Why alcohol and drugs hold back spiritual growth?

We have heard of one or more faiths or religions banning alcohol or drugs or smoking in one way or the other. Of course, there are many of us who contravene these guidelines, as we do not adhere rigidly to any specific rules that are thrust upon us. That is perfectly normal – spirituality without ‘modern thinking’ cannot be true spirituality.

And there we arrive at the crux – do we drink and do drugs because they are modern pleasures? Sure. Do they actually help solve our problems in any way? Not really.

Drugs (alcohol, nicotine, heroin, cocaine, etc.) are merely the carpet under which you sweep your dirt. True spirituality is about cleaning your ‘room’ so that you live a clean life inside. By clean, I do not mean blessing every animal and creature on the street- cleanliness simply means being honest with yourself and living your truest purpose.

To realize your truest feelings, to analyze your deepest self, you need to introspect. You need to fight your egoistic impulses – I say ‘fight’, but what actually happens is that you realize you have egoistic impulses and CHOOSE not to follow them. Choosing NOT to listen to your mind’s endless attachments, that destroy your freedom, requires energy.

Why do you require energy to fight your mind’s impulses? Let me give you a simple example – imagine you are driving when you are drunk or ‘high’. You are driving at high, or even a moderate speed. A car comes suddenly towards you in the middle of the road. Had you not been drunk; your instincts would have taken over and slammed on the brakes. But, being high (or down based on your choice of drugs), you react either way too fast or way too slow. Now, let’s zoom into that scene –

  • You see the car coming towards you
  • Your body doesn’t react, your mind seems sluggish or over excited
  • Another part of you takes over trying to either speed you up (if you are feeling down), or calm you down (if you are feeling too high)
  • This ‘other part’ literally struggles to get you to act at the right speed, at the right time. This new part of you uses extensive amounts of energy trying to overcome your drugged state and take charge.
  • You finally manage the situation (with blood pounding in your ears with adrenalin), but find yourself sinking back into your previous ‘dissociated’ state

So, now we have two parts of ourselves – one part, the ‘egoistic pleasure-seeking side’ that likes to drink or do drugs. Another part that actually takes the decisions in times of crisis, which is independent of your drugs. Drugs prevent your ‘decision making’ side from acting properly which makes your ‘decision making’ side to use extensive amounts of physical energy (adrenalin) to gain control, leaving you exhausted.

Now, a spiritual path requires you to analyze your ego and confront your deepest fears, your darkest insecurities and accept all of them as part of yourself. You are seeking long-term lasting happiness as compared to a temporary high – that is the essence of spirituality. Before starting your spiritual journey, you are essentially divided, seeing the world and your fears as separate. This is the reason people do drugs, to keep out the darkest parts of themselves because they are afraid of them.

Spirituality is about integrating all of your different parts into a single whole – the good, bad and ugly and accepting them all as part of your soul’s or God’s creation. Integrating your darkest parts doesn’t mean you will become a murderer overnight – it means you realize you CAN be a murderer, but you DON’T want to. All of us are capable of lashing out in fear or anger, and hurting others – and sometimes, we do it because we lose control. Spirituality is about integrating your anger into yourself, so that you can CHOOSE whether to be angry or not. Spiritual consciousness gives you an internal choice, unconsciousness leaves you at the mercy of random external events. Thus, spirituality is true freedom, and with true freedom to ‘not choose’ anger, you achieve compassion. And thus, spirituality, freedom and compassion go together.

Do you become a saint? Not really, you merely become a very ordinary practical man/ woman in control of your senses, body and mind. Spirituality is about discovering extraordinary things about yourself so that you can live a completely free and possibly, very ordinary life, but based on your values, not others’. Spirituality is the extreme version of ‘live and let live’.

All of this takes mental energy, as your soul goes against your mind’s natural ego (which likes to divide things into good and bad, superior and inferior). This ‘spiritual integration’ energy has to come from somewhere, and your soul draws this energy from your body (hormones, adrenaline etc.), making your spiritual journey physically exhausting.

When you are already using up all this energy, and you start drinking or doing drugs, it blocks your soul’s access to your mind. Your soul tries to see into your mind, and apply the accelerator or brakes on your mind, and realizes all the brake (and hydraulic) fluid has been replaced with crap- the accelerator and brake signals simply stop going to your mind.

