We all know why drugs are used in sport and psychiatry – to enhance, accelerate or improve physical or mental abilities, but the question I am asked most frequently in media interviews is “why do people take recreational drugs”?
Neither mainstream medicine, health departments or government media campaigns publicly discuss this crucial question. Their focus tends to be on stopping drug use through a crime and punishment approach. As a holistic therapist, but also an ex-drug user myself, I know drug-users are seeking euphoria, ecstasy, exhilaration, human-bonding or changes of consciousness, but to answer the question properly I had to think further about what this really meant. Drawing on research, both practical and theoretical, I have started to think that just as sports drugs accelerate physical performance, recreational drugs accelerate metaphysical awareness. This is an important part of self-realisation and it is our destiny to gravitate towards this, but in a material-based culture in which body and mind are separated and spirit ignored, the path is hard to find. Drugs seem to provide an instant glimpse of our destiny.
However, unlike taking sports performance enhancing drugs, you’re never going to ‘win the race’, spiritually speaking, on recreational drugs. Drugs are hugely destructive, but according to Daoism – the philosophy underlying Traditional Chinese Medicine – creation and destruction co-exist, and in this context recreational drugs need to have a potentially constructive aspect. This can only come from what I call the karma of drugs.
In my own experience, drugs did lead to accelerated understanding of metaphysical aspects of life, but that gain was acquired without effort. It was as if I had cheated on the universe / myself and after I stopped drugs I had to repay all the fantastic experiences that I had had, but in real time, through real work. This is what started me thinking about the idea of a ‘karma of drugs’. It is as if we are all issued with an emotional credit card and the higher you go on drugs, the higher the repayments will be. But there is only one way to pay the debt and to fill the emptiness – the legacy of long-term drug use – and this is by following the path of self-realisation. It is only by changing ourselves that we can change the world, and if drugs are now one of the biggest businesses in the world and inadvertently lead people to this path, then the current massive drug epidemic could actually be an opportunity to make visionary social changes. To do this though, we need to acknowledge the attraction of drugs, the way they make people feel, but then acknowledge that these enhanced states are our destiny and shift attention to fulfilling our spiritual needs in a contemporary manner.
I realise that the very idea of finding a constructive aspect to drug-use goes against mainstream thinking. Everyone knows that drugs are ‘bad’ and associating them in any way with something positive is totally taboo. It was my own past that made me think about these things. Initially I had loved what drugs seemed to provide, but as I subsequently faced nearly a decade of post-drug suicidal depression, I believed that drugs had ruined my life. Later again though, through my studies, years of disciplined daily chi practice and meditation, I saw that the fact that I had taken so many drugs meant that I could recognise certain markers on the path of self-realisation. I could feel chi, and I recognised altered states. I thought it was just me, but once I started teaching TCM, I noticed that the students who had taken recreational drugs, also had certain advantages.
The nature of Traditional Chinese medicine is paradoxical, it is relative and unified and it is simultaneously complex and simple. However, students with a history in drugs appeared to have no problems understanding this. These students also seemed to be able to sense chi-flow along acupuncture meridians quite quickly, and this is no easy task. I remember a documentary on the ABC called ‘Mysteries of chi’ where an American doctor living in China was interviewed about Chinese Medicine and the phenomenon called chi. He stated that after 10 years of study in China he still hadn’t felt the chi and that the chi is a very difficult thing to learn. Having studied the phenomenon of chi for 20 years myself, through tai-chi, acupuncture and bodywork I know that chi defies the logical/rational mind. It requires daily application of chi which is termed chi-gung (gung meaning work) in order to develop empirical references which you then learn to draw from and apply ‘relatively’ as a therapist.
