Do You Smoke Pot or Drink Wine? Enlightenment Doesn’t Happen When You’re Half in the Bag. ~ A.E. Feucht

Via elephant journal
on Mar 21, 2012
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“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” ~ Carl Jung

There has been a lot of written discussion in the past few weeks about John Friend and Anusara Yoga.

Many times I have read: “John was partying a lot.” First, I don’t think use of the word partying as a verb after the age of 23, or the year 1988 is appropriate; and second, is it merely partying, or is it addiction?

Why can yogis and yoginis become apocalyptic about what food they put in their body, yet get drunk or smoke pot regularly?

I don’t know John Friend. I have seen him exactly once at a yoga class he taught at Wanderlust. I found the class to repetitive,  addressing many things I had already learned from my own teacher, and I found the concert—like fawning over a man teaching yoga—inauthentic.

It was as if I were at mall yoga—instead of shopping at a small store where everyone cares about the customer, I was at a mall, where the quality of the product didn’t’t matter so much as the quantity being sold to the masses.

I left there and explored some classes featuring teachers with smaller attendance rosters, like Kellie Morris. She was akin to a boutique, where everything offered was chosen with grand care. Then I adored Wanderlust.

I digress—my point is I can’t possibly know if drugs or alcohol played a part in the complexities John Friend now faces because I don’t know him. However, I am disappointed in my communities’ hypocrisy around this topic.

I think yoga is about presence, and by presence I mean being fully awake and alive in the body, mind, and spirit. I often attend classes where the teacher engages in going-home-to-have-a-glass-of-wine-to-relax kind of chatter. This annoys me, I do not drink or use drugs.

I also don’t think every yogi needs to never do these things but, I wonder about drinking and drugging with any regularity if yoga is about being in the present moment.

I can hear drug users getting ready to tell me how some drugs help them “see the moment clearer. Using something that is mind or mood altering does not bring on clarity—it brings on settling for less.

I too pull away from life with things like sugar, television, and some shopping. For people who have a drink once in a while, this action may be similar to me watching too much television. I don’t think that it is addiction, but I also don’t think it is nothing. Anytime I decide to be blank or medicate(yes—sigh—this includes sugar) I am missing full presence, and that is a problem, plain and simple.

My question is this:

What is the purpose of drugs and alcohol for those of us on the path to a full free life when the opposite of freedom is really is addiction.

With full disclosure I admit, I used to drink a lot. The decision to stop drinking was the beginning of my coming alive, I literally started showing up for my own life.

I also grew up with addiction, and I know from experience that addiction takes everything that matters, and then it takes more. Those suffering from addiction in my family—including myself—could only provide love in painful ways.

Selflessness is not possible when you are in the throes of addiction. By nature addiction is greedy, and can only give with the hope of getting something in return. I know addiction to be an illness and a spiritual sickness that comes to change only through honesty and accountability.

Some people in our community are doing more than having a drink once in a while to zone out or to relax. Although if you practice yoga, shouldn’t you know how to relax the body without chemicals?

There are those getting drunk and high often. It’s more than “they are just doing their own thing”, I don’t think  “it’s no big deal”, and most definitely it will not “work itself out.” Addiction  loves  people who don’t want to rock the boat, thriving on secrecy, lies, and fear.

The people who helped me get clean and sober continue to help me ask for honesty. This work is exactly the same as the work on the mat—I face my body and my breath, I face my whole complete self. It is a radical way to live. I recommend it.

I do not know if alcohol or drug addiction played a part in the collapse of John Friend’s work and reputation. I do know there has been a lot of writing concerning his “sex addiction”—I think we would prefer to talk about that because it’s “interesting”, and perhaps it hits less close to home, but examining the use of drugs and alcohol needs to be added to the discussion of a healthy life.

The path to enlightenment reveals itself when we want what is, what is happening right now. I highly doubt wanting what is can happen when you’re half in the bag.

Let’s be honest about this, looking at it with clear eyes and an open heart. If anyone reading this thinks they are struggling with addiction please comment and I will be happy to talk with you about sober living.