If you haven’t realized already, the car is your body (with engine and wheels), your soul is the driver, and hydraulics and transmission are your mind. Drinking is effectively equivalent to you freezing your brake and accelerator hydraulic fluids and wondering why your car is not going in the right direction. You may even feel yourself pressing the pedals, the pedals no longer seem to be flexible- they seem clogged.

Is the car still moving? Sure. It has fuel and hydraulic fluids, and the engine is running. But what you don’t realize is that the fuel is being used by the car to plan its own random route (straight into an accident), not by you as the driver to control the route.

So, we have to decide. What kind of fuel and fluids do you want to intake (aka food)? How does the food make you feel? Does your food make you feel intoxicated and detached from your thoughts, or more in control, in touch with your thoughts? The thing is, the more you ingest food and drink that intoxicates, your body becomes addicted and weaker. When you need energy for a new stage of spiritual transformation, you will find yourself too exhausted to continue. Your body is not the same as your soul, but it is an essential physical vehicle that we all need in our pursuit of the truth.

In trying to become a better driver, don’t damage or destroy your vehicle – you don’t get a replacement, at least not in this life. Eat well, in moderation, not so you can achieve a supreme goal, but so you can go as far as you can in your journey with the body you have been given, before your body inevitably breaks down in old age. Your body has a limited time before old age overtakes it (with problems of poor functioning and low energy). Use it well when you are young, in the right ways, for the right reasons. That way, when you are older and have lower energy, you will no longer need your body’s energy that much – you will have completed the most difficult parts of your spiritual journey, and will be ready to move on to the next phase post physical death.

Suffering vs. Consciousness – Which came first?

Imagine the following:

Scenario 1: You are starting out on a road. It is a straight road and there are no obstacles ahead of you. You go straight ahead and reach your goal, or destination. There are no twists or turns in the road, in fact, you can’t see anything except mountains on either side. This road is a straight path between you and your destination. You travel this road at top speed.

Scenario 2: Now, imagine you are in a desert. You are a nomad walking the sands. You need to reach your destination and you plot a path through the desert. Sometimes, you find large sand dunes blocking your path, and you walk around them. Sometimes, you find hills and oases blocking your way- you walk around them. You are following a new road, that you yourself have made in the desert. The desert has no path by itself, and yet you carved a path for yourself to make your journey convenient. Your path is not a straight one, but takes you to your destination.

Scenario 3: You are walking in a long corridor that twists and turns (like in a videogame). The only rule is that you need to walk through all the open doors in front of you. Only one door is open at the end of each turn of the corridor and you walk through those open doors. You pass by many closed doors, and as instructed you ignore them, choosing only the open ones ahead of you. You reach your destination.

Scenario 4: You walk the same corridor through the building and this time, you have been given a list of doors that you need to open. The doors are not automatically open this time, but need to be opened. You are okay, because there is only one door at the end of each corridor and it is easy for you to just walk a few feet and open doors one after the other. You reach your destination.

Scenario 5: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. This time too, you have been given a list of doors you need to open, but with a difference. Your map has door numbers on it and clearly outlines which door numbers you need to open. You are fine with this – you walk down corridor 1, and there is only one door marked Door 22 (door numbers are random for some reason); then you walk down corridor 2 and there is only one door marked Door 56, and you open that; and so on and so forth. You follow all the doors blindly (there is only one route available), not bothering to check if the map door numbers match your doors (they do), and you reach your destination.

Scenario 6: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. This time too, you have been given a list of doors you need to open, with a map comprising door numbers on it. There is one small difference – as you walk down each corridor, you find new doors that have been added. You know as per your map (as in Scenario 5) you need to open Door 22 (which was the only door last time), but this time you find your path down corridor 1 having 21 extra doors from Door 1 to Door 21. You open Door 22 as per the map and exit to corridor 2, where you find Door numbers 51-59. But your map says open Door 56 (just like last time) and you do that, and you reach your destination.

Scenario 7: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. The map is exactly the same, the corridor is exactly the same as in Scenario 6 and all you need to do is open Door 22 and Door 56. But this time, you wonder what is behind all the other doors. Do they lead to an easier path? A better life? What if your map is wrong?

