Beyond the Yoga of Getting High
by Michael Damian
I recently watched a short video clip about a big festival for kundalini yoga and music. It was a series of on-site, rather ecstatic testimonials from participants and perhaps organizers. A young woman raved that “The mantra, the yoga, the vibe are going up, up, up!!” and talked about all the happy, beautiful people there. That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Everyone in the video had those dreamy looking eyes. A big smile plastered on the face. Another attendee testified with some seriousness, “The mantra works!” Then a middle-aged man, accompanied by his partner, said matter-of-factly: “I come here to get high” — meaning an energetic, spiritual high.
And there you have it. This reminds me of a documentary about Ram Dass when he came back from India in the ’60s. The new yoga and meditation enthusiasts were spreading the message to their desperate young peers that you don’t have to rely on drugs to get high. You could do it with meditation, with kundalini breathing and so forth.
There is nothing wrong with getting an energy high. I certainly recommend a sattvic, harmonious lifestyle that ensures a higher, smooth energy state rather than the energetic lows of intense agitation (Sanskrit: rajas) and dullness (tamas) of mind and body. These cyclical lows are caused by desire and fear operating in the unawakened mind, which Self-realization neutralizes.
This does not mean that the Self-realized mind has no desires, inspirations, or enjoyments. However, in the absence of Self-realization, desire is bound by attachment and acts as a restless sense of lack. This makes us chase objects and experiences for the excitement they bring, and then we fall down again. The trouble is that an energy high is not freedom.
Freedom is what we are seeking. Freedom is already the nature of Self, but it can only be known consciously via the realization of nonduality (so don’t say “It’s all Good” unless you really know that it is). By definition, freedom is not dependent on any particular state.
In the absence of conscious freedom, well, if you are feeling low then you are going to want to get high. That’s all there is in Self-ignorance: identifying with feeling low or high. So when you get low again, you will need to attend another festival or a chanting class to get back to high.
And it is fine that much of the spiritual world is about pumping our energy up rather than realizing our nature beyond energy. Overall, our culture is energetically low because it is almost entirely ignorant of the inner world. From a young age we learn that we are not good enough, that we have to make ourselves worthy of love. This is our western disease. And we learn to depend on various crude means of lifting our energy out of this unfortunate morass.
It is an amazing thing to finally, deeply recognize that being high, light and airy is not real freedom. Enlightenment has nothing whatsoever to do with maintaining a special energy state. The realization that you are pure consciousness, beyond but including all states of mind, brings a Lightness, a joy of a different order than the syrupy bliss that oozes out of our eyes when we have been making love, chanting, or doing yoga all day.
But if your energy body is feeling rather heavy — whether you are Self-realized or not — then why not dance, jog, clean your house, meditate, hike in the mountains, or make out with someone you adore? A kundalini music festival is fine too, of course. Just know that all experience arises in you, the witness of it all. The radiant simplicity and unconditional freedom of your true nature is what you really want. This happiness looks more like profound sobriety than being high on anything.
Michael shares the direct path of recognizing our essential nature and shedding the belief in separation. Rooted in the simplicity of pure presence, his teaching facilitates the spontaneous unraveling of our mistaken identity in the light of absolute reality — which shines in the heart of the human being as original innocence and radiance.
The direct path is both intimate and expansive, revealing the God of small things and raw beauty in every form and function of living. Clarity and devotion work as a unity to lift confusion off the heart. This non-dual tantra unfolds in faithful attention, beyond strategies. We do not try to fix or stop the mind. We reveal the intrinsic peace and vitality of the mind, as energy formerly scattered and repressed returns to us.
Once relieved of the burden of identity, the mind comes into integrity as the servant of pure presence. The marks of a liberated life — humility, simplicity, joy — Michael invites all to uncover no matter how much suffering seems to obscure it. Michael offers satsangs, intensives and retreats in North America and Europe.