In the last issue of "Visions" I began this series of articles on Healing the Dysfunctional 3HO Family. I chose to organize the series around the four mandatory rules of conduct that were never questioned or discussed in the alcoholic household that I grew up in. Those rules were:
1. Don't talk about Dad and Mom's problem. 2. Don't be angry. 3. Don't question the beliefs, rules, and image of the family. 4. Don't deviate from your role.
In this article I explore rule #3; Don't question the beliefs, rules, and image of the family and how it applies to our 3HO experience.
Over the years I have come to see that, rather than choosing to become a Sikh, I, at a young age, tripped and fell into the vast body of water that I will call the Dharma Sea. I remember my first startled gulp of that water. It tasted like Yogi Tea and I discovered just how thirsty I was. I drank and drank and one day I just let myself sink into that sea and I began to breathe that water like air.
It was years before I surfaced enough to attempt to understand the nature of the waters I had fallen into or to question why I had tripped in the first place.
This great sea is our mythological system (used here in its original meaning, "from the mouth of the gods") and it includes our beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and experiences about Sikh Dharma, yoga and Yogi Bhajan's teachings, plus all the heritage of beliefs and behaviors that we Americans have brought with us into 3HO. It is my purpose in this article to dive deep into this sea and hunt out a couple of monsters that have been hiding in the cracks of the reefs or under rocks in the inky dark bottoms of these waters. I do this not because I like swimming in negativity rather because monsters lose their stink when brought into the light.
Specifically I will be focusing on a couple of ways that our American experience has created dysfunctionality in 3HO and how we Westerners have used Sikhism, yogic knowledge, and the words of Yogi Bhajan to construct and justify our addictive and co-dependent systems.
It would be ignorant; however, to pretend that all the problems in 3HO derive from the pollution of our Western/American mentality. Every religion has its dark side, which, ironically, usually mirrors the religion's greatest virtue. I believe that this is why Christianity, with its great message of love, tolerance, and non-judgement has, through the ages, been one of the least loving, most judging and intolerant forces in history.
Living in a dysfunctional family is very chaotic. The addict or person we cast into the role of addict is nothing if unpredictable. In 3HO we force Yogi Bhajan (and various other authority figures) to play the role of addict. The main trait of this role is that you never know what this person is going to do next. Are they going to praise you or blame you, empower you or humiliate you? It is the fundamental dynamic of the dysfunctional family that everyone cares deeply about the opinion and approval of the addict. After all, the addict is usually Daddy or Mommy but even beyond that, addict-types often generate a strong aura of power and magnetism.
Many alcoholics, for instance, are convinced and convince those around them that their drinking is caused by others failing to come up to their high standards. Children of alcoholics, therefore, spend our lives trying to improve ourselves.
"If I just got better grades, or if I could be nicer, or if I could serve better, then maybe Daddy would like me and not drink so much." This can easily translate later in our lives as Sikhs to: "If I could just do a better sadhana, or if I could just manage to read my Banis, or if I could just serve better, then maybe Yogi Bhajan would notice and appreciate me."
Unfortunately the addict keeps changing the rules for gaining his or her approval. This fluctuation and unpredictability creates a constant state of chaos in the home.
A fairly typical example of the type of chaos common in dysfunctional families and how we, as children, desperately try to make sense out of that chaos can be seen in a story that a 3HO friend once told me.
One day while walking home from elementary school with her friend, this women, then a child, found that her alcoholic father had thrown all the living room furniture out into the front yard. Thinking fast, she explained to her startled companion that the sofa, chair, end tables and lamps had been put there because the "furniture cleaners" were on their way over to pick them up.
And later she asked her Mother why the "furniture cleaners" had failed to come.
As seen here, the need for strong stories and belief systems becomes, at times, pathological in the face of an addict's crazy behavior. It is the job of the co-dependent to provide some stability and structure to the home. To do this, they like this young girl, must lie.
The network of lies used by co-dependents to maintain the illusion of a stable environment is the system of beliefs, rules and P.R. statements that one learns early in life must never be questioned. To question them is to throw yourself into the bottomless, whirling pit of chaos.
Please note that often the beliefs proposed by the co-dependents are of the highest philosophical and moral quality and the rules, on the surface, seem just. Most dysfunctional families, for instance, strongly believe that the family should stick together. This belief is, of course, generally virtuous, but it can become downright frightening when applied to an abusive household.
In 3HO we are blessed with literally thousands of beliefs, practices and philosophies that we can use to expand and heal ourselves. We can also use the same beliefs, practice and philosophies to construct and maintain our dysfunctionality. Co-dependents within our organization often use lofty ideals and rules of Dharmic living in their attempts to keep 3HO, and 3HOers, safe, secure, controlled, and orderly. Questioning these ideals and rules can be deeply threatening to co-dependents in two ways. First, to the co-dependent it feels like questioning will cause the whole 3HO organization to crash and burn, and two, questioning threatens their sense of purpose.
It is interesting that Al-Anon, which was designed to help the co-dependents in the alcoholic home, was started because it became clear that it was often easier to get the alcoholic to stop drinking than it was to get the co-dependent to stop controlling. Co-dependents after all, view themselves as the good guys, the moral and spiritually superior, blessed few who will, and do, make all the sacrifices to keep the organization or home from falling into total chaos.
So what happens when co-dependents stop trying to control everything and everybody? What would happen if we stopped trying to insulate and protect? Yogi Bhajan and just let him do his thing? What would happen if we stopped? shunning our brothers and sisters who ask uncomfortable questions, get angry and act inappropriately? What happens when you ask chaos in and offer her Yogi tea and cookies?