Scenario 8: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. You are filled with worries from Scenario 7 about all the other doors you are missing to open. You try opening a door and you find another corridor and more doors, making you even more confused – maybe this IS a great path that you are missing out on? You stop looking at your map and you try to ‘decide’ which door to follow – your previous Door 22 + 56 or New Door 15.

Scenario 9: You walk the same corridor through the building, from your starting point. You are filled with worries from Scenario 8 about ‘making a decision’ about which doors to open. The map has been long forgotten, but is safe deep in your pocket. You walk straight ahead and open Door 15 this time, then you walk straight ahead and find a dead end, you walk back and try Door 17, and this leads you to Door 25 which leads you to another Door 43 which leads you to another Door 62 which leads you to your destination. You started out by taking a straight path, but ended up on an unnecessarily long journey.

You begin wondering, “Why does the map keep advising Door 22 + 56 as the shortest route? How does the map know? More importantly, why do I even need a map? Why are there so many doors if they are not supposed to be used? Why are there so many corridors if they are not supposed to be used? Why does the map exist? Who drew this map?” This is consciousness.

And then you wonder further…” Why can’t I just follow any door and follow any path as long as I reach my destination anyway? Why should I be subservient to a silly map, even if it gives me the answer? When I am clearly able to think about what doors to choose, why should I not choose which door to follow?” This is the beginning of our need for ‘freedom’.

And then you wonder, “I hate this silly map, which tells me there is only one way to do things. I will decide for myself which doors to follow. In fact, the door that I follow is bound to be the right one. I have seen other people walking past me, following the map. Many others have walked past me, and opened doors different from mine (not following the map). It is clear that my way of opening doors works and all others are just wasting their time, irrespective of whether they are following the map or not”. This is the birth of our Ego.

And then you wonder, after going through many, many doors and finally reaching your destination tired and hungry – “Why do I have to make all these decisions? Why am I forced to choose doors? Why am I forced to face dead ends and walls that block my every path? Surely there has to be an easier way?” This is called the loss of consciousness and the beginning of suffering.

And then you wonder, “I need to find an easier way to manage these corridors (somehow I find myself at the starting point after reaching my destination each time). I need to stop for a bit and just…stop randomly opening doors. Perhaps there is a way for me to decide what is the best door to open.” And suddenly, something comes back to you – a distant memory asking you to go through Door 22. You ignore this, and go through a complicated path again to reach your destination. To help you mute this ‘voice’ asking you to open Door 22, you turn to drugs and alcohol. You get lost part of the way, but stumble with difficulty to your destination.

You are back at the starting point. This time, your mental and spiritual agony is too much to bear. You are fed up of exploring doors and you just want to get it over with. You kill yourself at the starting point, but you end up reborn exactly where you were, at the starting point. Death doesn’t seem to be a solution.

You find yourself back at the starting point. This time, you choose to listen to your inner ‘voice’ that guides you through ancient memories to Door 22. As you pass through each of the other doors…Doors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…, you feel regret, sadness, and fear. You fear following a strange voice that keeps guiding you away from all these doors when so many others are going through them. You feel isolated and alone, for no one else seems to understand why you are ignoring all these other doors, without any ‘reason’. You are unable to explain, except by saying you are following your own path. This voice is called the voice of the soul, or sometimes ‘the call of God’. You follow this voice and you question it all the way, “Why are you asking me to open Door 22? Why do you want me to open Door 56? Why are these doors working? This doesn’t make sense at all.” This is called questioning and getting angry with God.

You find yourself back at the starting line. Your frustration has reached new peaks. You just want to get the journey done with. You blindly follow the voice, even when others laugh at you, and sometimes attack you. This is called “spiritual surrender”.

