This week marks my one year anniversary as a Buddhist. I was recently asked what made me become a Buddhist. The question got me thinking -- how did I get here?
I think it goes back a bit. Around five or six years ago, I was a bit of a mess. I was stressed out, amd short tempered. I was gaining weight. My cholesterol was high. My blood pressure was going up. I had headaches all the time. I clearly needed a change.
So I went back to school. I felt energized and my world seemed to expand. I was meeting new people, and seeing a lot of divergent viewpoints on practically everything. As I learned, I found myself opening up to new ideas. And I was forced to take a hard look at myself. I felt a renewed sense of self, but with a strong desire to be a better person. I started a mindfulness practice. I wanted to be more aware and not sleep walk through my life. I made some small steps, and felt improvement. I also felt I wasn't as far as I wanted to go.
I had friends who meditated, and it seemed to work for them. And I had friends who were Buddhist and that seemed to work too. So I began reading about Buddhism, and trying to meditate. It didn't seem to work well for me. I was frustrated. At that time, I saw an ad for a research study. It coupled meditation instruction with psilocybin. I contacted the research folks the same day. I hoped it would lead to a habit of meditation, or show me what I was doing wrong. And I had always, always been intrigued by hallucinogenics, but had been too afraid to try them on my own. I figured it was a huge opportunity.
It was that, and more. The meditation turned out to be easier than I had thought, and being required to do it daily turned it into a habit. The one on one sessions with the meditation guide turned out to be therapeutic for me. It was a mixture of talk therapy, a discussion of beliefs, and instruction. And the psilocybin was life-altering. It seems stupid that two 8 hour sessions could change my life, but I can only say that it really and truly did. I am still me, but I am MORE me than I ever thought possible. I can't put it into words. I can only say that I have more joy, more compassion, more life than I ever thought possible.
When the study was over, I continued my meditation. I added readings from Buddhist thought. I discovered that everything I read, and heard, was familiar -- like it was all things I already knew. And I also had come to a point where I felt quite strongly that I couldn't get any farther on my path alone. I would need something outside myself. A friend and I started going to the Shambhala Buddhist center in town. I took my refuge vow, formally committing to Buddhism.
I have not once regretted my decision.