In most circles, the topic of God, Spirit, or divine experiences is keenly avoided. For generations we’ve been told to not talk about such an inflammatory topic unless we are looking for a heated argument. And generally, that’s all fine and dandy! My personal faith doesn’t need to be discussed with strangers on the subway line, and I’m sure most other people feel the same.
So here’s the question: Is this always the case? Are we always better off skating around the topic of spirituality
As a teacher of Tantra this has been a very prominent question for me. On one hand, exclusion is never the answer, and for many people (including myself for a lot of my life), the idea of God, prayer, and anything to do with religion, leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Conversely, Tantra is a spiritual practice! What I strive to teach people and the methods I use to help and heal people has its foundation in faith!
So what now? I truly believe and know in my soul that Tantra is for everybody, no exceptions, but this lingering “God” question continued to stump me.
Until one day, I found AA.
My Study of Alcoholics Anonymous
I have a very good friend who has been with AA for many years. She often mentioned the 12 steps and the program during our many talks. It was always very interesting…. And then one day, the magic of AA hit me, the answer to my “God” question!
And I’ve been studying “The Big Book of AA” ever since.
The answer I had been seeking was the second step of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. The second step of AA is to accept a higher power in your life; and until you do this step you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT do the rest of the steps.
What?!!! I had heard this before, but this time I heard it.
It hit me. Not only did they have to accept faith, but without this step, no true and complete healing could happen! THIS is the step that we all too often want to cut out of all healing processes, causing so many healing journeys to plateau or fail.
Really? Is This Really Necessary?
Well, according to Carl Jung anyway.
Carl Jung was working with a man named Rowland H., trying to help him recover and heal his alcoholism, but after one year of trying, Jung proclaimed his case as hopeless, and that Rowland would likely die of alcoholism.
Rowland was distraught! And he asked Jung if there was truly no hope for him. Jung’s response was the inspiration and basis of the Second Step of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He said that every so once in a while, someone will have a “vital spiritual experience” which completely rewires him emotionally and mentally. So much so, that afterwards he is cured of his alcoholism, and never wants to drink again.
Spirituality is the Missing Link
In a spiritual practise of Yoga you could choose many paths. You could choose Raja yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, or Hatha Yoga and many more! And when divinity and spirituality are the foundation for your practise, all these paths have the potential to change your entire life. But, in order to make it digestible to the Western world, often the spirituality is taken out of it.
Without spirituality, yoga is reduced to strange rituals with no meaning. Without spirituality, yoga becomes what most of us know it as today: a stretching/core/acrobatics class with an emphasis on deep breathing. So the depth and potential of this ancient practise slips through the cracks.
In Tantra, there are stories of the original Tantrikas travelling from town to town doing all the things that the townspeople weren’t allowed to do – eating meat, having sex etc. And while part of Tantra is about “shocking people from their slumber” to help them live more in the present, that is not the whole point.
Tantrikas were often the rebels, yes, but their practise was all about trusting in God and the Divine so deeply, that you will follow your inner guidance no matter what – even if it goes against everything society tells you is right.
Tantra is radical spirituality. It is a long road of learning to put aside all traumas, judgement, and fears – and to simply trust within.
However, in the Western World, this “longer road” is often lost on us, and when we heard the promise of improved sex lives and deeper, more fulfilling relationships, the spiritual aspect often got (and gets) put on the backburner, turning tantra into a sex technique, extended orgasms, kink, or “free love,” completely stripping it of its potential to enrich our lives in deeper, more meaningful ways.
Even normal religion is cheated out of its true potential when it becomes a social event or just a ritual. Wherein you go through the motions without any personal spiritual experiences, rinse, and repeat.
An Important Note
Just because Yoga, Tantra, and other spiritual practises have a higher chance of bringing true healing and peace when they are grounded in faith, it DOES NOT MEAN that they are useless if they are not!
Non-spiritual yoga classes can be incredibly peaceful and bring you some much needed relaxation, flexibility and mobility.
Non-spiritual tantric practises can bring deep healing and free us of the shame we so often carry within us surrounding our body and sex.
Even for recovering alcoholics, simply finding the warm, accepting community of AA is an important, beautiful gift.
But… if you are on a journey to heal or find true joy and peace, then eventually a plateau will be reached, and spirituality will be the missing link.
Don’t Think it Through
The conversation about whether or not there is a higher power is a fair argument that has spawned many books, debates, and arguments. Many incredibly scholarly people have battled with the question. But when it comes to spirituality, thinking it through isn’t the point, and it certainly isn’t the answer.
The beauty of AA, as I understand it, is that those who had hit rock bottom, whether it be because of an illness, addiction, trauma, or something else, they were the lucky ones! Because they had been put in such an extreme position, they were the ones who had an easier time surrendering to and accepting faith. Unlike the rest of the world who were still wrestling with their own mind.
For me, this happened 20 years ago. I had breast cancer and my “teacher” told me that the only way to heal was to turn off my brain and listen to (and trust!) my heart. The “dark nights of the soul” that followed broke my mind, and eventually all I had to turn to was faith.
I believe that something similar happens in the alcoholic or drug addict.
I believe that something similar happens to the people who turn to yoga or tantra because they know that there is something much bigger than themselves out there.
When we approach practises such as Yoga and Tantra from this “empty mind/full heart” place, I believe true magic can happen.
You Gotta Have Faith
George Michael speaks the truth.
If you have been struggling, trying everything to heal, or find joy, or happiness, but nothing ever seems to work 100%, then it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship between you and your faith. Is it strained? Do you resent it? Is it non-existent? Is it simply a mess?
These questions might require some thought.
At the end of the day, the “God” question isn’t easy, and I don’t know if it ever will be. But the possibilities are endless, and it’s all about you. So do what you must to connect fully with your faith.
This is where we find the clear mind of the sober alcoholic, the inner peace of the yogi, and the every-day ecstasy of the tantrika.
The answer to your woes?
It’s a God thing.