Of course many of these same students who had embraced the chi effortlessly, displayed poor skills in accountancy and clinic management, were caught in cycles of destructive relationships, or had an aversion to routine or repetition. So although there may have been acceleration in the grasping of chi, in their general life their drug use had generated more loss, stagnation and confusion. Accordingly, I am by no means advocating the use of drugs, but rather arguing that to have any impact on the drug market, firs we need to understand why people take drugs and then cater to this need holistically to prevent future generations doing what we did. Secondly, given the scale of the industry, if there are some benefits in past drug use then we need to be proactive about identifying and working with them.
On an individual level, for drug-users who have taken enough drugs to have made negative changes in their energy field, their karma is to repair what the drugs have destroyed. Natural therapies are best equipped for this because drugs violate organ function but it is natural medicine such as herbs and acupuncture that will rebuild this. Western medicine can only offer more drugs but these exploit the organs just as illicit drugs do. If you embrace natural medicine and then spiritual practices and learn how to live in accord with the laws of nature and spirit, this will utilise the gain acquired by drugs and make past drug experiences an asset. Also, on an individual level, I believe that part of drug karma is to try to help other drug users. You can’t tackle the issue academically. Drugs are about intense emotionality and as ex-drug users often feel lost or isolated, it is important to be treated by those who understand and know how to move forward from that place. I have been specialising in this area for many years now but given that a good portion of my patients have been on antidepressants, I have also noted some interesting connections between the use of legal and illegal drugs. I would describe the action of the legal mood-and mind-altering drugs as offering an ‘attractor template’ for how you could interact with the world in a different way. For example, if you are a person too anxious to leave home but are offered prescription drugs that allow you to do so without anxiety, then the psychologist or psychiatrist treating you can show how you could be, show you that things could be different. The problem is that people know it’s the drugs affecting their behaviour, not really them.
For some of my patients, where applicable, I use the example of recreational drug highs as an ‘attractor template’, an example of how you are destined to be. Most find this concept astonishing as, like those administered pharmaceutical drugs, they had assumed all the exhilaration, bonding or bliss, was the drugs not them. But given that they often have a heightened sensitivity to chi, they can more easily recapture drug states through meditation or chi-gung and I have discovered that all you need is a glimpse of this to understand what is within you and to be hooked for life. After undertaking daily practice now for decades, each morning I feel exactly the same way I did when I smoked dope, dropped acid or snorted cocaine but without side effects. “Start with the end in mind” is a success strategy mantra, and in my own daily practice I do just this. I now work with a daily ‘attractor template’ which is 30 minutes of high-powered charismatic meditation. This gives me my end goal before I start. Then I do my chi-building work which blends western weight training with concepts of body-mind medicine and by the end of my practice I am back in that state that I sought for so long on drugs. Drugs may have accelerated my understanding of the state but it was the practice that led me to becoming the state.
This made me start thinking about what would happen if the hundreds of millions of people who had experienced a drug-high, could think about this again in terms of it being an ‘attractor template’, something to work back towards but in the right way. This could convert the drug epidemic into something positive rather than a potential social disaster. Perhaps this is the global karma of drugs. If there ever were a time for recreational drugs, it is now finished. I believe the ecstasy/rave scene marked the end of this era. The new drug world is horrifying, as a therapist I am on the frontline of this, and now I see children taking toxic substances for no reason. This is a generation recently described as ‘spiritual anorexics’ and I think that this is our responsibility. We haven’t found a contemporary way to live in harmony with our true destiny, with the laws of spirit, and it is now the time to do this. To develop a world where people won’t need drugs and to make this happen, as well as following the path of individual repair, we need to create a very different society. The overall karma of drugs would then be to develop a society that identifies the cravings for drugs as being a craving for self-realisation and productively works with this innate desire. I believe that this is starting to happen. I feel that we are moving into a new stage of the new age. We are seeing the introduction of accelerated spiritual techniques from many sources and I think the next step will be the combination of these with the material. If we incorporate the accelerated teachings of spiritual leaders and spiritual practices of the East (which in their traditional form are too ‘slow’ for most Westerners) with the ideas of the success strategists, and nurture our collective body, mind and spirit then we can change the future.
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