That ends the story. To summarize it all in another way:

  • All of us start out by following a map (pure and innocent)
  • At some point, we decide to ignore the map (known as losing our innocence, spiritual teenage, falling into Sin, eating the apple, birth of the ego etc.)
  • We keep go through a period of questioning everything – the map, our path, our purpose (birth of consciousness, need for freedom)
  • We reach a state of extreme tiredness and frustration, and want our repeating journey to be simple (we call this reincarnation and associated suffering. The learning from one journey transfers to the beginning of the next journey – we call this Karma)
  • We exhaust all our physical energy and decide to follow our soul’s guidance, our deepest instincts (we call this surrendering to God)
  • Our path ceases to restart after our ‘surrendered’ journey (we call this freedom from the cycle of birth and death)
  • We finally find peace (we call this Enlightenment, Mukti, Nirvana or Heaven)

8 Common Expressions of Frustration

And the secret spiritual meaning behind them

Hopefully, in a dictionary somewhere…

  • Antigen (n): A substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it
  • Anti-Zen (n): An article that sticks to your mind and helps produce antibodies against it
Photo by Indrajeet Choudhary on Unsplash

I was recently talking to a friend about some problems she was facing, and it became a deep discussion. We dived into new areas, explored ways of looking at things. All considered, it was an excellent psychoanalysis session (between friends). And then she said, “You are not a very emotional person, are you?”

I was flummoxed — I mean we had been discussing nothing but emotions for the last hour or two, but in an objective way. I told her that to even analyze emotions objectively, one had to feel emotions. She wasn’t convinced. She believed that to truly understand emotions, one had to sink into them.

When you sink into your thoughts and emotions, you lose control, flail around and drown, instead of floating on top in a boat. Our mind produces thoughts at random — you really can’t control your mind. It is just an organ, an instrument- a TV aerial capturing signals from all over the place. We should use our mind, not join its randomness.

I realized there are many other statements that we make in frustration, but provide secret advice when decoded (deep deep down)…

1. Have you lost your mind?

This made me reflect. “You” and “your mind” have to be separate, or you couldn’t lose your mind. You can only lose something you have. So if you have the ability to ‘lose’ your mind, it means you possess a mind in the first place.

‘Possessing’ means owning. It means ‘you’ are the ‘owner’, the mind is your ‘ownee’ or possession. When you act crazy, people think you have lost your mind. The logical conclusion is that when you are acting normal, your mind works as some kind of filter to keep the ‘crazy’ out.

Perhaps it is not a filter, but a prison… Perhaps the ‘crazy’ you is the real you. Perhaps your mind is like cocaine- keep sniffing enough of it, and you will be a ‘good boy or girl’ unable to put your thoughts together, unable to form your own opinions, unable to stand out from the crowd.

It seems very important to everyone that you not lose your mind. They want it to be safe with you. Keep it with you.

2. Put your thoughts together

Did I just say above, you would be ‘unable to put your thoughts together?’ This means there is a “putter’ who puts thoughts together and ‘thoughts’ that have to be joined by this person. This can only imply the thoughts are outside the person, or the person wouldn’t be able to play with the pieces.

You are not your thoughts — you may think of suicide, doesn’t mean you are suicidal. If you get an accidental dream of murdering someone, it doesn’t mean you are a murderer. If you dream of yourself having an affair, it doesn’t mean you want to (without going into dreams here). You are not your thoughts, you are the product of the thoughts you choose to follow.

Drinking or drugs basically turn off your ‘put my thoughts together’ switch. They destroy the connection — you press the button to weld ‘thought pieces’ together and it doesn’t work.

Your mind is free now…it can go where it wants and do anything. You can say “Hey, that wasn’t me— my mind acted on its own. I wasn’t even pushing the buttons to join thoughts in the right order, the plug wasn’t even connected!”. That is like allowing your cows to eat your neighbor’s grass, telling your neighbor that it is the cow’s fault, and getting surprised when you, the cow’s owner is asked to pay a fine. You own the cow- letting your cow free doesn’t release you from ownership.

You own your mind. Drinking or drugs don’t cancel your ‘mind ownership’ license — they only make you forget about the purchase contract (before you were born). So if your mind plays tricks on you, or if you drink and drive, your mind won’t get fined by the cops — you, its owner will.

3. You are out of your mind, dude!

Disagree with someone and they will say you are out of your mind. Clearly it means two things: (a) if you were ‘in’ your mind, you would have been okay with whatever they said, and (b) if you are ‘out’ of your mind, you are wrong.

