Sex, Drugs and Techno

Tingling in the palms of my hands. Feeling the rhythmic pounding of a baseline deep in my chest. Having the insatiable need to dance. Feeling the rush of hormones flooding the brain. At 8:45am on a Thursday morning.

Today, I found a playlist that someone (an angel, really) uploaded onto Spotify. It recreated, song for song, the very first trance compilation album I ever bought: Cream Ibiza Anthems 2000. It was an album that kick-started a natural love of electronic music at 15 years old, a dream of partying in Ibiza’s world famous clubs and what I can now recognise as my first real spiritual experience. Music, for me, has always had a way of transporting me out of whatever was going on in my life, whatever bad mood I was in, and taking me somewhere else. Back then, it was called Euphoric Trance (probably just techno to everyone else in the world) and while a few of my friends had dabbled with ecstasy and speed, all I ever needed was music.

I’d met people who couldn’t understand the point of that kind of music without drugs because wasn’t that what it was made for? The rushing sounds, building up of the beats and then having a big drop…why bother otherwise? Nor could people understand how I could dance for 8 hours straight while drinking only water. I remember one night in Ministry of Sound when 3 different people came up and asked where they could get some of what I was having. I gave each of them a smile and held up the bottle of Evian that had been refilled with water from the sinks in the toilet. Music was my drug and it was more than enough. Until it wasn’t.

My mum will be absolutely horrified (sorry, Mum) but this is something I’ve wanted to ‘come clean’ about for a while. And what’s an Honest Yogi blog without honesty. And just as politicians used to be students who smoked cannabis and snorted coke before stepping into the Houses of Parliament, I was not always into this yogic lifestyle. I used to drink, smoke and party as much as I could for a while. There are a whole load of reasons as to why I went from being totally anti-drugs to deciding to try. Why I took MDMA, coke and pills. Feeling reckless, wanting to see what the fuss was about, wanting to experience something new, feeling cocky and indestructible in my mid-late 20’s. Despite being terrified of death (growing up in England around the time that Leah Betts died after taking ecstasy) and having emetophobia (a fear of vomit), I took them all.

There are many things that a spiritual practice aims at doing. Allowing you to let your guard down and experience oneness, to be in the present moment, to feel yourself filled with love and compassion for all beings. And it’s called a practice because it’s exactly that - you have to work at it. You have to show up on your mat, sit down to meditate, study the philosophy. Or, you can take drugs and psychedelics. When you’re in a club, feeling your energy merge with everyone else’s, when you can almost see the sound waves in the air, when you’re at the complete surrender of a DJ building up euphoria and letting you drop back down again, when it feels like your body is sweating out pure joy, when you’re convinced that the person next to you is your soulmate and best friend, that you’e bonded for life after sharing a cigarette outside, when you’re feeling tantric because you’re entwined with someone else who feels the same way, when you don’t have a clue what time it is because what even is time, when you can feel your entire body, when you feel completely and utterly alive, when you’re about as far away from your real life as you can possibly get…? Is it a spiritual experience?

Fuck, yes. It is. You feel bliss, oneness, infinity, you understand the point of this life.

The downside? Apart from the obvious things like never really knowing what’s in the drug you’re taking, never knowing how you’ll react, never knowing if you’re taking too much, having your belly turn, chewing the inside of your mouth to pieces, not being able to enjoy a normal night out like everyone else because you know how good it can be with a little chemical help, forgetting things and blacking out, not being able to sleep and, if you do, waking up and feeling sad, sick, angry, frustrated and the complete opposite of how you felt the night before….

The real downside is, that it doesn’t last.

When you step out of that club with sunglasses to shield your eyes, you go home, go back to your life, to your stress, the job you hate, the emptiness, the uncertainty or the complete average. Those things you were enjoying so much in that high are not sustainable when they come from substances. And while there are many things I’ve realised as a result of feeling those things - like knowing that despite being a natural introvert and actually being quite shy, I absolutely can go and talk to someone I don’t know. Or that I can allow myself to get swept up in the energy of a group without being afraid of getting lost in it. That I can feel every bit of my body at once. That I’m not completely numb. And I can do all of that without the need for anything external.

Yoga opened my body enough to drive the numbness away, to give me the tools to start having a conversation with it that wasn’t being drowned out by anything else. And during my 300hr teacher training in 2017, I finally understood the lightness, clarity and euphoria that came with pranayama. Being on this path has really made me realise that seeking things outside of ourselves is such a waste of precious time, because we have them inside of us already. We already have those chemicals in the brain and gut and we can control and manipulate the breath to build up reservoirs of energy. And the wildest thing is, that most of us already know what it is that lights us up enough to experience that.

Painting, yoga, dance, music, sitting with your back against a tree, skydiving…we all have things that allow us to lose ourselves enough to find ourselves again. That thing where we feel the worries and stress disappear long enough to enjoy the present moment, to have enough energy to then feel connected with other people.

Its been years since I took any chemical drug (and I don’t smoke cannabis either, so I’m not being selective about using the world ‘chemical’ here). This morning I woke up in the worst mood ever. I was beyond grumpy and frustrated at not being able to practice properly because of wrist pain, too hungry to know what to eat, too agitated for pranayama or meditation, too pissed off to do anything other than be pissed off. I walked through the park, sat with a tree and felt mildly better, but still looking for something to take the edge off. And then I thought, music - when all else fails, that’s the answer. Which led me to the playlist I first heard 20 years ago. Which led me to feel absolute bliss. To feel the my palms tingling and the bass deep in my chest, to have goosebumps on my skin, to feel my heart opening like a lotus flower, to feel energy rush up my spine and out the crown of my head, to feel filled up enough to go back to smiling instead of frowning, to sit in the cafe writing this while dancing in my seat because, why not?

It can be so easy to reach for that glass of wine, or that bar of chocolate. To text that toxic guy or girl and do something to take the edge off while putting yourself in the path of inevitable pain, be it hangover or heartbreak. But this is a circle that nearly always brings you back to the feeling of being in lack. In need of somehitng you don’t have and when you feel like that, how can you possibly love the life you’re living?

Because life is too short, and you should absolutely love the one you’re living.