In the early evening yesterday, the spring weather was perfect. I sat on my front porch as the sun slowly descended. Light breeze. Beautiful dimming light. The trees, beginning to leaf, surrounded me. I listened to a woodpecker tapping as well as other birds calling out their sunset songs. I was at peace and feeling my connection to all of it.
After an enjoyable dinner and two hours of Sunday night TV, I sat in my office content with the the here and now. In recent weeks I had been feeling depressed and unproductive, with arthritic joint pain and the business of setting up a new life hampering both my writing and my unpacking. But now it was different. I was fully in the present moment and fully content with myself.
I felt as though I had reached a new level in my spiritual development — a step closer to Buddha-hood. Despite recent severe pain and despite shoulder surgery scheduled for next week, I was happy. So much so that I walked down the hall just to tell my wife, who happens to be a psychiatrist, how happy I felt. Here’s her reply:
“Yes, that’s what happens when you’re taking opiates.”
It was not until then that I made the connection. The pain in my left hip had flared up in recent days. That joint has been through three replacements, three dislocations, and three reductions, and the pain was getting severe, so that afternoon we had gone to the local hospital’s emergency room for an X-ray. It was a strain or a sprain. Nothing serious, and the treatment was rest and pain pills.
So the pain pills, not my spiritual practice, seemed the likely cause of my serene contentment.
But I’ve taken opiate pain pills before and never noticed how they changed my thinking. I’ll credit my growing Buddhist practice — my mindfulness — with noticing this time. I’ve become a better observer of my relative (everyday) mind.
And I wonder if it really matters what brought me to last night’s state as long as my intention in taking the pill was to lessen the physical pain, and as long as the mental effect was compassionate. Perhaps my spiritual practice guided the opiate’s effect on my brain toward the enlightened peace that I felt.
And every time I reach that place within me, it gets easier to return.
I don’t mean to weigh in on the argument over the use of psychedelics in spiritual practice. I believe that the Fifth Precept of Buddhism applies to all intoxicants, and I’m opposed to intentionally using them.
But the mindset I unintentionally stumbled into last night showed me how beautiful living in the moment can be. I’m glad I experienced that, and I look forward to making many return trips the old-fashioned way.
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine