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Looking for the Tiger No tigers here I left India in 1876 after 10 continuous years of living there. I had not been home at all in the period & had not contacted my parents or anyone outside India. Until that is I wrote to my parents in London and as a result received a ticket to fly Bombay to London. I returned home in 1976 having left London in 1965 at the tender age of 17. I have written a book about this period called English man, Beggar man, Holy Man. My years in India were spent as a saddhu, a Hindu holy man, a monk, & travelling yogi. I spent several years in several different places in India. I had a first I guru that I ran away from after four years never to make contact again. I was named by that guru, Ram Prakash a name I wished to drop after I left the ahram in Dehra Dun. As a nickname I was given the name London Giri by a swami of the Giri (literally mountain) renunciate sect. Later after seven years in India I met Swami Muktananda in a place called Genesh Puri , (literally - the town of Ganesh, an Indian God) . I stayed 10 months in that large ashram, where Swami Muktananda had staying large numbers of his overseas followers. Americans, British, Australian & others were flocking to become his disciples. I stayed and had my name changed by Babaji (as Swami Muktananda was known), from London Giri to Ganesh Giri . A full-blown or proper sannyasin, (renunciate), name. However, I never took any formal initiation into the holy orders, and indeed was told by a Babaji that I was first and foremost an English man and would always be so. I never considered myself at the time, a full disciple of Swami Muktananda in the mould of the rest of his Western & Indian flock. I preferred to hang around in the background and take things a bit more cautiously, though after a while I gradually began to accept that Babaji was no smooth talking guru out to make just American dollars and converts. I became more convinced that he was a true in his own way, & he was perfected (siddha), in particular practices that he had undergone, and was able to pass on some of his power directly to others. I left his ashram because I wanted to see my inner a guru as well as an outer one. I wanted self realisation for myself within myself. After all that was what Swami Muktananda taught – that the guru & the Divine was within. I spent my last three years in India living in the backwoods of Gujerat State in a hut, thinking about little in particular, and wondering what my role in life was. I had no books or reading material or watch. I just spent days & months mulling over my experiences to date with all the guru's and yogis I had met in India I came to the conclusion eventually that I had a different type of life to experience awaiting me in England, and that the time was not yet right to plunge into a lifetime of living in India as a recluse or sannyasin. My parents thought I was dead and my return, now aged 28,to my starting point in London must have been a big shock to them., As mentioned I left home alone and in 1965. I was 17 and had at that time being restless to wander off and explore the world of several years. The flames of rebellion burned within me. Rebellion from society, from parents, from the straitjacket of convention. I was not alone - the 60s were a time of foment, with the new pop culture leading, as espoused by the life (& music of course), by the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and delineated through the birth of a youthful revolution that was to overturn the cultural norms of society at that time. The anti establishment new generation wanted to explore new dimensions’ of experience, to grow long hair, wear outrageous clothes, and to experience hitherto unexplored depths of the mind with cannabis and LSD. Influenced by my own generation I ended up on the India trail - the overland trip to Kathmandu and Nepal. I preceded a mass migration by several years as by the time Westerners were flocking to India to guru is in large numbers, I had been ensconced there for about five years After 10 months on the hippy trail I reached India. The Hindu culture like a magnet sucked me in 8 did not for a while spit me out. During my 10 years continuous stay in India I met a variety of gurus, yogis, holy men and holy women. I travelled the length of the country & at times my bed was bare concrete and my stomach was empty. Increasingly I was feted, garlanded and dined in splendour by prostrating devotees who revered all of holy men (as I had become). At the end of it all I returned to England almost following a spur of the moment decision. I ceased overnight to speak & think and dream in Hindi. Similarly my wraparound cloths became trousers and shirts, and I became a conventional working Englishman. Kingston is a nice place to live as it is near to Richmond Park and Hampton Court, Epsom Downs and the country areas of South Surrey As a teenager I enjoyed the proximity of the rivers and lakes for fishing and as a cyclist was able to get out the surrounding country quite easily. During the 60s I enjoyed the availability of music venues, with live bands. Certain pubs in Kingston and Richmond had a following of beats and