Unlocking The Keys To Recovery On Your Yoga Mat At Sat Nam Fest!
By Julie Fustanio Kling
There is a section in Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” a quintessential book about spiritual self-discovery, where Siddhartha says that what he learned among the wandering ascetics, he could have learned more quickly in any tavern in any red light district.
“The drinker may find numbing, he may find brief flight and rest, but he returns from illusion and finds everything unchanged,” Hesse writes.
“Siddhartha” is one of “Recovery 2.0” Author Tommy Rosen’s favorite books and this passage helps explain why. When Siddhartha found the flow of life he became a ferryman; Tommy, a recovering drug addict, has become a Kundalini teacher.
“I didn’t choose Kundalini, it chose me,” Rosen says. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt I am being directed and blessed. I don’t feel like my life is mine anymore.”
I met up with Rosen on the universe of my Yoga mat outside the Joshua Tree Retreat Center dining hall at Sat Nam Fest last week. He was wearing a slate blue t-shirt that lit up his bright hazel eyes. It said “Soul Jour.”
Before we found a spot among the gnarly Joshua trees and cacti, Rosen ran into his student Gene Wright, who wore a shirt that said “We are all just walking each other home.” They admired each other’s mantras and went their separate ways. Wright was given Rosen’s book and then his number after 18 years of sobriety ended in an opiates binge and an ambulance ride to the hospital.
“I went to opiates, Tommy went to Kundalini,” Wright says.
Like Wright, Rosen had put down the drugs and alcohol and was 12 years sober when he found himself frozen in his tracks – his relapse was spinal stenosis and severe back pain. Being an athlete, like being an addict, was part of his identity after he went through the 12-step program, which helped his mind overcome the addiction, but did not translate to his body. The universe sent Rosen to Guru Prem Singh Khalsa.
“Guru Prem was the first man I met who has an understanding of the body and healing the likes of which I had never seen,” Rosen says. “It was beyond synchronicity.”
Ninety days after he began practicing with Guru Prem, Rosen’s back pain went away without the drugs and surgery that other healers recommended and he had denied.
Guru Prem was to Rosen, what Siddhartha was to his friend Govinda. He taught him how to breathe, gave him knowledge about the impact of his diet and sent him on his own path. Now Rosen is leading teacher trainings and has a following of more than 100,000 recovering addicts on his website, r20.com.
“It’s all about patterns,” he says. “In order for me to make a fist, the brain sends an electrical signal down the spinal cord. That electrical signal finds nerves and the nerves ask the muscles to contract and make the fist. Imagine a muscle contraction every time you have stressful moment. Sometimes it’s conscious, but a lot of times its unconscious. If you are not monitoring the inputs - the breath, the food you eat, the media you watch, hydrating and being conscious in your relationships - the day will come when that grip doesn’t release, creating a tension pattern.”
He often asks his students, “Is there a reason you are holding a fist?” to bring their awareness to it and teach them that they have the neuromuscular capacity to release it, and in turn rebalance the endocrine system, the nervous system and open up new channels so that energy can flow freely.
In his class at Sat Nam Fest on overcoming conflicts, we rocked out to the GuruGanesha Band and we practiced a kriya to strengthen our auric field, throwing our arms over our shoulders to release tension patterns and move the energy.
"A Yogic lifestyle is an essential part of recovery. Yoga isn’t something to add into recovery programs. Yoga helps you repattern. But Kundalini Yoga and a broader practice of Yoga which has to include breath and meditation is the critical part," says Rosen.
The process is subtle, like the lessons that Siddhartha learned along his journey from a Brahmin, or teacher, to a wandering and poor samana, to a rich businessman, to a ferryman on the river.
His student Wright, who is now a Kundalini Yoga teacher himself, says “recovery is an inside job. It doesn’t come from outside.”
Getting addicts to practice meditation, mantra and breath in their recovery, like converting more men to the practice, which is still dominated by women in the west, is Rosen’s spiritual journey. Wright is the ripple effect.
“All addiction is a form of spiritual seeking,” Rosen tells his students. “The idea is correct but you got on the wrong train. Now you are on the right path.”