accreditations. The problem is, the cooking classes, the light ergotherapy exercises (bringing your knees to your chest while lying on the floor), the forty minute acting classes, just don't do the profound lifting needed to get to the root of psychosis.

If I were going to run a program, here's what I've have on the menu. Yoga classes, meditation, assemblage point shifters, Family Constellation sessions, music, etc. The emphasis would be on vibration. There were be classes on nutrition and vitamin support. The rented facilities would look more like an ashram and not at all like a hospital outpatient program. This kind of therapeutic outlet would be cheap because it wouldn't be professionalized. It would be staffed mainly by volunteers.

I'm not very familiar with meditation, having done it sporadically with different teachers over the past few years. Sahaja Yoga meditation is different to the other meditations I've done, which tended to be more like "imagine yourself walking through a peaceful green forest and you come upon a crystal stream . . ." The aim of Sahaja Yoga is to immediately awaken the kundalini, which, with practice, eventually leads to self-realization. The technique is simple to grasp and self-realization doesn't have to be attained after years of discipline. We're all expected to notice improvements rather quickly in our well-being.

I have always been uneasy about the awakened kundalini. I've read that it is such a powerful force that amateurs have no business playing with it. I also thought it was something that you just don't jump into. We jumped right into it last night. Chris and I went through our guided meditation in English in a separate room from the others who were carrying on in French. After we finished and our kundalinis were roused, we stepped into the main room where the rest of the group was busy fanning kundalinis and cleaning chakras. The air was flowing with kundalini arousal en masse.

Chris was enthusiastic about his experience. We both slept well.


  1. I would be at your ashram in a heartbeat! :) (And now I really want to check into this type of meditation for myself.)

  2. Funny, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when hippiedom was at its peak, I was completely turned off by what I saw. I have changed. The thought of meditating would never have entered my head. Re the Sahaja Yoga form of meditation, some people accuse it of being cult-like, and I can see why. It's based on the teachings of an Indian woman who passed away in Feb. You meditate with a photo of her in order to increase the vibration. I perfectly understand why this is so. I read somewhere that this meditation will cause you to be more of yourself, and less dependent on others. I'm all for this. (Some people might claim this is cult-like, to want people to distance themselves from their near and dear, but this, in Chris's case would be useful.) Another reason I was attracted to the specific form of meditation is that it works on a particular chakra to alleviate guilt. Guilt is something that Chris carries on his shoulders (where this chakra, incidentally is located). There seems to be no rational reason for the guilt, but he has it. So, this meditation may not appeal to some, but there are lots of other meditations around that would.

  3. Wow, it sounds like a great fit indeed! Interesting about Chris and guilt, that seems to be a common thread - guilt is one of my biggest blocks as well, and mine also has no rational source. I've also been preoccupied most of my life with being nice and well liked, often at my own expense...I've made some really fabulous progress on both fronts with meditation. Good luck on this new part of the journey!

  4. Natalie, I would like to posit that being "nice" and wanting to please everybody can lead to the eventual label, but my sample group (Chris) is rather small. But you are saying this too, so I think we're on to something. Have you read about Bert Hellinger and Family Constellation Therapy? Read about his work and you will begin to understand the origins of our problems. It's gripping reading. Hellinger is hugely popular in Germany and continental Europe. He uses his work as a Jesuit priest among the Zulu in Africa as the basis for his shamanic like therapy.

  5. Rossa - Thanks for recommending Hellinger's work, I will absolutely check it out! Have you ever read about Bowen's Theory? I think it may be similar to Hellinger, in that everything is related to the family dynamic, etc. I can't wait to learn about him - shamanic-like therapy...right up my alley. :)

    And, though my sample size is just a handful of people, I've yet to talk with any schizophrenic or bipolar folk who don't have some form of perfectionism, intense need to please, etc. My therapist says this is very common among his clients, most of whom have experienced psychoses of some flavor. Given my own experience of psychosis, this makes perfect sense!

  6. Hi, Natalie,
    I have heard about Bowen's work, but it seems a bit different from Hellinger's, while having much in common with it. Hellinger can be quite dark and a little frightening. Here's something I just plucked from the web.

    At a glance it appears that Bert Hellinger's concepts of Family Constellation are merely natural continuations of the multi-generational work of Satir, the Milan group, and the brevity and intensity of several of the Strategic therapies or his work with renowned hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson. But upon greater investigation it is realized that there is a heightened sense of spirituality in his work that differentiates it from others. It could be his early influence as an Catholic priest, his many years as a Zulu missionary, or his great love for the philosophical teachings of the Chinese philosopher Kung Fu Tse (Confucius) that offers the idea that man must look at opposites in order to find the truth. Still, it is said of Hellinger that the "overarching strength of his work comes from his refined skill of listening to the authority of one's own soul."

  7. Ah, even better! I love dark and frightening and "listening to the authority of one's own soul." Anyone who's experienced psychosis knows that much of it is indeed dark and frightening, but it happens for a reason. When I was so distraught over some of the things I'd done while psychotic, my therapist shared that he believes psychosis and mania often manifest our "shadow selves," things that we repress in our normal state. So an approach that mirrors this just makes sense, I can't wait to check it out in detail. Thanks again!

  8. Natalie said: therapist shared that he believes psychosis and mania often manifest our "shadow selves," things that we repress in our normal state.

    Rossa said: Ya know, I wish that psychiatry would let more people in on their secret sharing of (withheld) information. Certainly, as a family member the psychiatrists (who were too busy prescribing) didn't share this insight with me. I spent a couple of years crawling through literature and speaking with other fellow travellers through blogs, etc. in order to come to the same conclusion. Like your therapist also said that people with SZ are often prone to perfectionism, the need to please - this immediately puts SZ and other conditions in the realm of a solvable problem, not a weird brain disorder. How come they're holding out on us with all this brain chemical BS they are spouting? Well, I guess we know. Sad, really sad. By the time I came to, I had messed up a good two years of Chris's recovery.

  9. Guilt: I talked to a woman, labelled with "sz", lately, who was all in tears, telling that she couldn't stand our world anymore, all the bad things that were happening, and that she also felt guilty for being a member of a society that let or even made all these bad things happen, and about all the bad things she'd done herself. A little further on in the conversation she said she was sick and tired of her mother calling her at least every other day, worried about how she was doing, if she'd remembered to take her "meds", etc., but that she also, at the same time, felt guilty about feeling sick and tired of her mother's, let's call a spade a spade, highly expressed emotion, her controlling behavior, and about being such a burden to her mother. And, btw, mommy doesn't settle calling her daughter, she also calls us regularly, with her daughter knowing this, telling that she's at her wits' end, doesn't know how to help her daughter anymore, etc. etc.. Moaning and groaning.

    There's a pattern here that I've seen but all too often with people labelled with "sz" and their families: mommy, who btw is in her 70ies, can't let go of her "baby girl", who's in her mid 50ies, and who is mommy's life project. Or was. Until "baby girl" started to rebel mommy's dictatorship, and "schizophrenia" became the new life project. And without doubt the best way to keep "baby girl" "schizophrenic" -- to prevent the rebellion from succeeding and resulting in liberation -- is to make "baby girl" feel utterly guilty about her rebellion, her "illness" that causes mommy so much distress. Mommy suffers incredibly because of "baby girl"/"schizophrenia". But she also gains immeasurable pleasure from her suffering, the meaning, the purpose of her life.

    The woman nailed it down, actually, when she said "You see, it's like it's going round and round." It's a vicious circle -- for both of them --, and guilt is what makes it impossible to break out of it. Guilt is a huge issue in what is called "sz". It's what keeps "sz" going.


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