Meditation and Mental Health
As you already know, meditation is a daily, non-negotiable ritual for my well-being. Granted, it wasn’t always like this in my life. However, without it, Medicine Box and Equanimity would not exist, straight up. So ask yourself, what can I open myself up to in my life with meditation?
Now I hear you. So many people I know in my life tell me that they suck at meditation and that they can’t quiet their mind. I was that guy many years ago, back when I was an ADHD-afflicted youth in New Hampshire, and always getting in trouble despite my high achievement in school, extracurriculars and athletics. I had zero awareness of another way of harnessing and channeling my energy, and I sometimes wonder how I would have turned out had I taken up meditation the same way I did guitar or skiing. It certainly would have made all those days I spent in detention after school more tolerable. Unfortunately, that young person would not be able to make sense of why his older self spends up to two or three moments of every day voluntarily sitting in a sort of detention of his own - and loving it. So I found my own escape from that unresolved pain and suffering through alcohol instead. - one that may not have been necessary if only I had the proper tools at my disposal.
Luckily, now I do, and I can show you how to use them.
Mindfulness–based stress reduction
If ever there was a Jimmy Page or a Greg Allman of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn would certainly rank as my chief nominee for the position. For decades, he’s kept the torch lit for meditation, learning the discipline from Buddhist monks and blending it with Western science. He has used this information to found the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and has guided organizations such as Google and the US Rowing Team towards embracing mindfulness as its own reward. I was lucky enough to take an eight-week course of his in Truckee, CA, during a pivotal point in my life. Much of what came out of that course manifested during an intense three-month gestation period for Medicine Box and Equanimity, and I use the tools he gave me to this day in both work and life.
Prior to this course, I was struggling with many different stressors - a skiing injury, changes in the cannabis trade, and my own personal mental health challenges among them. Using Kabat-Zinn’s techniques allowed me to dispassionately inventory many of the unexamined assumptions and thoughts in my mind. Releasing what never served me in the first place created an opportunity for new ideas and inspirations to come to the fore. Moreover, bringing myself directly into the present through this course presented me with new options for addressing issues within my life, and directly empowered me to create more positive emotional responses to whatever the day threw at me.
Mindfulness, according to Kabat-Zinn, is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Meditation sharpens one’s skills in this important endeavor. One of the curses of the modern world is a nonstop, full-frontal assault of information, some of it explicitly designed to negatively stimulate people, bombarding its citizens at all times. Mindfulness skills will be increasingly necessary to walk the tightrope of daily life. And all it takes is living in the present moment.
Heart Math Meditation
Perhaps the most emotionally powerful meditation moment I have experienced is a Heart Math Meditation exercise taught to me by my friend and mentor, Steve Havill. Designed as a mindfulness/Transcendental Meditation-hybrid, Heart Math instructs one to breathe into their heart center and exhale towards someone else, whether present in the room or mentally envisioned. I often do this meditation when I’m up against some serious pressures and am seeking some guidance.
I established Heart Math’s utility as a guidance tool during the first time I tried it with Steve. I had known prior that my mentor Michael Hollister was dying, but that day learned how soon his passing would arrive. So Steve and I envisioned forming a “triangle” with Michael, who was at the time heading directly into hospice, at the apex. I exhaled towards Michael. During this meditation, I received a vision of thousands of faceless humans with their heads tilted back and a hand holding a dropper above them, dropping tincture into their open mouths. This vision has propelled me forward ever since to bring cannabis healing to the masses.
I conduct this particular meditation every month, on nights of the full and new moon, to communicate with Michael. To soften the egoic defenses and calluses that I’ve built up over life, I’ll take 2-3 mg of Equanimity, and I will enter into a hyperdimensional conversation with Michael, and ask him, “Where should I take it next?” And he will tell me. I find that if I quiet myself enough, I will eventually hear his voice.
While meditation comes in all forms, for moments when I desire a deeper spiritual penetration, Equanimity has proved a valuable tool for me. My own breakthroughs with Equanimity and meditation have shown me that the untapped powers of both. For while yes, meditation and cannabis can calm you down and reduce stress, it can go much further than that. No one doing either should ignore the power inherent within this potential.
getting in sync
However, just like anything else, the most important thing is to start. Again, just like playing guitar or skiing, it takes practice, and some days will be better than others. Kabat-Zinn, in a speech to Google, acknowledged how counterintuitive an activity which stressed the importance of doing nothing could be in a society that elevates productivity and go-go-go over everything else. It certainly wouldn’t have made sense to the teenage Brian Chaplin.
But like I said, we are going to need everything we can bring to our disposal in order to handle social media, iPhones, and a never-ending work cycle. It’s telling that many of the Silicon Valley companies that have brought these changes upon us, such as the project management software system Asana, have been the early adopters of meditation and cannabis wellness. But you don’t need meditation rooms or fancy apps to conduct this activity - just 20-30 minutes a day would do it. And never be afraid to go deeper. Once you do, you’ll discover superpowers that you didn’t even know existed. I did. :-)
So, did the high school, young-gun Brian ever attempt to meditate back in the day? If he could see you and your routine nowadays, what would that guy say?