An insider exploration of Yoga and Nonduality, and related insight into experience labeled prodromal or psychosis or illness. Mental health integrates all disciplines and does not ignore inconvenient truth. Look within and find the direct path to your own truth.
I returned to the Science and Nonduality Conference last weekend to continue to learn different language and concepts being applied to the nondual experience. It was a good mix of scientists, spiritual teachers, and students exploring the new paradigm understanding of what it means to be human. A welcome relief from the conservative mental health system I am studying in graduate school that still operates on 19th century science and neglects to include quantum physics, cognitive psychology insights regarding perception, and much other data that indicate the idea consciousness is a product of neurons is not a sustainable concept. The integrated understanding is that consciousness comes first before neurons.
Nondual teacher Francis Lucille at the conference indicated it was just semantics and that God, Consciousness, and Reality are equivalent terms. It is very clear from my personal experience and many at the conference concur that there is no physical objective reality independent of conscious observers and their beliefs.
On another note, I attended a meeting of the Association for Spiritual Integrity at the conference. There is growing consensus that spiritual awakening and psychological health are two independent areas of human development. Spiritual awakening does not heal psychological concerns, though it often offers a temporary escape sometimes called spiritual bypassing. It is a mistake to believe that an awakened nondual or yoga teacher will not be abusive and use the teacher position for sex, power, or inappropriate sums of money.
Later in the conference Mariana Caplan who worked as a psychotherapist and consultant with individuals, teachers, and communities after scandals had some good suggestions for students. First was that doing at least a year of psychological and trauma work with a body centered approach can offer some protection from getting taken advantage of by a teacher. Another suggestion because most sexual abuses are by male teachers is that female students on the spiritual path with a male teacher should be prepared for how they will respond to a come on.
Yes you read correctly. I have published a piece on male breastfeeding. I thank my wife for giving assent to publish such a peephole into our private home life conversation that inspired the writing. I wrote specifically for Rebelle Society a platform for “creatively maladjusted rebels with a cause.” My heart sobs regularly for so many treated by the mental health system by force or without information given regarding the consequences of treatment and alternatives to wellness. I sat on the edited article for many months. Then, while with my family at the nearby river on one of the hottest days of the summer I noticed a lone topless woman among the crowd enjoying the river. My 8-year-old daughter had been complaining for days about having to wear shirts when it was so hot, and yes she was quite right. It is just plain wrong that only males are privileged to go topless in public. It was time to do my miniscule part to confront sexism by airing the topic of male breastfeeding. If males bodies have the potential to grow breasts and produce milk, then why should one gender be expected to cover them and the other not?
This summer I recorded myself chanting the most studied second chapter of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, a text that a mentor of mine calls an ancient Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) manual. The Sūtras are a summary of yoga philosophy and practices from the time it was composed between 1600 and 2400 years ago depending on which historical Patañjali gets credit as the author.
Insight Timer is a meditation app with many free meditation offerings available and an awesome meditation starting bell I first heard when Chris Grosso used it at a conference workshop I attended. Follow this Insight Timer link to hear a sample of me chanting. I was moved to create the recording when I realized how uncomfortable newer yoga students and teachers are with pronouncing Sanskrit and wanted to offer it out of gratitude for the accessibility of the Insight Timer meditation app.
Along my grad school mental health counseling studies the textbooks mention that patients with psychosis will often call the antipsychotic medications poison. The professional response is to give them the shaming label – lack of insight. The documentary Cause of Death: Unknown explores and explains how pharmaceutical companies (Pharma) have put billions of dollars of profit over people and misled the doctors and the public knowingly leading to the death of thousands of our children, our veterans, our elderly, and disabled. The antipsychotic medications can gum up people’s metabolism and can suddenly stop the heart dead.
This is a timely film during the opioid crisis where so many of the pharmaceutical companies knowingly deceived doctors and patients to hook the public on opioids and make more profit knowing more people would die from the drugs. The next opioid crisis is already here with psychiatric medications for which Pharma used the same tactics.
That is not to say the medications do not have value for a small percentage of the people or for the much shorter evidence based duration than they end up being used for. But with Pharma or Pharma paid researchers almost exclusively doing the research, critical research on how to get people off of medications has not been done.
Recently a New Yorker article highlighted this and how psychiatrists themselves who find themselves unable to get off of medications have had to turn to the ex-patient community to learn how to get off. Pharma misled doctors telling them patients trying to come off medications had a return of symptoms of illness when getting to low doses of the medications, but often it is withdrawal symptoms (they call discontinuation syndrome) from the medications due to tolerance (they call neuroadaptation) that lasts much longer than doctors were told. To come off people often have to detox from the medications painfully slow sometimes taking years and miniscule doses, but people with all diagnoses have come off of medications successfully. Without proper information and preparation, withdrawing too quickly from some medications can have serious consequences up to and including death. The Withdrawal Project is a modern recent online platform for citizen research on psychiatric medication withdrawal mentioned in The New Yorker article to assist with more accurate information on how to prepare to come off.