beatniks, (later to be called hippies) who enjoyed live bands such as the Yardbirds , John Mayall's Blues Breakers, & the Rolling Stones. I found my niche amongst that rebellious society and took to the dropout culture in earnest. When I left home in 1966 I did not have a good relationship with my parents, but when I returned in 76 I found that I got on with them quite well . I had not written them to them for about nine years until a few months before my return, & they did not know where I was and thought that I might be dead. They were pleased and relieved that I had returned from the dead, but they said little about the agonies they had been through in my account. I had little to say on the subject of my Hindu monk’s life. It was a role with which I had completely identified during my stay in India, & now I was finished with it and wanted no more of it. I wanted to be the Englishman again and take on that role not now as a dropout hippy. I wanted to work, buy a car, drink in pubs, watch the telly, and construct a social life for myself that was not in any way religious. I got hold of an assortment of close to replace my Indian robes: dad’s things, jumble sale stuff and a few new bits that provided me with outfits that perhaps gave me slightly shabby image. My parents lived in a council flat, & were not very wealthy. Dad was a mechanic at a hospital and looked after the Ford transit vans and Mini of the midwives. Mum “did” (cleaned) for a wealthy lady and had been with the same family for years. It was only a part-time job that gave her some personal spending money for Bingo and the like. Culture and our home was reading the tabloids and watching the telly that was switched on most of the day. Although I had been starved of television and radio and newspapers in India, (by my own choice), my avid enjoyment of such marvels quickly soured, & I was bored after three days at home. I decided to get a job so I could have a taste of financial independence, & rent a place or something. I had not since my arrival in India had to pay my way from anything & I was missing the type of independence that private personal income provided. I had been totally free to wander at will in India and received respect and honour for my vagabond lifestyle. I had however become tired of being dependent on others' goodwill. It had been there in abundance -t too abundant, & I had tired of it and wanted out. I did not want any more goodwill, and wanted to pay my own way all by my own, to what I desired, whatever that would turn out to be. I took up my yoke of the work ethic willingly like so many do in Western culture. Many Indians that I knew previously, would have been only too happy to be in my position to be able to work for a decent wage & so many in India were incredulous that I had forsaken the Western Eldorado of fabulously paid and readily available work . Don't even think about Britain's unemployment problem, because for many in India at that time the West was heaven. I was able to take up the workers role because I had the fortune to be born in a country where I had a choice & now chose to work out of personal interest. This personal interest began to flag quite quickly when I found out that the fascinating novelty of work could be a tedious drudgery! I sympathise with people have routine monotonous jobs into which they have been straitjacketed out of necessity - their necessity or societies - it matters little. I got a job in a local hospital's laundry and sewing room, and find found myself endlessly loading sheets and pillow cases onto steel racks like a human convoy belt. The middle-aged ladies of the sewing room where I sorted sheets were friendly enough, and I had a few hours relative solitude each day when I helped the man who ran the giant washing machine, after I filled the sewing room shelves. The dirty laundry work was a bit messy, but often enabled me to scoot off early if we got our quota finished. Tea breaks, early departures, dirty work money, weekend &l overtime payments - these were very important aspects of my work. Vitally important aspects for many workers where job satisfaction is the pay and perks. I quickly realised that if I was to continue my new found work roles I was going to need a job that was stimulating and offered me some future. I decided on social work, but found that I was not illegible or unwanted due to my lack of work experience. It was difficult explaining just how I passed my ten idle years in India. I found it hard once even to get a job cleaning down tables in a cafe. By chance or circumstances I came to apply for a position as a student psychiatric nurse. In many ways I became the average man in the street, or the ordinary guy in the pub. I more or less forgot about my role in India to the extent even of feeling vaguely embarrassed by it all. I enjoyed alcohol, TV in moderation, movies, girlfriends, fish and chips, parties and discos, novels and a wide range of “normal” activities& interests. I immigrated to New Zealand after three years and travelled around between working as a psychiatric nurse. I did think about my yoga occasionally and from time to time remembered my mantras - the sacred words that I had been initiated into in India. Occasionally I would have periods where my inner meditations would be quite profound although externally I carried on my routine of whatever I was into that time. The spiritual side of me did pop up a few times externally. 