I can’t remember exactly when I became agoraphobic, but it was sometime in 1979. The worst of it was during the early 80s through the mid 90s when I lived in Denver. In my mind I have sometimes thought that chapter of my life should have been entitled “Dead and Living in Denver,” though to be truthful I did meet Babaji, my guru, during those years; so my dramatic description of those days doesn’t paint the entire picture or tell the whole story.
Prior to moving to Hawaii in 2007, I lived in Boulder, Colorado for eight years. In Boulder I was better. Living at Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram I was forced to be around more people. In fact, I thought nothing of running in to Boulder for whatever I needed.
But since I’ve moved to Hawaii I’ve become quite reclusive again, seldom leaving the property. Kona is a small town and there is little anonymity here. That makes me quite uncomfortable.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychology to understand why I’m agoraphobic. I did a lot of hallucinogens, mostly acid and ecstasy (well over a thousand hits!) back in the 70s, which left me with a complicated neuromuscular disorder. My symptoms were many; but probably the most problematic was not being able to control my facial expressions.
Now I know there are people with far more difficult lives than me, I truly do. But can you imagine not being able to control your facial expressions? If you can imagine that, then you will probably understand why I have become agoraphobic. However, as gay icon Tammy Faye Baker used to say, “When life gives you lemons, you’ve gotta make lemonade.” So I have. I have used my semi-solitary life to pursue a higher spiritual awareness and I have become adept at putting my spiritual practice before anything else, including my long-ago (and still sometimes) ambition of being a musician.
I’m not saying to have a spiritual life one has to go live alone in a cave. Au contraire! My agoraphobia is hardly encouraged by my spiritual practice. Babaji often reminds me I need to “get out more.” In fact, Swami Rudrananda, Babaji’s guru, taught that it is quite necessary to be able to function in the world. He used to have his students sit on the sidewalks of Manhattan near his Greenwich Village ashram and do mantra. That’s not exactly sitting in a cave!
Anyway, I’m not completely off the hook here at Konalani Ashram on the Big Island of Hawai’i, where I live now. The ashram hosts a number of three week Hatha Yoga Teacher Training courses each year and the students stay here on the premises. Though I have created somewhat of an art-form out of avoiding people, I still force myself to try to go to most meals with the students and other residents.
At any rate, thanks to my spiritual practice of kundalini yoga, as taught to me by my guru, Babaji, I have discovered a way out of this infinitely difficult situation I have created for myself over the years. Today as I sit here typing, my crown chakra is buzzing like a bee colony (with the primordial “OM” sound) and other chakras are bubbling like a (newly opened) bottle of champagne, as all of these chakras continue to open and “bloom.”
When I focus on that activity (guiding and expanding the energy with my breath), the connective tissue in my upper body begins to release some of its tightly held grip on my cervical vertebrae (which are pressing against my spinal cord); the muscles in my face and the rest of my body then release somewhat, slowly freeing them from the strangle-hold grip of some long-ago, forgotten karma. The reason for this is that these deep patterns of tension that are locked into my neuromuscular system are being pulverized by the extreme force of the Shakti and alchemically incinerated in the fire of yoga.
Back in the day, when Warhol superstar Candy Darling came out with her autobiography, My Face for the World to See I remember thinking, what a fabulous title. I didn’t realize at the time the insane life I was leading would provide the material for another autobiography, years later-my own.
Darlings’ title could be aptly applied to my own life (at least on a mundane level) since, thanks to my meditative practice I’m beginning to feel a little less like the brunt of a tiresome 1950s “spastic” joke. And while I’m a little doubtful that this new experience of my body will turn me into a fluttering social butterfly, one could presume it has the potential to make me at least a little less anti-social.
I’ll keep you posted.