Now that was all gone. The old me returned, ferocious as ever. Restless, irritable and discontent on steroids. I’m not sure why, without a program of recovery, I feel that way. I just know I do.
But my condition proved to be short-lived. It was a Tuesday. Dave Smith, founder of Against the Stream meditation group in Nashville, walked into the DeWitt Building at Discovery Place. Inside, 24 freshly-sober alcoholics and drug addicts waited impatiently.
He started speaking. I don’t know why I listened that day as I was still reeling in withdrawal from various narcotics. Something he said, though, caught my attention.
He talked about internal suffering. He talked about our propensity as alcoholics and drug addicts to conjure negative feelings and perspectives with a simple act of mind. And he said all this was possible in spite of our circumstances.
Dave asked us, “How much suffering do you take on as a result of your thinking?”
All my life, I’d been told I was a pretty smart guy. I had to admit, however, that I’d never considered this simple question.
Dave continued by saying, “I felt like my mind was basically torturing me… like a bully… so through meditation, we begin to ignore the mind on some level by paying attention to something else (the breath). We also begin to learn to just tolerate it.”
I wasn’t so sure about this guy with a hardened Boston accent and inked up arms. But I knew he made sense. And I knew I was sick of feeling the way I felt.
“When we get those hints of fear, those thoughts of the future, what’s going to happen two weeks from now, we don’t buy into it. How much suffering do you endure by believing what your mind tells you?” Dave was really starting to make sense now.
You see, all my life I’d taken my mind’s propositions as gospel truth. I never second-guessed myself. Sure I might question whether a course of action was best after a sequence of events, but that was usually due to an anchor of regret. Thought became action fast. Impulsivity was my featured trait. Foresight resided in luckier men. I’d become a slave to the dictates of my mind.
I knew I’d been this way since birth. It was a part of my blueprint. On that Tuesday morning, I decided I’d had enough. If meditation offered relief from mental bondage, consider me a monk.