Editor: Jennifer Cusano

A. E. Feucht is a yogini, writer, & explorer who in her non- free time works for a non-profit that serves kids. She tries to be a leader with heart and big ideas. She also attempts to practice daily meditation, becoming a morning person,and driving without distraction and fails at all three. She is a champion of glbtq rights, the power of non-violence, ice cream in all forms, and the smell of lavender. She is still looking for a good nickname, the perfect pair of boots, and a way to read when her eyes are tired. She’d like to learn sign language, how to shut her mouth faster, listen better, how to can things like berries, and more about the stars. She likes to think of herself as having a tiny bit of fashion, excellent taste in books, and movies and  an ability to be really present…sometimes.  She is most proud of being a hip Aunt, a deep friend, and a parent to two kitties and a near perfect golden retriever /Border collie pup, who seems smarter than most people. If you want to find her  she might be at the library giving them a 30 titled book list to carry to her beat up Honda. She is a grand cook, at any decent “a person who  has a  dream and opens a shop” particularly but not limited to, a coffee shop,  by the sea, at Camp Little Notch. You may also find her  on her yoga mat or maybe on a walk with her Pup at her side, singing her  own song written with silly lyrics and sung without one hint of a tune anyone would recognize, but she likes that just fine.


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49 Responses to “Do You Smoke Pot or Drink Wine? Enlightenment Doesn’t Happen When You’re Half in the Bag. ~ A.E. Feucht”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    I am not seeking enlightenment, and I don't imagine you really are either. Not a bad thing by the way.
    If you look at the people history tells us have found "enlightenment" – the Buddha and Jesus are the ones I know of – they haven't just given up wine and weed, they've given up EVERYTHING. Actually Jesus was a wine drinker, but in the desert everyone drinks wine. He found enlightenment in the desert though, alone, with nothing but himself and after turning from everything he could ever desire.

    We talk about the Buddha in his enlightenment. All the amazing insights he offered us, his wisdom. We almost never talk about the fact that if he lived today we would think him a cad. He abandoned his wife and family. He was a drifter. He had no job. He was homeless. He contributed nothing to society in the way that we value and expect today. With all your finger wagging about how one won't find enlightenment if they toke up or have a glass of wine with their dinner, you likely won't find it until you stop paying bills, raising your children, leave your partner, abandon your home, stop driving your car. Nobody EVER found enlightenment tooling over to Whole Foods in their Prius after their $20 yoga class to buy over priced groceries in their Lulu pants either.

    Don't get me wrong. I think kids are awesome, and wives and boyfriends, and mortgages and meaningful work, and being in love and sex, and all kinds of unenlightened stuff. I like Whole Foods. I've known lots of modern day monks, who've given up all that stuff and liquor too, and I've still never met one who found enlightenment. It's a silly overused concept in the yoga community. No one I know is seeking enlightenment. I, and most of the folk I know, just want to feel healthy and well and be kinder to our neighbors. We want to not yell at people. We want to know we're doing our best. We want some balance in our lives. We want to have some peace. If you really explained to people what enlightenment would mean, that it would mean your children wouldn't be more meaningful to you than a stranger on the street anymore, that you wouldn't find meaning in the things you used to do anymore, almost no one I know would want that. I wouldn't. I like feeling my boyfriend is more important and meaningful in my life than a stranger on the street. I'm not interested in enlightenment. Maybe in another life, if there is such a thing, I will be interested, but I'm not interested this time around. Pass me a bowl.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  3. Marisa Rowe says:

    Wonderful article! The writer clearly knows what she's talking about.

  4. Just a girl says:

    this is what i needed to hear! love this and thank you~

  5. drunkandfull says:

    A.E – It is great that you are living sober and have found a better way for yourself, more importantly you are sharing it with us. I'd like to think that everyone will find enlightenment and that for most of us it will have nothing to do with whether we are sober or high….you just might remember yours if you are sober ;-).

  6. Mee moe moo says:

    I thought there was gonna be some mention of elephants? Oh well…very very interesting this yoga.

  7. Reg says:

    Good stuff Amy for bringing up a subject that so many people do not want to hear. I learned long ago that defensiveness tells me something about how comfortable I am with my own beliefs. I like your honesty and willingness to step out and have an unpopular opinion. I always think that is the way to begin to understand things. Funny, I have been reading about John Keats' concept of "negative capability" and it seems to fit right in with this discussion. I won't begin to try to explain it, but I think it is worth mentioning and looking at..

