Welcome, dear reader, to another month of taking meta Off the meditation cushion and out into the world.
last month’s article,”snow days in meta,A week’s worth of snowfalls in the ancient woods where I still volunteer found me, as well as digesting a 12-year indoor cycle exploring the pendulum swings of site independence versus lockdown in a city.
Being part of the forest management team for the past two months was just the plant (or tree) medicine I needed. However, the new year found me more and more uncomfortable with the increased use of recreational drugs happening around me.
Medicines of every kind have always been on the fringes in the past year of volunteering on organic farms, with many volunteers finding freedom in their chosen highs. Yet as I watched them insolently from the periphery, I often wondered if the thing that had once set them free was now also imprisoning them?
Some background before I continue.
My BDG contributor profile states that I found a home in Dharma after many years of serious illness, without actually writing about those years of illness in this column. Since they sparked this inner 12-year cycle of exploring what “home” means to me, I thought I’d take on this chapter of my life this month.
In my early 30s, I helped a dear friend die of cancer. A few months later, I got stuck in the cement no matter how hard I tried and so I sought medical help. After being told that a few months of taking antidepressant medication could provide the rest and reset I felt so strongly I needed, I innocently agreed to take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). In the end, it turned out that depression was Not What I was suffering from, and this innocent choice of treatment, caused untold damage. It took several years of enduring many side effects before I could find the root of what turned out to be a simple nutritional deficiency.
This experience also brought me to meditation.
Those dark years included 50 kilos of weight gain, Alzheimer’s-level memory loss, and premature aging – at one time my blood work was the work of a 140-year-old! – incontinence, fainting, hearing voices, losing almost everyone and everything I thought was important in my life.
Those years also taught me the value of staying rooted in reality, avoiding drugs of any kind, and not judging addictions of any kind.
In the past year, I’ve experienced as many reasons to volunteer on organic farms as I have to volunteer. Many of the volunteers were recovering addicts looking for a simpler, healthier lifestyle, while others were using the same simplicity as a way to empower their addiction.
As a meditator, I like to believe I take people as I find them, but sometimes I find it hard to discern which point of acceptance advice helps with self-harm.
A few weeks ago, Dharma sent me an unexpected tutor from the other end of a no drug policy. This landmark appeared in the form of a cart looking to stop the truck they were living in in the surrounding woods. As with most campsite arrangements, they pay for a place to park and have access to the same cooking and washing facilities as us volunteers.
The camper and I immediately attached Vipassana and bodywork. In my twenties I worked as a sports massage therapist and they are currently facilitating communication improvement workshops and studying psychosomatics. Our conversations soon expanded to include the various teachings and techniques we had discovered over the years. Mine kept an eye out, while their types usually contained some form of botanical medicine from magic mushrooms to LSD to DMT to rap to ayahuasca.
What I was curious about was that these were many of the same materials that fellow volunteers I’d encountered over the past year had been experimenting with—except in a spiritual or shamanic setting. Even more curiously, it turned out that this person had experienced a lot of Spiritual Shadow while exploring, and as a result, he was now training as a plant medicine facilitator to have a safe space for other people’s experiences.
When this person asked if I would be willing to interview him for a psychosomatics course, I agreed.
As we sat inside their home on wheels relaxing among the trees, I spilled all the details of my years of medical misdiagnosis as they reflected back to me how often the contemporary Western medical model sends patients straight down a path of taking SSRIs. The class part of the interview is complete, and they’ve shared a blog of all they’ve learned from their various “journeys” — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I read it, nodding my head at every other line about how we’d come to the same “places” of non-duality and expanded consciousness from opposite ends of the drug pendulum. This helped me pinpoint why the recreational drug use of my fellow volunteers was making my fellow volunteers more and more uncomfortable. I wasn’t judging them as people, I was questioning their motivations for drug use.
Here we were all surrounded by spring water, fresh air, and stunning natural beauty, and my fellow volunteers used drugs and alcohol every night to numb themselves rather than open themselves up to these blessings. They were relying on plant medicines to close their consciousness more and more, while my new teacher was relying on the same tools to open their consciousness more and more. Ironically, sobriety was my path to changing my mind to the same freedom they were all looking for through mind-altering substances.
In the same week, two more things happened.
I met a local hemp farmer. When I asked about their unusual choice of crop — growing hemp is legal in the UK, but not all parts of it are grown, and the UK is the world’s largest importer of hemp (CBD) — the farmer said her husband died of cancer a few years ago. CBD oil was his only true pain reliever, and now she wanted to share that option with the world. It’s a sobering story indeed, especially considering that losing cancer started my own explorations of pain relief.
And I learned how to chop and grind trees.
Using a chainsaw to remove diseased or dangerous trees from the forest did not seem natural at first. However, I immediately fell in love with the grinding plate flush case. What at first looks like sick heartwood can continue to reveal new and unexpected visual delights as each new layer is rolled out.
The more I sat with my growing personal discomfort with the nighttime drinking and drug habits of my fellow volunteers, the more my heart opened up to whatever personal, indescribable pain they were looking for. Perhaps my role here is obstetrics metaInstead of trying to understand their choices and addictions?
My last discussion with my new teacher before they walked away from the woods was even more sobering.
Over herbal teas and cream cakes, they reflected to me the caring space I naturally maintained in the combined kitchen/living room by keeping it stocked with baked goods, scented with incense, and tidy enough to welcome all who came. appreciate meta In every mouth, in every breath, in every friendly interaction as they reach for the elbow. However, my teacher wondered: what was I gaining from providing all this to others desperate to shut down their consciousness. . . Other than being tired? Did I really realize it was mine meta The meditation practice that made the place a magical home and not the other way around? And was I aware that our host—perhaps threatening the inexplicable peace of our congregation after years of drama with groups of volunteers—actually mocked my household rank behind my back?
As I understood these questions, three things became clear: Thanks to my meditation practice, I was always “home” wherever I went; My self-care came close to enabling my team to self-harm; And (as much as I loved this particular team) it was time to move on.
And so, dear reader, whatever life cycle may have ended for you, however long it took, and whatever helped you get here, please forgive yourself rather than judge any pendulum swings of exploration to the extremes.
or to meta– Morphose John Lennon “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” (featuring Elton John):
Whatever brings you to the light
Everything is fine, everything is fine
out of nowhere or out of sight,
Everything is fine, everything is fine
You don’t need a gun to blow your mind
Oh no oh no
Catch Me meta
Come and listen to me
I wont hurt you
Believe me meta
Come and listen to me
Come and listen to me
Come and listen, listen
Irving Kirsch “The Emperor’s New Drugs” (Youtube)
Michael Pollan “This is your mind on plants” (Youtube)
A testimonial on depression and how nutrition helps (Youtube)
Related features of BDG
Life is not useful
Meaning, part two
Healing the world: problem one
Nurturing the Roots of the Thai Forest Race in Britain: A Brief Conversation with Ajan Sosito
Can small farms save the world? Part Two: Forest Gardens