1983 I visited the centre of Swami Muktananda in Christchurch a few times and participated in a programme meditation. Eventually I began to think again the spiritual aspects of my life although I did nothing much about it until 1985. It was whilst living in Andorra that I wrote my book about my ten years in India. I started to write about my Indian experience, began to practice yoga again, and started to reform my dietary habits and drinking habits. Throughout the 80’s I could feel the long dormant yogic flame being slowly fanned by my awakening interest. The sleeping mantras began to revolve again in my sluggish brain cells. I even took the sitting down to meditate for a very brief and infrequent period s In 1987 I was back in New Zealand after a sojourn in various parts of Europe, in France, Monte Carlo Andorra and Spain as well as in Wales. I have started writing about some of those times. 10 years had gone by in the West, in the materialistic net. I thought I was back at the beginning of a new phase that promised much more ahead. I had al 10 years learning about mental illness, relationships, the way of the world, & sundry matters. I had also been lucky to have had the great fortune to experience life in some other fascinating countries & places. However the following years were times when I experienced life in the greatest depths of joy and sorrow, and I was not then prepared for what was yet to come. The title of this chapter - No tigers here - means what? When I was a child in London I used to dream about tigers a lot, and think they were wandering outside the block of flats that I lived in. I used to read a lot of books about hunting man –eating tigers and leopards and lions. After living in India I came to believe that I'd lived there before, and that all my childhood processes had been regurgitating aspects of a previous life in India. I saw myself as having been a hunter of tigers who then became a non-violent devotee of tigers. In dreams in India, I saw myself meeting a yogic sage outside the cave and being admonished and turned away from my hunting to become a respectful devotee of the tiger. That dream was about my previous birth not the current one. I may have been part of the British Raj in India possibly a collector or some official living upcountry. In India tigers were often a part of my life – certainly spiritually as the tiger is considered to be the vehicle of the goddess Durga. However I moved away from India and didn't think then about tigers. My life was not connected like it had been with India and tigers, & my worship of the Goddess. Finding the Tiger In 1989 I married the woman who I met initially in my class when I started my psychiatric nurse training in England in 1977. Over the next 20+ years I became a family man and remain so to this day. I extended my career to a position that I became satisfied with as a senior health professional educator within mental health. I studied and received further qualifications and worked within a variety of interesting areas. However the key element of time to the present has been my struggle to deal with what has seemed to be a chronic and worsening depression, whilst the same becoming more and more spiritually focused. There is a huge paradox. Now I have got to a place where I feel that I am really engaged as a spiritual soul to the maximum depth that I could ever wish, &I have found myself realisation & my perfection (siddhi ) on the spiritual plane. Yet it has come to be connected with the most profound rock bottom depth of despair and depression Interestingly I find that as I relate now to the personality (Ganesh Giri) that I left in India as the Hindu monk, I see that my time of 10 years in India was probably about sitting in the same space where I am now. I believe that I could look at that time in India & make a clear clinical diagnosis of severe depressive episodes, interspersed with the mild-to-moderate chronic depression that is called dysthymia. I am fascinated now by this paradoxical connect ion of intense deep spiritual experience & equally intense depression. This for me though is finding the Tiger. The tiger is my soul animal - similar to favourite animal but not quite! The tiger represents to me as myself being a complete person. Powerful in that I have my spiritual plane again, but also powerful in that I am a complete human being. I am human with my experience of the depths of despair and depression whilst at the same time having become able to deal with and cope with this expression of my life – this is also feels very powerful to me. I can experience the totality of being a “weak disabled and dysfunctional “human and I am happy about this because I don't see it as bad. However I also can be a functional health professional, family man and husband - all this alongside the choice of continuing my practice of spiritual awareness. This is about finding the Tiger - the tiger that drove me when I was a child to go to India, and to head off to end up as a monk. This