  8. mulletsmom says:

    Amy! What a great topic. I've oftened wondered why the folks I know who are obssessed with yoga and being centered and balanced turn to pot and alcohol on a regular basis. I try to never categorize anyone as an addict (though sometimes I fail), and feel like most people can moderate just fine…..I just don't understand the need for it at all in a community where people claim to so highly value their bodies and spirit.

  9. ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  10. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Amy, A very intelligent piece I appreciate your perspective!
    We all struggle in this area.It is understandable considering how we have been conditioned not feel stuff and go numb. This is what I think addiction is: the insistent URGE, usually rationalized and defended, of an unfelt old hurt to to take over the human, shut down the human's intelligence and replay it self with the shut-down person acting as its puppet. We are addicted to whatever is the content of our hurt recordings.We believe it is much easier to reach for the glass of wine, then to expect others to be there for us. So sad, considering we have many people surrounding us now, who care about us deeply.

  11. Seppi1477 says:

    I think the first comment assumes that by enlightenment, the author is talking about what thet crazy whole life kind we see in Jesus and Buddha. But maybe she was talking about that moment by moment kind, where you are present enough to notice what is ACTUALLY going on around you. I think it's easy to say, "I can have a glass of wine if I want." and quickyl follow it up with "andd two or three or four, for that matter, I don't have an addiction…" But, the question is why are you doing that… if you are using external substances to relax, if you feel the need to alter your body chemistry without side aids to let go of your day… it's something worth looking at. And as the author said, we should look at how we use sugar and tv and reading and anything we use to escape the world around us. Infact I would rather deal with someone who is using, and aknowledges that fact, than some one who uses substances but won't admit why they are doing it.

  12. Seppi1477 says:

    There are some many ways to feel good in our bodies. Seriously, we go to yoga to learn a bunch of them… why would we then turn to something outside ourselves for fun or relaxation, why would we turn to something that could cause us to miss what is going on outside of us, or inside of us. I just wonder… and I know that for me I do it when I am avoiding something important, when I don't want to know something i already know and feel unable to deal with.

    The issue is not so much, "Do you ever drink or smoke?" It's more, do you use… are you using drink or smoking to do something for you… and when we look at that question, what do we do with the answers.

  13. EdL says:

    "Using something that is mind or mood altering does not bring on clarity—it brings on settling for less." Perfectly said.

  14. Ms M says:

    Very well written … def appreciated the idea of mall vs boutique yoga …. carries through to all facets of life – it's not about what we do, it's about how we go about it :)

  15. DixieLT says:

    I appreciate that the author expressed her opinion and was honest about her own struggles with addiction. It is only fair to acknowledge one's own faults and struggles before criticizing others' choices or shortcomings. Everyone has a right to his/her own opinions. With that said, I do not agree with the message of this article. I find it to be a judgmental, which seems to be counter to the yoga way. I think the author's personal issues cloud her ability to see the difference between enjoying one glass of wine and full-blown substance abuse/addiction. If a yogi can practice self-discipline, healthy balance/moderation, and self-respect while enjoying food, alcohol, sex, etc., then I don't think people need to come crashing down on him/her for partaking in these things. If a yogi is hypocritical or dishonest and does not practice what he/she preaches, then that is an entirely different story. Perhaps that is what the author meant to espouse? I think she could have added more examples of how she is disappointed with her community's hypocrisy on this topic. This is a strong statement but the author says very little to back up this opinion. This article reads like a "dear diary" rant/holier-than-thou lecture.

  16. Mila Borrero says:

    All these recent articles in the past six months about the Equinox video, David Regalin, John Friend, and yoga and injuries are riddled with judgement. I respect your path of recovery and think it is absolutely wonderful. But it is simply that. Your path. I find your views in this article very narrow and defined very heavily by this time and this culture and your particular circumstances. In five years coffee and chai will be added to the list of don't and do's that our culture has decided to shoot down and who knows what else.

    I guess the point I think you missed is that yoga is a practice a guide, not a religion or addiction (you can get addicted to it too) of "self-study". It trusts and empowers you to make decisions for yourself. Which means that how these things are expressed in your daily life is of a deeply personal nature. What works for you may not work or be needed in someone else's circumstances. There is no one formula. And though I deeply disagree with saying that simply because someone has a glass of wine it means they are not present. In my culture, a glass of wine with dinner IS a way to be present with your friends and family to enjoy the time with them. Enjoying good food and culture is a part of being healthy for some people. That said, it is not for everyone.