Tell your parents or partner you want to become an artist and live on the streets, they will say you’re out of your mind. Clearly, without our mind, we are seen as rebels or crazy. Our mind helps us avoid such rebellious creative thoughts.

Our mind keeps us in check. Our mind is very important to those around us. When they are not around to control us, our minds will do the job (they have programmed it for us). So when we are ‘out of our minds’ we become uncontrollable and dangerous (to whom I wonder?).

Ask yourself this, do you want to be ‘IN your mind’ or be yourself?

4. My mind is driving me crazy!

You say this as you unwind at a bar or sauna after a long day of work. You wish your mind would stop zig-zagging around for a second. You find your thoughts have become erratic…not matching your speed at all. You find your‘self’ slower than your mind. Perhaps ‘you’ are not moving at all. Perhaps ‘you’ are still and your mind refuses to stop jumping around.

The mind is a very uncontrollable immature pet — always running in random directions. When it wants to run, it doesn’t care for your opinion. Ask it to stop and it will jump some more. Ignore it for a while and it will come sit at your feet.

Watch your thoughts, and do nothing. Don’t try to control anything. Your mind will follow your lead and lie still.

Surprisingly, the moment you need to start that very important project, it will refuse to move (!). Even our mind seems to have a mind of its own (😊 ). Which brings me to…

5. He never listens! He has a mind of his own!

When someone says this to you, they don’t want you to have your own mind. They want to own your mind.

This is as odd as your neighbor coming and telling you, “You like to have your own wife/ husband eh? You are so selfish”. It is odd that others constantly want your mind. The same people say they ‘don’t have your ear’, when you are not listening. Or ‘they want your hand’, when getting married. People like collecting parts of you for some inexplicable reason.

Once someone else has your mind, they can do things with it. Here’s a sample recipe:

  • They tell you you have a mind of your own. You surrender and give it up.
  • They powder 5mg of their ideas,
  • Add it to your mind in a steady pour,
  • Stir it slowly 4 times clockwise so you don’t notice, and
  • Watch as your remaining independent thoughts die away
  • They can now tell you what to do — they own your mind

If you don’t own your mind, someone else will.

6. Why are you roaming around mindlessly?

It’s a warm day, golden sunlight dappling the footpath. A woman with two dogs (perfectly groomed) strolls past you. Birds chirp above you. Trees wave lazily in the breeze. Cookie smells waft at you from the bakery. The buildings are friendly, your mood is light. You feel relaxed. This is the perfect setting for a rom-com movie. Ah, a beautiful day and a mindless soul.

Side note: Such is also the scene in many a horror movie, just before the tinkling music stops and the happy people turn into zombies.

But I digress…back to the weather. You feel like taking a walk. You feel free of worry, rid of all anxiety. You wonder about nothing- your job matters no more. You can handle anything. You roam mindlessly.

If you had roamed with your mind, you would never appreciated this wonderful day. If you had taken your mind with you, you would have felt heavy- hearted, ready to jump into the nearest fountain.

Many times, mindlessness implies recklessness. But sometimes, mindlessness can also mean freedom.

7. You blew my mind!

Which is what you might say when you encounter genius. Or the other extreme. Clearly after your mind has been blown away, you are still able to stand, surveying the wreckage of what was once your mind. You survived! A situation we should fear is often embraced with open arms.

You don’t need your mind to keep standing. You don’t your mind to be still.

8. (You should) be more mindful of others

Taught to children all over the world by well-meaning parents. They encourage you to fill up your mind with everyone else’s worries. You start as a child with an empty suitcase — then your mother may say, “Dear, pack your sister’s things in it too”. Your friends say, “Don’t you ever keep us in mind?”, so you pack them in too.

After a while, it becomes a heavy suitcase — filled with others’ thoughts but carried around by you. You have become their (mental) bell-boy (or girl). Life loses meaning and all lightness, but you don’t want to be selfish. You still own your mind, but you have rented all the rooms out.

How do you handle it? Learn to manage your mind-hotel. Rent out your rooms, but be firm with your tenants. Put up a sign, “Rights to admission reserved”. If your tenants play loud music, start changing your decorations or make trouble — throw them out.

You own your mind. Everyone else is there on rent, at your invitation.