For a long period of time, almost 14 years, I devoted myself to a rigorous regime of spiritual practice. I lived in an ashram and studied and practiced the different flavors of spiritual traditions under the ever-judging eye of a supposedly enlightened guru. If there was one thing I was taught, and sadly mastered fully, is the art of deception. Deception of self and other. I was taught via Pavlovian conditioning techniques to fear expressing my truth. I was taught that my thoughts, feelings and emotions are nothing but my “devilish” ego. That any form of art I might want to create, any lecture I might give, any sort of offering “comes” from my ego, thus evil and needs to be subdued. This is classic/old-school spirituality at its best. Destroy, annihilate your self to reach and find the holy grail of spirit – the all so elusive Enlightenment. Witness that in the attempt to break the illusory ego, only the witness will remain. From the ashes of your destruction the One, the Whole, the Infinite, the Divine, the Truth will appear. And yes… all in capital letters.
The gurus in such settings are subjected to a psychological process which leads them from narcissism to neurosis, from neurosis to psychosis and eventually in some cases from psychosis to psychopathy. In that process, what basically follows and carried out is the leader’s inability to grasp the pain and suffering of those around them, leading to tremendous agony and despair for those who follow them.
As being subjected to this agonizing process, I had to find ways to cope with immense pain. With endless forms of abuse and fear which eventually lead to me literally escaping that horrifying prison. I won’t go into much detail here about why, and how and definitely not the who. But rather use my life’s challenging experience as an opening to explore a deeper psychological tendency that we all share. Our fear and difficulty to be transparent about who we are, what we feel, what our needs are and how we communicate those to others. In other words, what truly is our, capital letter – Truth.
We are taught very early on, with subtle, and at times not so subtle ways to conform to the will of our parents. We are fully and utterly dependent on their continuous support. Our lives depend on them completely. Our feeding, shelter, clothing and educational needs and even subtler – our need for touch, for love, for appreciation safety and guidance. In a way, this is a natural progression of dependency. However… in most cases, our emotional maturity stops there. We carry those tendencies for emotional non-responsibility for years if not the rest of our lives.
We are taught that our behavior, our needs, our expression is in effect, affecting the well-being, happiness and responses of the other. That means that we are held responsible for someone else’s emotional reality. As long as we subscribe to that point of view, we are forced into a codependent relationship and eventually lose our ability to fully express our needs and slowly, as a coping mechanism, diminish our own capacity to feel.
When someone other than our parents steps into that role, of both offering us boundaries and guidelines, offering to help realize our potential and all the while expecting a deep emotional surrender there’s a possibility that this relationship, this connection will turn into a codependent one.
Throughout my years in the ashram, my happiness, my well-being, was dependent on my guru’s reality. I could be happy only when he’s happy. I could sing, dance and be in my joy – only when he was in his. When he wasn’t happy… which was very frequent (a known behavior as part of this psychosis), his surroundings, our interactions with him and among ourselves (his disciples) were so grave and heavy. God forbid if you were smiling or living in your own reality when his reality was in challenge.
Living with that conditioning for many years, forced me to disconnect from my genuine emotions. I, for a long while, lost the ability to truly feel what is alive and happening within me. My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions were a response to what I believed was to be spiritual. I behaved in reaction to what I felt is expected of me by my harsh surroundings. Though my experience is very extreme, this emotional response is very common. So many of us to one degree or another, experience a very similar reality. Needing to cope and defend ourselves with a very similar psychological safety mechanism.
We are so afraid to hurt the other side. So afraid of the possibility of their harsh response. Whether that response may be their rejection or their verbal, emotional or even physical abuse. Since our codependency goes so deep, much deeper than any logical introspection will reveal, we project the familiar life-threatening dependency we felt as infants with our parents. Sadly, due to the psychological nature of codependent relationships, that fear is nurtured and almost encouraged. Eventually leading to the inevitability of our need to protect ourselves by lying in self-defense.
When we start lying in order to protect our status quo; that should be our clear sign that it is time to reevaluate our relationships. We are in deep waters of codependency. We might attempt to minimize our lies as withholding, exaggeration or “white” lies, but what truly happens within us is an abysmal fear of confrontation and our inability to speak our hearts truth.
The way out of this deep and painful behavior, regardless of your partner, is owning your voice and speaking your truth. In other words living with your heart on your sleeve, speaking your mind, and communicating with transparency. In my case, living in an extremely hostile environment and under tremendous peer pressure; the only way out was actually choosing the way out… walking out… running out… literally escaping. I knew I would still have to deal with my own emotional needs and healing later on, but first and foremost, I chose freedom.
A wise friend once told me that twenty percent of the work is taking your-self out of the abusive relationship; the other eighty are around taking the abuse out of you. My deepest emotional pain, for many years has been the tendency to develop codependent relationships or invite codependent behaviors. This is a very deep emotional response, in most cases – rooted unconscious choices. Paired with a deep longing to love and help others, this tendency can be very difficult to manage. Leading to deep fear of expressing my truth and hurting others.
I’ve learned along the way that without having the ability to state a clear, whole hearted NO, my Yeses have little value. I’ve learned (and still learning) to express clearer boundaries, communicating my reality with great clarity and articulation. I’ve been studying Compassionate and Non-violent communication – tools that by the way are never used in abusive relationships and obviously not in my ashram experience. I’ve invested many hours in studying cults and abusive relating. I wanted to understand what I’ve been through. Wanted to learn how to live my life absolutely differently.
As a mystic, someone who talks much about spirituality, self exploration and even enlightenment I am always very careful and take every possible precaution to ensure that what I teach, what I offer, how I live my life and experience my relationships, is truly an invitation to self acceptance. To the witnessing of the wonder and miracle that we all are. I often say that enlightenment is nothing more than the gifting of one’s self with the gift of one self. It is being one hundred percent you… unashamed, unfiltered, unedited – just raw you. Feeling, emoting, expressing fully. Being more human than you ever allowed yourself to be.
I’ve decided to write this post as a part of my own journey into transparency. As a part of my own healing journey. In the past few weeks I feel I’ve unearthed and uncovered so many of my latent fears. Luckily, I have incredible peers, friends and lovers. Helping me see that the further I venture into my truth, the more love and support I get to experience. For many years I’ve been seeking the truth. Little did I know, that it was here all along. All that was needed is for me to let it out.
For me, clearly, transparency is a journey of self-discovery. It is in sharing my music. Expressing my emotions through art. Exposing my self in my poetry and writing. I explore my transparency in my deepest relationships and in my own personal love affair with life. I don’t only talk about being truthful, saying your truth, but a deeper calling to live out fully. To stand tall within the glory of who you are. Unashamed. Not holding back. Singing. Dancing. Creating and offering with a full, overflowing heart. Gifting yourself, day after day, the gift of being – your self.