    I don't think the goal is to be self-less. Self-less is not the opposite of greedy. You need a self. You need a back spine in this world. You need your source of power. I think a better space is a space of self- centeredness. Someone who is centered in their self and empowered with their fullness and dynamism. And yes, our fullness comes with flaws and complexities that make us rich and interesting. It is our willingness to take responsibility and work through them that makes a difference. And people are at different stages with that.

    I think it is this same self righteousness of thinking ourselves as yogis as being holier than thou, that feeling that we can call out when we decide someone is not acting accordingly that has gotten us into these troubled times where we are seeing that kind of abuse of power. We are being confronted with our own humanity and the fact that we in fact do not, no matter how long we have been practicing, have all the answers. That just because we practice does not make the journey necessarily easier, and if certainly does not exempt us from all of our basic flaws. Yoga merely helps us work with them. The rest, I think is hubris.

  17. Mary McManus says:

    Love how you are neither condoning nor judgmental in addressing this very challenging topic. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and wisdom

  18. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  19. […] or sipping hot chai with the neighborhood rickshaw wallahs and coconut sellers, I would experience unconditional waves of joy at the raw sensation of being alive. I realized that the state of bliss was not predicated on any […]

  20. A. E. Feucht says:

    Oh…I am sorry if I come across judgmental …Not my intention. Also the editor added the line about enlightenment- (no complaints it's beautifully edited…) I think "enlightenment" is being awake. So for me it is being emotionally present for all. I "medicate" too as I mentioned… (sugar/television etc) I DO NOT think that use of alcohol or weed on a once in awhile basis is addiction. However- when drinking or drugging seems more important that being present…It seems to be a good time to take a look. I know yogis and yoginis who get drunk regularly and this seems sad to me. I am annoyed when teachers speak about drinking in a yoga class – because I doubt they would recommend a cheeseburger afterwards? I think it is hypocritical to be so thoughtful about food intake and not consider smoking/ drinking as harmful to the body, mind and spirit. I LOVE all the discussion and really appreciate people taking the time to comment. Those who disagree with me I really am glad you wrote- ugh- I do not want to judge. Although I could do a blog on how hard it is to let go of judging! Oh and as far as "enlightenment " goes …I am hoping for the small moment kind …as Seppi477 said…And for all who re-posted THANK YOU! Namaste Y'all

  21. yogijulian says:

    hahahaha! tell that to these guys, the original yogis:

    personally i dislike smoke of all kinds and don't enjoy pot – but they call it shiva's herb…

  22. Mattalign says:

    I think the article was very good and well intended. I appreciate the point of view and it seems that you come from an authentic place.

  23. yogaboca says:

    A.E. Your article is like a breath of fresh air. I don't think you were being at all judgemental. I admire your honesty and ability to publicly admit your own failings.

    I started practicing yoga in 1970. Back then if someone was into yoga, generally you could also assume they were a "health nut" too.

    Someone else stated that they have yogi friends who get drunk and do drugs all the time. I hate to say it but these people are not yogis. There is a difference between one who practices yoga and a yogi.

    For me, I see being a yogi as a lifestyle that does not include any type of addiction to alcohol or drugs and I include caffeine as a drug.

    In the old days – – the yoga teacher was a role model for this lifestyle.
    That seems to have gone out the window.

    One thing I disagree on – – I don't see yogis paying much attention to what they eat.
    I see a lot of hypocrisy happening on all fronts.

    We need more people like AE to speak out and I love that Elephant Journal gives people this outlet.

  24. Maria C says:

    Thanks Amy! Great read.

  25. judith says:

    Hey, Amy–thanks for sharing. I always appreciate that you take the time to bring honest reflection to your writing. I agree. It is disingenuous and disheartening to see folks that do yoga–especially teachers (the ones that hold power) use their power as a platform for engaging, talking,joking, alluding, or whatever to their own personal practices or beliefs that collide with the tenets of yoga. It's eye-opening that a yogi's addiction can play out in a class when we are instructed to stay open and present and then all of that self-reflection go out the window when s/he is off the mat.

