Namasté. My name is Michael. I am also known as Swami Turiyananda, a spiritual name I received from Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 1983. “Turiya” refers to the fourth state of consciousness beyond the three ordinary states of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. It is a transcendent state of meditation. “Ananda” means joy; the joy that arises when we realize our innate unity and perfection. Our true nature is Love-Consciousness-Joy. So, my spiritual title was given to me as an impetus to spiritual practice realize our essential being.
I completed Yoga Teacher Training in 1981 and undertook further training in India at the Bihar School of Yoga in 1983 – 84. This was an amazing period in my life. Ashram life was simple and centered around spiritual yoga practice. We rose before dawn for hatha yoga, mantra chanting and meditation. We gathered on the lawn for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. We spent the days either attending classes or engaging in karma yoga: fulfilling various tasks in the ashram. In the evening we gathered for kirtan, chanting sacred mantras.
I thought I wanted to stay there forever, but that wasn’t my destiny. I ended up returning to Southern California and working on a master’s degree in psychology. I developed a fascination for C.G. Jung and his system of psychology involving the collective unconscious. I also realized that many of us engaged in spiritual paths were attempting to use it for “spiritual by-passing”, a term coined by John Welwood, Ph.D. to describe the tendency to use spirituality to avoid working on psychological wounds.
Psychological work and spiritual awakening go hand in hand. However, most mainstream mental health practitioners ignore the spiritual dimension, or give cursory “lip service.” The spiritual dimension is the most important aspect of ourselves. Spiritual teachers, on the other hand, don’t address personal psychological suffering but point to the impersonal or transpersonal. The spiritual dimension is the dimension of freedom, however, if we have not addressed psychological issues, they will continue to pull us back into their traps.
Spiritual practice and awakening give a higher perspective beyond the ego; beyond the limited sense of an isolated and alienated individual body/mind confronting an indifferent universe. Spiritual practice, primarily meditation, goes beyond religious belief. It gives us an inner experience of higher dimensions of being. It is a means of connecting with higher power, wisdom, love and awareness.
Psychotherapy, in general, operates from a limited perspective. Despite new theoretical advances, research outcomes, even the incorporation of mindfulness, its primary motivation is to help us adjust, cope and attend to a consensus reality that, from a higher perspective, is an illusion, if not a nightmare.