I Learned More About Meditation From 1 Hit of MDMA Than I Did From Practicing For 3 Years With Jack Kornfield
I love Jack Kornfield and was beyond ecstatic when Jack gave his endorsement of my book. His book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path”, is genius and completely altered my understanding of spirituality and how to be spiritual in a material world.
When I moved to Berkeley in 2008 to do my psychotherapy internship, the first thing I did was commit to spending as much time as possible at Spirit Rock. I did day-long retreats with Fred Luskin, Rick Hanson, David Richo, Phillip Moffitt, Alan Wallace and practiced on Thursday nights in Berkeley with James Baraz and Monday evenings back in Woodacre with Jack. How I loved watching him transmit ancient Buddhist wisdom via New Yorker cartoons in his unique, avuncular manner!
In January of 2004 I had spent a day with Ganga White who taught me the 3 part breath. Previously I had no idea that the tops of my lungs were near my clavicles and I was trapped in perpetual fight or flight mode compounded by only taking staccato breaths into the bottom third of my lungs.
Here’s a demonstration of the 3 part breath from my “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety” DVD:
But even after years of yoga and pranayama, meditation didn’t come easy to me. I was perpetually distracted and my mind prattled on with regrets, resentments, imaginary disputes, and planning — mostly planning for possible yet improbable dreadful situations, such as tumors, aneurysms, and parking tickets (WTF?). Unlike Ram Dass and many other wise people, I was seldom blessed with meditation fantasies. It was only my competitiveness, my ego, that even allowed me to sit still (pretending) to meditate for what seemed like interminable stretches of time while my mind tortured me with imaginary potential catastrophes.
Until, that is, one day I was slipped a hit of MDMA from a renowned lab in San Francisco. I had done Ecstasy once previously during Spring Fling at the University of Pennsylvania when it was still legal — that’s how old I am. Decades later chemistry had reached staggering new peaks.
The MDMA gently overtook my body as if I were standing with my back to the ocean and a tremendous wave lovingly immersed and embraced me in slow motion and gently guided my body backwards into the sea. I only realized that I was supremely high when I looked up at a clock and notice that about thirty minutes had passed.
It was then I realized that I HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH MY BREATH.
A realization occurred.
Something hitherto unimaginable.
An “aha” moment.
And I dove back in. I put my head back down on my pillow and began synesthetically recalling the way delicious flavors and textures had floated over the tastebuds lining the sides of my tongue. I imagined that my nostrils too had tastebuds and I was trying to devour all of the rich, sensual, delicious flavors from the air the way my tongue would allow a Chateau Margaux to slowly glide back across it like tiny waves lapping up on the banks of a lake.
I had fallen head over heels in love with my breath.
I fell madly in love with the air as it flowed through my nose and down my esophagus to my lungs first filling the lower third, then middle, and then all the way up to the tops of my lungs near my clavicles — just like Ganga had taught me years before. The languid, smooth pulsing of my torso like an octopus gliding through the ocean was entrancing, entralling, mesmerizing.
And this is now how I teach meditation: that the air is akin to an immense, delicious sea of love that gently pulses through our bodies.
So while professionally I would refrain from advocating the use of currently illegal substances such as MDMA, I do not mind admitting that many years ago I personally learned more about meditation from 1 hit of MDMA than I did from years of practicing with masters.