I Slept with My Guru. (III)

Via Kimberly Johnson
on Apr 13, 2011
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This is Part Three. (Here’s Part Two.)

Part 3:

Sifting through the Ashes

It took me nine months to get out of the same cream and beige outfit I wore every day, off my parent’s couch, and back into the world.

The brainwashing and deep rearrangement led me to the brink of a psychic break.

I had been healthy during the first 4 months in India (besides the not being able to walk from the lumbo-sacral sprain—ok, so not that healthy). When I left the ashram, I immediately got a bad chest cough. From there a staph infection that started as a weird thing growing out of my nose, and eventually went to my brain.

Several rounds of antibiotics got the infection under control (after vehemently resisting any intervention for months based on my dissociation with my body and belief that the infection was a manifestation of my mind.)

My body shouted in every way to be included in the story.  After months of neglect, of abiding to the idea that the body does not really exist and is an accessory to the soul- my body screamed out.

My guru continued to contact me through e-mail. He wanted me to impress upon me the powerful opportunity that I had let slip away. It got to the point where I had absolute dread going near the computer. I started to feel nauseous as I opened my inbox.

And then my body, once again, said

Every time I received contact from him, the infection started growing out my nose again.

I needed that physical sign and “excuse” or reason to tell him not to contact me.  Months went by, the scab formed on my upper lip, and then sure enough, he wrote me again, and same thing, growing expanding red blob out my nose.

My body, neglected and demoted in my new philosophy was raising its proverbial hand or in this case growing a nose scab. The physical, material world was giving me the clues I needed for the road back to health.  The “lowest” part of being (*this is not Tantric philosophy folks) was occupying the highest place in my consciousness.

The Road Back

Having spent six years in Boulder in the land of somatic psychology and body-centered therapy, I was familiar with and believed statements like “your body is your biology.”  But I had rewired myself and nothing that used to make sense made sense any more.

When I heard these old phrases that used to be imbued with so much meaning for me, I felt revolted, repulsed and totally confused.  Who was this person (me)? What could I trust? What did I believe? What made sense to me?

It’s all good to talk about giving up beliefs, until you really do, and realize there is no sufficient ego structure underneath.

I was at a loss for descriptors when I did make the effort to talk. While I felt like the shell of a person, there was also something clear.  You know how someone looks after a good hard cry- cleansed.

I could no longer practice yoga without heavy emotion surfacing.  I frequently had to stop practicing altogether to go into the fetal position, and give myself over to intense sobbing.  I bravely ventured to my home studio and instead of worrying about being too disruptive, allowed myself to be, exposing this deep emotion that was usually silent in the studio.

I also began slowly to share parts of my experience, and to realize that while I felt like it was impossible for anyone to relate, mine was not as unusual of a story as it seemed.  I looked to my original yoga teachers, whose words had once resounded so much truth to me, for orientation.   I took my time to see if I could feel any reverberations again.

I dove wholeheartedly into the material world.

I decided that the world of yoga was too disheartening and decided to go to graduate school. I would revisit my roots in social activism and racial justice and turn my attention to direct service.  I would teach elementary school. I even bought a house. (which is really something for someone who for over ten years hesitated to buy pots and pans lest they restrain a last minute trip to India or foreign move.) I needed roots.

I went to therapy. For the nth time in my life reached the same conclusion—

Yoga is no substitute for therapy.

I resolved to believe other people’s reflection of me. Where I felt duped, stupid, and lost, my friends and students gave me different feedback.  My own judgment was suspect, so I leaned on the opinions of people I respected.

I learned, again,  how all the spiritual talk in the world does not make you exempt from error. Spiritual evolution doesn’t inevitably translate to decent behavior.

I teased out all of the gems- the wisdom, transmissions, and insight from the manipulation. I forgave myself for my vulnerability and learned to cherish the innocence, courage and genuine desire to learn and evolve that led me to the relationship to begin with.

I saw the opportunity to yank up the deep root of male abuse and desire for an external authority once and for all.

I admired the courage it took to walk away when I had found someone whose knowledge and background was a shockingly perfect fit for my yearnings, talents and questions.

I was proud that I walked away when it could have been tempting to give in.


To read Part One, go here.

To read Part Two, go here.


About Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson helps women find their way back to themselves after giving birth. She herself was rearranged by childbirth in almost every way, so she loves sparing women the unnecessary surprises of the post-partum period. She is a a longtime yoga teacher, bodyworker, doula and somatic educator and a Certified Sexological Bodyworker. She loves helping women reclaim their erotic lives through somatic sex coaching, Somatic Experiencing tools, and holistic pelvic health. She created the program, Forging a Feminine Path: Bridging Women's Sexuality and Spirituality. The next one starts March 14th!


15 Responses to “I Slept with My Guru. (III)”

  1. Ashley says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    It takes a lot of courage to a) dismantle yourself and then b) reassemble yourself once you've realized firsthand that what keeps us sane(ish) is in large part social constructions. Thanks for sharing this. I believe it does a lot of good for people to put words and light to abuse.

  2. beautiful, you are

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    An amazing journey! You came out of it intact, having your mind back. No small feat!
    We must be in charge at all times. For whatever ever reason, to assign the responsibility for any difficulty, yearnings, questions to another person, or to another person's patterns, is itself an irrationality. It is always important to trust your own thinking.

  4. Maira says:

    Such a tender story and told with eloquence. Thank you for sharing the fullness of your experience.

  5. Powerful stuff, Kimberly. Thanks for trusting us with your inner story.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

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

  7. Carol Horton says:

    Very courageous set of posts. I won't forget them. Thanks.

  8. vanessafiola says:

    I love this series and your continued poignancy. I look forward to your next posts!

  9. As someone who often make the point that yoga can do everything that therapy does and more, I totally agree with your conclusions in these touching articles. When I make that point it is within the context of yoga as complete science that most definitely includes and necessitates feedack and reflection from others. And, of course, that such feedback is given by loving, compassionate and wise "others" as opposed to narcisistc, insecure charlatans.

    I am also impressed to see your natural instinct to get real, and get "roots" as you say. Spiritual practice is too often a justification for ungrounded irresponsibility and false transcendence. I am grateful to a have a genuine yogic guide that always encourages the primacy of the body – its enjoyment and health, and real-world stuff like having kids, buying homes, keeping a steady job, etc. If one can remain anchored in reality then there is no limit to yoga's potential… but, if one falls into the trip of psuedo-spiritual-transcendence it can be a very dangerous and sickening game.

    I have really enjoyed these articles you have written and the manner in which you have gleaned true wisdom from your situation. Thanks, Kimberly.

  10. yogijulian says:

    brave, honest and i think illustrative of the problems inherent in cultish guru situations and beliefs that deny the reality of the body and emotions!

  11. yogijulian says:

    this is part of what i am getting at in my questioning of the dualistic philosophy of patanjali:

  12. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  13. HI James,
    Not sure where you are coming from and how the last question "what do i really want right now?" relates.

    If I was at a point where I could not take criticism, then I would not have published this at all.
    I can't say that conclusions are my strong point in writing, or that I seek many conclusions in my life. I live
    more in the questions, so maybe that is what you are responding to?

    "You, who seek out positive energy in so much you do"- I am not sure where this comes from.
    I seek out a full life- a path with a heart. If that is positive, so be it, but I am not interested in
    re-framing things in the positive so as to avoid what they really are. I am not all that interested in
    positivity. However I am VERY interested in honesty, and thankfully it happens to be a strong
    point. I am willing to risk a lot in order to be very honest with myself and with others. This relationship
    was 6 years ago, yes, it is cathartic to be able to write about it, share it, and feel removed enough
    to publish it and have a dialogue about it. While I could judge myself for publishing my personal process,
    I know that it is helpful for many people to read. Several women have contacted me relaying similar
    experiences and expressing how much it helped them to read about mine.

    All relationships I have had are with me. This one was one of the most complex I've had and has
    taken longer to parse out, because it was entangled so much with my world view.
    My goal is not to convince myself, you or anyone where I am at in the process- that would be hard to
    assess. I feel like I understand what it was that made me vulnerable to the situation; I know I will
    not be vulnerable to male abuse again in the future. I can imagine seeing this man again
    and staying in my power.

    Maybe you can clarify your question, because after re-reading several times, I am still confused by it.


  14. Above, I meant to write, conclusions are NOT my strong point.