"Meditation Saved My Life"
For practically my entire life I attempted to crack the code. I jumped from one fix to the next, trying to squeeze as much fun out of it as possible, until it was exhausted. Upon facing the dark and empty void within I desperately moved on to the next in a perpetual and insatiable chase that was rapidly leading me to an early grave.
In October 2018 that all changed… but we will get to that shortly.
I never realised how anxious I was as a child, so desperate for acceptance. This manifested in a lot of showing off. Ironically I never seemed to fit in and often I would receive the undesired outcome and end up being bullied. Kids are fickle and at that age you don’t know that what you’re experiencing is not “normal” so you just put up with it. I unconsciously attempted to deal with it by binge eating unimaginable amounts of chocolate and sweets. My parents owned a mini mart type set up so when I say a lot I mean a lot! When I started secondary school I decided that I didn’t want to get bullied any more. It seemed as though being the bully would likely be the solution to that so on my first week I walked up to one of my classmates who was tying his shoelace and kicked him as hard as I could. This ended up in a huge fight with all the school watching and I ended up losing (which I well and truly deserved!). This was the beginning of a miserable few years which involved a lot of violence and ended up with me getting beaten by a large group of lads who were much older than me with a baseball bat. It’s safe to say that I didn’t find any answers there.
Learning the hard way continued…
"I fell in love"
Everyone has suffered from their first puppy love. I am no exception. Rarely has any experience in my life compared to the pain of not being able to have “the one of love”. I cried for 3 months straight and moped around for a couple of years. If only I’d have known that if I could have had her I still wouldn’t have been happy.
I began smoking weed when I was 12 and through doing so I made my first group of mates. Never before had I felt that I belonged anywhere but with this group of badly behaved misfits I seemed to fit in. I still remember the value of what it was to fit in. At the time it meant everything to me but I had no idea how vulnerable the desire to belong made me when I was so ignorant. When I was 17 years old I was faced with a decision. My whole friend group started to use Class A drugs and were very interested in doing so. I had absolutely no interest but in reality I had to choose between belonging to the group or not. The pain of being alone was so great that it seemed like a no brainer and I could not bear to spend a moment alone at that age. What makes this decision completely insane is that my mother had told me that if I did drugs there is a good chance I would die and I believed her.
Not appreciating that I lived in a world of anxiety, drugs seemed to have all the answers. When I used drugs my anxiety was masked. My senses were maxed out to 100% and all of my problems faded away, for a while… For every high there is a low in the material world. Despite every high smashing me back down into the depths my delusional mind always told me that the solution was to do more. And even if I’d seen things in proper perspective, I honestly didn’t know any better way. I lived in a world of ignorance and these were my only tools. It got worse and worse. I needed more and more. I had no money and was left with no option but to start selling. This is one of the most regrettable decisions I’ve made in my life. Selling drugs solved some of the problems but paved the way to being a proper hedonist and totally out of control. I had plenty of money, an abundance of drugs, a tonne of so called friends and I loved the power. Looking back I was using my friends and taking their money off them for my own personal gain, not to mention causing an immeasurable social disturbance. My karmic fruit was soon to follow.
Around the time of my 19th birthday I was involved in a police chase and caught for possession with intent to supply drugs and lost my driving license for driving under the influence. This put my parents and their business through hell not to mention the rest of the torment I put them through with my general behaviour.
I avoided prison by the skin of my teeth.
I was completely out of control, a hopeless and insecure drug addict and faced with no better options. This behaviour continued. I’m not even touching the surface of how much destruction I caused in my search for happiness and attempt to escape reality. I could write for days but I’m sure you get the picture.
When I was 23 years old everything changed. I had been at a festival with my best friend, which was supposed to be the highlight of our year, and to be honest practically the only thing I looked forward to all year. We sat round at a friend's house all evening. Everything seemed fine. I didn’t hear from him for a few days and I received a message from a friend saying “Is Matt dead? I panicked, I didn’t know what to do. I called his brother frantically trying to find out what was going on. After several hours I managed to get through and all he said was “Mate. He’s done it”. My legs just went out from beneath me. The world around me disappeared as I went into an explosion of tears and confusion . Matt was one of my best friends, my rock, the foundation of my life. We had done everything together for the past two years and just like that he was gone. And the shameful part was that I didn’t even know he was in a bad place because I was such a selfish drugged up mess.
Something had to Change
With the aid of a good friend I got a working holiday visa for Australia and got myself out of there. This is the first time I’d been off the drug I was addicted to in 6 years. I still remember arriving, my mind was eating me alive and totally insatiable going after that which is desired. I tried to calm this by drinking alcohol, which I did every day for a month, to try and numb out the frustration. It didn’t work but I was fortunate to get kicked out of the hostel I was staying in for idiotic behaviour which was to my benefit.
I had never realised that I had always been running from responsibility. My family are hard working and reasonably successful in the material sense. I had been overly mothered and had a severe aversion to hard work. A German man let me sleep in his workshop where I learnt how to build campervans and became somewhat skilled in various trades. I travelled around Australia in a bus hanging out in some of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever seen. I engaged in activities envied by most and I was in paradise. At least that’s what it probably looked like on Facebook. Not only this, I spent time travelling in New Zealand; doing snowboard seasons in Austria, but one thing was common throughout. I was followed by unhappiness and crippling anxiety that caused me on two occasions of approximately 3 months to not be able to work. I spent my time staring into thin air, crawling in my skin and generally feeling short tempered, frustrated, empty and totally unsatisfied.
Up to this point I have merely been painting a picture of the fact that:
A - My life was an absolute nightmare
B - I am an idiot
C - I tried absolutely everything that I could possibly think of
In New Zealand I had ticked every box that was reasonable to attain happiness. I tried what my parents and society would suggest.