metaphor for life has driven me now to look at the issue of spirituality and religion and depression in some depth. Taming the Tiger Depression, addiction and spirituality Some very talented people struggle with different types of addiction. Some committed churchgoers or practitioners of other religions, and even monks or priests, struggle with addictions. Often there is some degree of depression involved, and sometimes it's hard to tell whether the depression comes first or the addiction. Sometimes a person who is very capable, organised and has a strong sense of morality, may succumb to both addiction as well as depression. There is a view that oversensitive persons who seek perfection in many areas, may be easily subject to negative moods when they believe they haven't performed or achieved whatever it is they are supposed to. It can be worse for someone who believes they have found some mystical source, and has had an experience of God or a higher power. Then addiction and depression can feel like, or seem like a “fall from grace” an idea or belief itself which can compound the problems. In another perspective we could say that addictions or depression may drive the search for truth and sanity, and lead to spiritual practice or religious participation eventually. We may have been told that we will become perfected beings eventually. Whatever the Scripture or the teaching there seems to be an exhortation to hold onto faith, as that will lead us onwards and upwards and out of our messes, Whether that's a true or not is something else. It may just be a support to hang onto, but even so may be a give hope and purpose or provide context. So, many will say that religion and spirituality helps with all sorts of problems. However don’t forget that may be issues about the difference between religion and spirituality, and whether one or the other is more likely to help cure or from another opposite perspective to cause problems. Sometimes it’s best to cut through the research! In depression there is poverty of mood, & thus the lure of something which gives a mood burst is very tempting. Nobody wants to feel dead. In the depression one can want to be in that, ( addictive) space of getting momentarily relief to feel not just alive but “ super alive”.Only then to plunge down in the comedown from alcohol, drugsor other addictions. Hopefully at some point there can be moments when one feels the presence of a higher reality, & then some hope, because when this is truly felt there is an immediate sense of relief, & knowing relief is “out there”. Albeit temporarily, it may be then move the dark sadness to become the driver to find meaning, to go past the sense of loss of pleasure, disenchantment with and even renunciation of the life. In the psychiatric world and for many health professionals, the whole area of spirituality and religion may seem to be a somewhat empty land or even a foreboding or forbidden territory. We have to wonder why this is and what it is about our own journey that affects even some health professionals, and may even subtly drive a diversion around this territory. One can come up with a lot of reasons of course. Look at the history of religion and the pain and wars it’s caused. Look at spirituality and how fundamentalist some have become even without a having a specific religion. So the search for meaning in life can be associated with a higher degree of malady, but the keyword here though is associated. It seems one has to find one's own meaning in this paradox of “dysfunction & higher function”. Sometimes there seems to be no reason to be here apart, from accessing getting brief periods of artificial pleasure. Therefore having a purpose and reason to be here is a protective factor. It may help considerably in prevention of self harm and suicide. Religious and spiritual treatises tell us that we will achieve afterlife as a result of activities here, & that deliberate termination of life causes problems with these processes. As a result of suicide we might not go to heaven, or if we believe in rebirth, we may have to come back to start the whole process over again and re-experience our problems. There is also the issue of what we are thinking about at the time of death. If this is dark black material, we may find ourselves in a dark black space, a hell. Why not if people on their deathbed suddenly feel the fear of God and suddenly see the light and the blessings? The spiritual teachers exhort us to turn to our Lord, our Divinity and take up some meditation practice or worship or pray. The power of the Divine name is much vaunted, as is self surrender, and knowing that your guide will always present to you the requisite path (with lighting!). Problems themselves in life do sometimes seem to have a purpose if we live long enough to look back over lengthy periods. We may say - well that caused me a lot of pain and I've learnt so much more. I have become so much stronger or more capable as a result. There is always a test, through difficulties, sufferings, or just daily business, but there does seem to be a purpose just as going to school helps get a child ready to make it into adulthood - one hopes!
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