If you are curious about these issues, Cause of Death: Unknown is a timely film that begins to explore some truth that you will not hear in mainstream media until public awareness reaches a tipping point. Another news site to explore these topics is the online magazine Mad In America that presents research, alternatives, and success stories of people who have found a way out of Pharma created American Hell.
I have completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program and registered as a teacher with the Yoga Alliance. As part of the training process I developed an hour-long vinyasa flow yoga class as a vehicle to share yoga. With a background studying Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Nonduality, my teachings reflect a mix of slow flow yoga and breathwork with nondual pointers. I am especially interested in welcoming anyone to find mental health and wellbeing through yoga and meditation without exclusion due to diagnosis or other social political constructs. You can face and accept yourself as you are. There are many variations in yoga to help bring you home to rest in your true nature. If you would like to explore these with a private lesson in the Portland, Maine area or via Skype, leave a message on my contact page.
I will be facilitating a screening and discussion of the film Crazywise at Amistad in Portland, ME on March 21, 2019 at 5-7:15pm.
This is an amazing film. Director Phil Borges had interviewed around 40 shamans from all over the world and found they got their start in similar ways. In their teens or early 20’s they started hearing things others did not hear and seeing things others did not see. They were identified as having a special gift or sensitivity and had mentors to train them how to use their abilities as shamans to help their communities. He draws a comparison with the much different treatment for the same experiences that young people in the West receive from the mental health system.
Under a Hawaiian mango tree in 1994, initial experimentation with spinning in circles until falling down, inverting my head below my feet in a rain gulley, and holding my breath while asking the question “who am I” lead to an expansion of my sense of self to the infinite.
Seven years of extensive street drug and pharmaceutical use could only temporarily hide the new awareness that conflicted with my scientific materialistic public school upbringing. Then I was drawn to read the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, and was relieved to know someone else sometime else shared similar experience and understanding.
In 2001 I began to study for many years with preeminent teachers of yoga and meditation both in India and the U.S. I salted these studies with talks, meditation, and tantra instruction by Buddhist Rinpoches and peppered the mixture with exposure to shamans.
Though not for lack of trying, I have not been able to shake the expanded sense of self but have learned to live with the experience of it, be it infinite bliss, or unending aloneness. I learned to re-engage the boundaries of the individual sense of self that I had been socialized into as a child in order to navigate the world of relationship with others.
I am currently enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training course learning the practicalities of how to share yoga with others. Check back late this summer for updates on yoga offerings.
I was graced with the opportunity to attend a three-day Hearing Voices Network Facilitators’ Training this month conducted by Western Mass Recovery Learning Community trainers. Within the Hearing Voices Network all possible explanations for experiences that would typically be labeled psychosis in a clinical setting are welcomed and allowed along with the additional perspective that the experiences are just a normal variation of human experience. It was stated that one in 10 people hear voices at some point in life and two thirds of them never seek psychiatric services. The Hearing Voices Network is composed of self-help groups throughout the world where people come together to talk about their voices, visions, and unusual experiences in a non-clinical environment with no assumption of an underlying illness to their experiences and no requirement to have any exposure to the mental health system to attend groups. Each individual is allowed the freedom to interpret their experiences in any way and the group accepts that voices and visions are real experiences. The Hearing Voices Network can be considered a civil rights movement that started when a patient confronted the psychiatrist Marius Romme in the 1980’s about limitations of the psychiatric care being provided. Regarding psychiatry’s attempts to stop voices with treatment, Romme eventually compared “eradicating people’s voices to forcing homosexuals to become heterosexual” (Sapey & Bullimore, 2013, p. 4). The groups started in the United Kingdom and are in at least 32 countries around the world now. In the United States there are at least 94 registered groups. The State of Maine Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has been funding trainings to facilitate the growth of Hearing Voices Network groups. Though not all Maine groups are listed yet, http://www.hearingvoicesusa.org/ does have a listing of some Maine groups including one in Portland. There are additional meetings in Maine forming at peer drop in centers.
Sapey, B., & Bullimore, P. (2013). Listening to voice hearers. Journal of Social Work,
I am now back at the Science and Nonduality Conference. Last year at the conference, I was blown away in tears to listen to a scientist come as close as I have found to how I experience the nature of human existence.
I believe that many who get labeled psychotic have at least begun to experience some of the implications of time not existing separate from an observer and the complete referential nature of everything that can be experienced when the illusion of separateness is pierced.
In time I hope those once in the position of giving the psychotic label for experience will become able to integrate the information from the different sciences enough to instead give some scientific validation for the same experience.
Robert Lanza made a valiant effort last year at the conference in this talk to light the path.
In a 2013 United Nations report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” it was stated that:
“…medical treatments of an intrusive and irreversible nature, when lacking a therapeutic purpose or when aimed at correcting or alleviating a disability, may constitute torture or ill treatment when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned.”
Saddened by the increase in forced treatment in America, I submitted a related abbreviated personal story to Mad In America: