Jost explains how you were addicted to chi and not to drugs – and a fabulous explanation of life for you if you are not addicted to anything!
Taking up yoga, chi-gung, tai-chi or another martial art is a critical part of your recovery plan. These practices involve moving through a series of postures that allow chi (‘prana’ in yoga), to flow around your body. The techniques were created centuries, if not millennia, ago on top of remote mountains or deep in distant jungles by outcasts and misfits who were not interested in having a boring or normal life (sound familiar?). The chi practices build health, but they are also the means to escape reality.
An increasing number of mainstream rehab centres have begun offering yoga or tai-chi, seeing them as nice calming or stretching exercises. And they are, but that’s just the start of it. The Chinese chi practices (tai-chi, chi-gung) were developed after centuries of observation of extraordinary animal abilities The practices copy these skills and allow us to escape our perceptions of physical limitations. Jackie Chan’s famous gravity-defying movie stunts are a great example of this, but this is just the start of where chi can take you.
If I’d had any idea of the trippy origins and real power of these practices, and the states they can put you in, I would never have done drugs,I would have apprenticed myself to some tai-chi master or guru instead. But I’d never even heard of chi when I had my first joint, and I followed the drug path to altered states instead. Things are different now. We might be experiencing one of the biggest recreational drug epidemics in history, but simultaneously, and for the first time ever, amazing once-secret chi techniques are now widely accessible. The internet is saturated with footage of great martial arts masters demonstrating superhuman capabilities. It’s never been easier to go from drugs to chi (or to skip drugs and go straight to chi). So turn to chi right now, right away.
Use chi to escape reality without drugs.
Hard drugs and intense chi
If you’ve been a hard drug user, you will have major imbalances of yin and yang. You may well have a condition known as ‘yang rising’, where all your energy is up in your head, creating an empty, heated intensely irritating sensation.When you take up a chi practice you need to keep a few things in mind. For example, if you are learning tai-chi or chi-gung, teachers will instruct you to ‘relax’ but you are probably physically unable to relax; so you’ll feel frustrated and start thinking chi is not for you. Think ‘sink in, sink in’ instead of ‘relax’ and it will work better for you.
You can adapt a lot of what you have instinctively learned about chi from your hard drug experiences. For example, you feel a drug rush start in your belly because it is activating the primal energies in the body. This is the dantian, the seat of power. This is where you ‘gather’ chi.
When I teach chi-gung, I begin by putting the client in the basic standing posture – feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and spine upright– and then get them to place their hands on the lower belly. The dantian is where you start to reconnect with chi again after drugs. Your familiarity with moving a drug rush internally is also something that can now be applied, as the next step is ‘directing’ chi.
If you took a lot of hard drugs I’d recommend learning intense martial arts forms as well, because you’ll need something powerful to counter the pull of these drugs.I regularly treat people who tell me that, after they quit, the darkness keeps calling them back and they just want to give in to it, and go back to jail and so on. Martial chi techniques are essential to engage with the darkness, to merge yin and yang, and to liberate yourself from the memories that constantly return you to dark actions.
If you are drawn to the dark side, go as hard on the chi as you did on drugs. Take up Chen-style tai-chi (my favourite) or praying mantis kung fu, which has a vicious aspect that can meet the intensity of that darkness and enable you to transform it. If that feeling of being drawn to the darkness becomes overpowering, I’d do a couple of hours of hard chi work in the morning and another less intense hour in the evening. No days off, no discussions, no contemplating. Just do it. Otherwise your life can quickly become hell.
You need a teacher and a school for any chi practice. If you can’t find a teacher right away try video tutorials, books or DVDs, but getting a teacher is best. Get into it as soon as possible and immediately start practising every morning – ideally, outside and near treesas you can pick up more chi (hugging trees on LSD makes sense from this perspective). Even if you barely know what you are doing and feel like a fool, just keep doing it (the practice that is, not the tree-hugging). You’ll get more and more insight into where chi can take you. Repetition also builds the emotional strength and willpower necessary to stay on the extraordinary path. Plus, quitting drugs with a technique that enables you to feel good and to escape mundane reality is a no-brainer.
Be a warrior on the path to an extraordinary future
Returning to centre
You can use a chi practice to return yourself to centre too, when you feel you are about to lose it, or if your mind starts racing with that manic psychotic energy (yang rising). Instead of engaging with the triggers, turn to your body (yin).
Step away, go outside (or anywhere) and do some slow squats. Slowly sink down, exhaling, and thinking ‘trust’. Then slowly rise up, inhaling, thinking ‘acceptance’. Keep the focus on the dantian, your power centre, and send your awareness to your legs. Breathe into the muscles in your calves and thighs. Repeat until you feel centred again. This is a simple strategy, but it builds yin, which is a natural antidote to the yang states of panic, anxiety and delusion; so it will quickly create emotional stability.
Being highly susceptible to anxiety and panic is normal after drugs, but if you do your chi practice daily, you will be constantly balancing yin and yang, so these body/ mind imbalances won’t get on top of you. If you drift away from the practice though, they can quickly come back. Many years after I quit drugs, I’d get recurring anxiety attacks. They were always connected to stressful times in business, and disrespecting yin.During one of these periods, I had to fly on a business trip to Asia. I started getting anxious about the prospect of being in a confined space up in the air with no escape, and I started panicking about it.
Panicking about panic was just getting ridiculous; so I made an appointment with a psychologist. I hadn’t done that before. Once you’ve been on a mission with a goat, you tend to avoid those who examine your sanity as a profession, but the therapist part of me is always interested in other therapeutic approaches, and there was really no need to mention my goat Schroeder (I hadn’t seen him in years); so off I went. They told me there was no biological basis for panic attacks and, as I didn’t want medication, they suggested I try mindfulness techniques. The idea was to focus on being in the present and to sit with the emotion rather than reacting to it.
Basically the strategy was to use thought to conquer thought. It was all very rational, but you can’t hold rational states with major organ deficiencies and yin and yang imbalances. Thought is already unable to control thought or you wouldn’t be panicking. So it was unsuccessful for me. I did board the plane, but struggled with waves of anxiety and panic for the next ten hours. By the time we landed I was sweating, twitching, and looking more like a drug smuggler than when I actually had been one. I was fully expecting to be arrested and executed.
I had forgotten the incredible power of yin. I’d fallen into the yang success trap of thinking I had to do ‘whatever it took’ to achieve my goals. I had temporarily stopped doing tai-chi, thinking it was too ‘slow’. This is the road to failure, not success. Being so yang created imbalances, and anxiety and panic resulted. As soon as I got back into the chi practices my symptoms receded.
Anxiety has nothing to do with the mental processes; so you can’t resolve it with your mind. Metaphysically, anxiety attacks are ‘fire’ out of control. Your internal balance has been so disrupted that the fire that is supposed to be fuelling your destiny is raging in the wrong direction. You correct this through your body.
Use your body to create emotional stability
Resolving trauma with chi
Another good reason to take up a chi practice, if you don’t have enough already, is its therapeutic benefit. You can eventually build such emotional and metaphysical strength that you can look your most painful memories in the eye, both the things people did to you and the things you did to other people, and think ‘so what’.
According to Chinese medicine, traumas are stored in your body in the form of toxic energy. Drugs suppress this, but when you quit it will come forward. Your life might suddenly seem to turn to crap, and you feel as if ‘trouble follows you’ (I hear this all the time from clients). If you don’t understand why this is happening, it is very tempting to go back to drugs to handle it – but this will just make everything worse.
Despite what I said earlier about unhappy childhoods and addiction not necessarily being connected, I do treat people who became addicted as a result of self-medicating for emotional or physical trauma, usually experienced in their early years (it’s just not the majority of drug users who start this way). It’s not unusual for me to see people in their thirties or forties who may have only had seven or eight non-medicated years; usually their first seven or eight years of life.
Plenty of people have terrible experiences in their childhood, but they don’t take drugs. They might suppress these memories or develop some other coping mechanism, but they are still ‘here’ in ordinary reality. If you used recreational drugs to self-medicate for pain and trauma, you have chosen a different option. Talk and mind therapies work within the framework of being here, but your recovery has to include a method to process trauma within the framework of disassociation, of being ‘elsewhere’.
Chi practice puts you into an altered state; it takes you into the realm of ‘elsewhere’. The chi postures clear blockages in the pathways in the body where the toxic energy of past traumas is stored – mainly the thighs, legs and lower back – allowing it to release. It’s no coincidence that activating these muscle groups is a core component of both tai-chi and yoga. The idea is to tune into the painful memories or feelings as you do your practice and you will slowly release and transform them.
So, if sitting on a therapist’s couch feeling like a loser, or sobbing as you revisit every terrible incident from your past, isn’t your style of therapy, or you can’t face doing this yet, the chi practices are a great alternative. People spent thousands of years working these systems out, and they are extremely effective. I have been doing chi practices daily for more than 30 years now and I can’t emphasise enough the power of chi to change everything – to resolve painful memories and to heal.
Even if you didn’t start using drugs to deal with pain, recreational drugs often end up being used for this purpose as, regardless of how happy and cheery you were when you began. Once your intake reaches a certain level you are creating major imbalances.At some point you switch from using drugs for fun to using them to suppress symptoms. This pain will be stored as toxic energy in your body and when you quit, it will come forward.
The path after drugs is the liberation of the soul, the processing of trauma or karma, the merging of yin and yang. So make chi your priority and your lifestyle becomes an ongoing therapy, processing not only your past but also the ongoing physical, emotional or spiritual hurdles that are a natural part of life on this interesting planet.
Make your lifestyle therapeutic
Daily chi meetings
Finding your cosmic self after drugs is not an easy path. All the gurus, yogis and Daoist masters knew this. This is why they developed chi practices. Do a chi practice every day, otherwise you’ll feel like you are on your own and the desire to relapse into your old negative or destructive behaviours may be overwhelming. The chi practice makes you feel supported and connected to yourself, to other people and to your soul family.
You want your chi practice to be playing the role of a friend. This might sound weird, but if you’re a committed user, drugs probably felt as if they were your friend. Try to recapture that relationship with chi. None of us is here to go it alone. We are supposed to see and feel the path ahead, and feel supported as we follow it. The chi practice will do this and connect you to Dao. So learn the arts and fight to stay on the path to a future of ecstatic freedom. Do it now and don’t ever look back.
This article is part of a series of articles excerpted with permission from The Rebel’s Guide to Recovery by Jost Sauer and published by Centre of Dao, Maleny, Australia. Jost addresses the issues involved in overcoming addiction and gives practical, life-changing advice based on his own experience and that of his many clients.
Chapters are also published in the print version of LivingNow. If you want to fast forward your life, the entire book is available for download from Amazon.
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