“You go deep enough or far out enough in consciousness and you will bump into the sacred. It’s not something we generate; it’s something out there waiting to be discovered.”Michael Pollan
Some of us are able to transcend our thoughts through a developed meditation practice, some through exercise and the release of endorphins. Some use drugs and alcohol to change our mindset.
It’s yet another way…
Having written yesterday about teens and hopelessness, I feel the need to follow up with mind-altering substances, which I believe deserve some conversation. They’re also part of the equation of meditation, or certain pockets of it, anyway. Think peace pipe or the Ram Dass experiments of the ’60s, when Harvard-educated scientists sought inner truth and consciousness initially through psychedelic explorations (and later through more yogic pursuits involving love and service).
Meditation, music, and drugs are interrelated in many ways. And yoga, a “purer” pursuit of spiritual union, has served the addicted population well. Take kundalini yoga, for example, brought to the west by Yogi Bhajan, and rich with kriyas and disciplines to help the drug-addicted get sober.
Wine and weed have been viewed as natural remedies for a long time. With balance, they can help us relax, lighten up, enjoy life. No question, they can be overused and abused as self-medication or a crutch to avoid our unpleasant realities. Some of us “use” to alleviate our suffering, others for altered states of mind in pursuit of spiritual connection.
That’s that second mountain David Brooks talked about, that spiritual quest for more than the material. At some point, we each realize we were not put on this earth to merely produce a profit margin and make a mint of our own, and, usually through some sort of struggle, we find ourselves landing on questions like: why? We realize the timeshare in Park City or the condo in Naples complete with bathtub on beach and sun setting in the background is not enough (whatever “enough” means). The middle-aged among us probably resort to reading a blog on mindfulness. For the young ones, drugs and alcohol seem to be the most mainstream way to induce reflection.
The downside to this, of course, is that drugs do weird things to us. (Note horrifying warning of Viagra commercials; some might call it justice.) In seriousness, there is real risk. Whatever the drug, if it has an effect on our minds and bodies, it becomes yet another thing to balance, and that requires getting really honest with ourselves.
It’s hard enough to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we are maintaining balance. As parents, the honesty thing gets even more complicated. First, we deny. Then, we send mixed messages with changing laws and ages regarding what’s okay and what is not. Standing back only seems to contribute to the deviant tendencies. We need to be walking alongside our young people. And we are not.
Okay, dismount soap box. Below are three stories. The first two come from some very spiritual people. These are opportunities to listen to how some people seek spiritual connection using recreational drugs. This may be outside your comfort zone. (That is the idea.) The subject is increasingly mainstream, as Michael Pollan notes in his new book, How to Change Your Mind, a personal and historic account of the use of psychedelics for a transformative spiritual experience. Pollan explores the hope psychedelics offer people suffering from depression and addiction, and whether or not mushrooms bring enlightenment. I’ve yet to read the book but I’ve heard his case might just change your mind. More on his book here.
A young friend on the experience of taking Ayahuasca:
Imagine walking into a circle of people, most dressed in white, all ages, and taking a seat on your mat for the next 48 hours. What awaits, you’re not quite sure. You’ve heard inklings from friends, strangers who have lauded this form of meditation. Over the course of the evening – after being ceremoniously served your dose of plant medicine – you are transported to another dimension. A world in which the flowers painted on the wall spiral in on themselves, and when you close your eyes you see things differently. You forgive your grandmother for not telling you you were beautiful, as she was just trying to keep you from having an ego. You are filled with gratitude for the mother your mom has been, despite her own loveless childhood. And you see how much true love your partner has to give, which you don’t want to limit by being jealous. Radical thoughts, thoughts you’ve never had before, that free you from your old way of thinking, of believing.
Over the seven hours, the symphony of purging is drowned out by the guitar, the chimes, the singing, and the fanning of palo santo with eagle wings. And when you can no longer feel the effects of the medicine – when you can stand on two feet without having to crawl – you’re reminded that you’ll be back tomorrow night. At the end of the weekend, you’ll feel a surprising connection to these strangers in the circle – the ones who have seen you at your depths, and witnessed your intention and growth through ceremony. You’ll drive away, up the long and winding road out of the canyon, reflecting on what you took with you and what you left behind. Microdosing psilocybin mushrooms is a great way to reset.
A friend on experiencing mushrooms:
Ayahuasca meditations are a profound experience but it’s a major process—a two day time commitment and quite expensive. A great experience but harder to repeat regularly.
About once a month I eat a small piece of mushroom chocolate and go for a really long trail run in the woods. For me, it’s a total brain reset. The equivalent of 10 yoga classes or a week of solid meditation. It sparks creativity, invokes genuine gratitude, gives new perspectives. It doesn’t provide a “high.” It’s more like a newer, fresher, less cloudy lens on the world.
How’s that for a Friday-minding perspective? Different for most of us, I imagine.
And since I am writing on drugs and trying to offer balance, I’d also like to add this piece of caution and advocacy: Please don’t ever touch Molly!
Why don’t more parents know about the risk of this drug? “Molly” is a modern day ecstacy drug that rocked our small town in Idaho when a spectacular kid took his life a few years ago. It’s got the intrigue of the above to a young person and the downside of horror. “Suicide Tuesday” is a terrifying saying associated with Molly: users take it on a Saturday night and their brain chemistry dips so low that, a few days later, they are driven to suicide. Where is the awareness of this horrific drug? Hopefully here, today. This article tells the story of Lane Linhart’s beautiful life, and his tragic death from Molly. The candle in the image above burns alongside his motocross number, #312. A reminder. Molly. Don’t go there.
Today’s practice: Be mindful today about drugs: their presence and abundance, likely in your children’s worlds, and their risks. Be safe, be open-minded, be balanced, and be realistic about transcendence. It’s a lot to be, at any age. And breathe.