  26. C. Charonplop says:

    My favorite explanation of yoga is that it is action coupled with awareness. When things are done in ritual, with all that focus and intention, guidance and experience, that can be great and open up places of awareness. But casual use, like at a party or after work, is rarely attentive, and almost always its intent is distraction. Drugs and food are medicine, though we don't always treat them as such, gobbling away as we do; addictions are desperate (instinctual in a way) at-hand "tools" to deal with trauma, and casual use is the same, but the degree is so much less. Nobody really "needs" a brownie, it is being used to sate some emotion the person doesn't want to deal with, or lacks the tools to do so. If you need excuses and rationals to do whatever it is you're doing, you probably don't really want to do it. The article isn't judgy. Seeing everything as medicine, that we doctor ourselves intentionally and unconsciously, it is easier to be honest about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

  27. […] that was bound to get your attention! Good discussion thread going on regarding this subject on the Spirituality home page: read it and weep. Or drink. Or light […]

  28. Bluedy Who says:

    Mee Moe Moo: You said it. I really, really like elephants. More elephants please!

  29. Rejay says:

    I can see the point you are making, however it seems to me that your claim is that somehow it makes one less of a "yogi" if they have to have a glass of wine at night to relax, or if you want to smoke a joint for fun. Of course, addictions aren't necessarily great, but I think there are different levels of this where it really becomes a problem and needs to be dealt with on a deeper level. Yoga isn't something that one has to be perfect and "enlightened" already to do. We are all imperfect beings and we come to out mats to express ourselves and to be who we are. Once we practice on a consistent basis, we discover ourselves, and naturally we become more aware of our bodies, we feel lighter and sexier, and certain things fall away on their own (things that may be unhealthy or damaging to our bodies). I know many people, including myself, who naturally started making better choices, not because they made themselves eat healthier and stop smoking, for instance, but because they were eased into making better choices, because of yoga. That's the beauty of it. I don't think it has to be so religious and so black and white. We are human. One of my favorite yoga teachers smokes sometimes, loves to drink beer, but he is healthy, he eats well, he is body aware, he is an amazing teacher, he is humble, and I think what's attractive about him is that he is HUMAN. I love to have my glass of wine sometimes as well, and sometimes I really crave a cigarette and I smoke one. Does that make me less of a yogi? I don't think so.. It's that "I have to be perfect and do everything correctly to be enlightened" mentality that is actually a turn off, it's a bit neurotic if you ask me…Just practice, make good choice for you at the moment and be yourself, be human, have fun, that's the whole point.

  30. […] the year 2000, I made a big resolution to quit smoking. Neither one nor two, now I stomped out my last cigarette, full of determination. It is nighttime […]

  31. guest says:

    isn't yoga also about not being judgemental? because you fail at that one. I don't understand the obsession with alcohol and getting drunk. Drinking wine or beer is like eating chocolate (you can do it every day as long as it's in moderation). Drinking or drinking on a regular basis does not equal addiction. Not being able to go a day (or a week) without equals addiction. I don't see why doing yoga would collide with my love for wine, beer or whiskey (or chocolate).

  32. […] epidemic that’s sweeping the city. “Cocaine Yogis”, as they’re called; the city’s band of party bitches, who after a rowdy night of booze and a cocktail of illicit substances make their way to a morning […]

  33. zesus says:

    Enlightment is all about knowing that life is full of choices and possibilities. As long as you are selective, sincere and sensitive in your thoughts and deeds the light really does not care but at the same time cares. It’s all about a nice balance. With all due respect neither this way or that way is correct the solution is in the middle and in a great balance. Some want to smoke with moderation some want nothing to do with it. You are all gods so why not respect each others choices and be there when you need each other. Remember balance is key, not too much and not too little.

  34. Linda says:

    Nice discussion! I can say from my own experience: “Thumbs up from the Netherlands for having the courage to post your opinion!” In a very natural, spontaneous way without stress or judgements I gave up cigarettes, TV, radio, coffea, I eat healthy (once or twice a week enjoying pizza or candies) and gave up alcohol. It feels good. Like layers were peeled off. I feel more, sense more. Life is clearer on an intuitive level. Presence is there. I feel more grounded. Life became simpler. More quiet. Still having fun though. That didn’t change. I still have the same friends. It just feels so much more pure. Everything. I recommend. Please continue addressing topics that stir people up. Wake them up . Lovely!!!

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