An insider exploration of Yoga and Nonduality, and the intersection of spirituality and experiences labeled psychosis or prodromal. Mental health integrates evidence from all disciplines and does not ignore inconvenient truth. Look within and find the direct path to your own truth.
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:
In defining psychotic there is the concept of referential delusions where per the DSM-5 “belief that certain gestures, comments, environmental cues, and so forth are directed at oneself” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 87). This is simply a consequence of there being no external physical world. It is only a construction of our perception, and of course it is completely referential if we created the world in our perception. Most of us are so established or may I suggest barricaded in the perceptual belief of a solid and separate physical world outside of us that we are spared the torture of the constant referential experience and only experience it occasionally as a spiritual or coincidence experience.