To list a few of the things that I had concocted to fabricate a happy life
● A nice house
● Kind friends
● A very well paid job
● Income from rent so that I was living for free
● I would go for massages
● I would go and relax in geothermal hot pools
● A car
● A variety of bicycles
● A holiday to the Gold Coast
● Started an online business
● A relationship
● Eating whatever I wanted
● Following a diet
● Being completely sober from drugs and alcohol
What can you want except more which is a state of infinite unhappiness?
In my opinion I’d tried everything that was reasonable and was aware from that point that no matter what combination of stuff I had it was never going to deliver the goods. This was a scary situation to be in because my hope of ever being happy, peaceful and content were fading and I was in danger of sliding into an even darker and nihilistic place.
One day my housemate asked “Would you like to go to a free yoga and meditation retreat?”. This is something that I inherently knew would be good for me but had always seemed like it might be hard work. At this stage I was beyond desperate so I jumped at the opportunity.
We travelled to a small seaside town in the Coromandel called Whangamata, which is a beautiful location.
The retreat was occurring for 4 days over a long weekend. It consisted of various different elements. The first and most familiar was
I had briefly had a go at yoga already a couple of times so this was easy to get into. There were a variety of different styles including Yin and Vinyasa. Yin is a restorative practice that really allows your nervous system to take a break and for the fascia to release throughout your whole body. The Vinyasa classes are a stronger practise that builds physical and mental strength as well as flexibility. The difference is that unlike conventional exercise there is a fundamental focus on breath, which brings you into your body, it stills the mind and moves the Prana or life air around the body and brings all round balance. Classes are usually finished with Yoga Nidra which is also known as yogic sleep. It is a meditation and conscious relaxation practice that is intended to induce total physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. I’ve heard that an hour of Yoga Nidra can be as restorative as four hours of regular sleep. It had a profound effect that left me in a state of relaxation that was seldom experienced since using drugs.
I have to be honest, when I was first confronted with this I was a little bit freaked out. Not because it was that unusual but because it didn’t fit in with my conception of what I deemed to be cool at the time “hehe”. I walked in and everyone was singing and it reminded me of church or singing at school in assembly which I had never participated in. I don’t know what you’ve heard about meditation but isn’t everyone supposed to be sat on their arse in silence? Well not today. I was handed the words and it sounded nice but all I could think was, “What if your mates see you doing this?” which is hilarious bearing in mind they are on the other side of the world. You see, all these years later, worry about belonging to this group despite it nearly killing me many times over.
After a couple of hours I started to sing a bit quietly, then with a punk style voice to try and justify it being a bit cool in my mind. It wasn’t until a couple of days in that I just surrendered and went for it.
“Gopala Govinda Rama Modana Mohana” I sang.
In that moment I felt as though the false ego that had been suffocating me cracked and released me, allowing me to take the first breath of fresh air in as long as I could remember. This was a real life changing moment for me. It was hard to appreciate the power of transcendental sound at the time. We were told that the nature of material energy is that it starts out sweet but is evanescent and quickly fades leading to constant suffering. I can testify to this. However what I could not appreciate at the time is that the nature of spiritual energy is that it may appear very subtle and mild in the beginning but just gets sweeter and sweeter over time and can be an infinite source of joy.
Japa is much like the kirtan but instead of doing it in a group it is an individual practise that is performed on Mala beads, where you hold the beads between your thumb and third finger, and for each bead you repeat one of the transcendental mantras and you proceed to go around the whole set. I took this for granted in the beginning and for the first year or so of being introduced to this practice I did not bother with this much, but once I started to implement this to my life daily it transformed before my eyes.
At this point I would like to add a couple of points
1) I had tried everything imaginable to solve my severe anxiety and drug addiction.
2) You don’t have to sit down
When you have tried everything you can think of to solve your problems you are incredibly desperate and feel utterly hopeless. You don’t for a moment imagine that singing some mantras is going to do anything. Especially meditation where you don’t have to gruellingly force yourself to sit still for days on end whilst starving yourself in a cave. And if you try it a couple of times you might have a profoundly nice time but not see any lasting results. However, when you add this practise to your life daily you can’t even imagine the benedictions that can be bestowed upon you. If I look at my life in increments over the past few years since taking this serious, my life has completely transformed. My attraction for material things has diminished 10 fold leaving me with a peaceful state of mind. Not only that, I have found great purpose in my life. I managed to make the decision to quit drugs for good and started a not for profit organisation to help other addicts and people suffering from mental health problems. I can’t say I was previously an overly charitable person. The past year of my life especially has been full of joy and gratitude.
My attraction for that which is spiritual continues to grow and with it comes an incredibly supportive and kind community to whom I feel eternally indebted.
Some days I have to pinch myself.
Where do I start…
There is an infinitive ocean of information and too many points to talk about here but I will pick out a few that changed my life:
● You are not your body and therefore material things can’t possibly make you happy.
● You are an eternal spiritual being and you need spiritual nourishment.
● You are an eternal spiritual being so you never die.
● My worth has nothing to do with my body, possessions or achievements.
● Anxiety is a product of being attached to material things and for everything we want there is a degree of anxiety
attached to it. No material desire, no anxiety.
● If one is not peaceful they can never be happy. If one cannot resist the constant urges of the senses and mind
then they cannot be peaceful. You can’t steady the mind without transcendental intelligence, which is obtained
from being connected with the Supreme (Yoga).
These are just a few points but if you have not taken the time to listen to any lectures by Acharya Das then I would highly recommend doing so because it will change your life. (https://acharyadas.com)
I offer my deepest respects to Meditation New Zealand and their spiritual teachers for giving me life.