So in an effort to fight co-dependency in myself and others, I would like to invite the Goddess Chao into our midst (chaos is usually imaged as a woman, a dragon or sea monster) and I would like to explore some way that I seen co-dependency at work within 3HO.
Is Yogi Bhajan honest? Sane? Absolute authority?
What is the dark side of 3HO?
Can dysfunctionality be chanted away?
Why are there so many divorces, shady dealings and sex scandals in 3HO?
And perhaps most important of all, why are so many of our brothers and sisters disappearing from our 3HO ranks?
I remember the day I first noticed that I was about to lie about 3HO to a stranger. This nice, curious, man had just politely asked me about ashram life. I was about to reply like I always did:
"As Sikhs we rise 2 1/2 hours before dawn, take a cold shower, and do yoga and meditate and sing praise to our Creator."
Instead of saying that, however, the truth fell out of my mouth.
"Well," I explained "we are suppose to get up and meditate and do yoga at 3:30am but for the last six months nobody has managed to do that. In fact everyone has been really negative lately and the only time we even talk to each other is during our weekly house meeting where we have been ripping each other to shreds!"
Strangely enough this response did not go over so badly with the man to whom I was speaking. However, unfortunately for me, the female co-dependant head of the ashram had heard my candid remarks and I received a very severe lecture on the importance of keeping a positive public image for 3HO.
I had heard the lecture before. Almost all dysfunctional families are very strict about keeping a good face in public and mine had been no exception. After a while you begin to believe the press releases you are busy fabricating. God knows you want to believe them.
There is no doubt that maintaining positive public relations has its right and proper place in our organization and any organization. But if we are genuinely succeeding in creating beautiful community, there is nothing to lie about.
But for children of alcoholic lying is often easier than telling the truth and thus facing that we are wounded and we need help. Co-dependents lie about everything because the ideals and the fantasies are always so much pleasanter, peaceful and controllable than reality is. Because of this I try very hard now to avoid the traditional dharmic patter and to speak truthfully from my experience in 3HO, be it negative or positive.
The longer I stay in 3HO the more convinced I become that I have no clue about what the real relationship between a spiritual teacher and student is. This is because I have cast Yogi Bhajan into the role of the addict so strongly that I have rarely seen his true face.
Much of my adult life has been spent trying to gain the attention and approval of this man. To that end I have been good, I have been bad, but mostly I have been desperate. Through it all there is one belief that I have held onto like a lifeline. The merest shadow of a question concerning this belief has been enough to give me fits. That belief is that Yogi Bhajan is perfect.
Lately I hear spoken and unspoken doubts about Yogi Bhajan in conversations between Sikhs everywhere. Maybe Yogi Bhajan has used sex inappropriately, maybe Yogi Bhajan has misuse funds; maybe Yogi Bhajan uses people and is into power. Maybe, maybe maybe.
So why not check into these rumors head on? There is nothing to fear in the truth for those who live the truth.
And beyond that, let's discuss the deeper question. Why do we need Yogi Bhajan to be perfect and why do we get scared to think that he is not perfect?
The most obvious answer is that we need Yogi Bhajan to be perfect because we are not. For adult children of alcoholics and other dysfunctional people, seeking the approval of our addict parent was the all consuming mission of our youth. Eventually we learned that this parent was far from perfect, and it rocked us to our core.
When we came into contact with Yogi Bhajan his amazing power and abilities gave us renewed hope that someone can be spiritually perfected. Mom and Dad had been losers but Yogi Bhajan gave us a father figure worthy of our devotion. Seeking his approval thus became our new passion in life.
Ultimately it is up to us to let Yogi Bhajan out of playing the addict role in our life. As long as he remains in this role any hint of imperfection in him will seem like a cosmic betrayal to us and we will reject him far stronger than we ever rejected our parents. It seems to me that this has already happened to quite a few brothers and sister who have left 3HO.
Unfortunately unless we deal with our need to court and win the approval of the addict-types in our life, we will, after rejecting 3HO and Yogi Bhajan just look for another fountain of perfection, hoping once again to find the approval we never had in childhood. Funny enough, even God Himself is not big enough to fulfill our needs. It takes the Goddess Chaos to heal the wounds at their source, and this can happen either in 3HO or out.
For a long time I didn't worry much about the few odd people who left 3HO. I hadn't liked them much when they were in 3HO so it seemed reasonable to me that, after forsaking the truth, they had all become pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers like the rumors implied.
As time went by and more and more Sikhs became ex Sikhs I maintained a strict dualistic model of spirituality. There were eagles and there were the slugs, the godly and the godless, the committed and the bums.
Eventually however, one day I discovered that no one has really ever left 3HO. All the ex Sikhs are right there swimming in the Dharma Sea; right behind the sign over there that says "Warning Dangerous Waters". They keep waving at me and yelling "come on over, the water is fine". When I venture into those waters I feel no surer of myself than in the "safer" waters of 3HO. So I drift back to the middle, searching for that spot where ex Sikhs see me as IN the dharma and conservative 3HOers suspect that I am on my way OUT. I like to call this section of the Dharma Sea, the Fringe.
The Fringe is a very lonely stretch of water, yet lately I notice that the neighborhood is going through a population explosion. That aside, the main virtue of the Fringe is that it is the last place to hang out if you want the approval of anyone, in 3HO or out. It is therefore an excellent place to let go of co-dependency. It is also an excellent state of mind for processing anger creatively (the subject of my next article in this series), for releasing Yogi Bhajan from the burden of playing the addict-role in our lives, and for having long cozy chats with Madam Chaos over Yogi Tea.
Now you may find that just reading these articles you have drifted, temporarily, into the swirling waters of the Fringe. Don't panic; you may soon discover that the Fringe is the most dharmic place you can be.
Copyright © Rick Ross.