Heightened Sensing & Drugs
An interesting side-effect of the heightened sensing resulting from meditation was that I became able to see, hear and feel subtle energies. I think we all can do this in our own way, but usually there is so much noise and static inside our heads and nerves that we miss the quiet signals. Dogs and cats certainly seem to be alert to these signals, so it is not necessarily a spiritual quality. Or maybe we could say dogs and cats are deeply spiritual beings.*
Paying attention to subtle sensory impressions was mostly pleasurable, as when I would see a friend approaching me from a hundred feet away and I would know their mood at a glance. But this was 1968 and I was at the University of California, and many of my friends were taking drugs. It turned out I could tell from a distance what drugs they were on – marijuana, hash, LSD, speed, mushrooms; whether it was just coming on, peaking, crashing, or hung over; and also the quality of the drug. I was curious about what I was seeing – unusual patterns in the energy field surrounding a person – and I had time, so I learned to casually elicit information by saying something like, "Are you having a good time?" and then listening without pressure for a couple of minutes as they told me in detail what they were tripping on.
Through these little interviews I learned about the different kinds of trips people were having, good, bad and indifferent. I wasn't particularly interested in the drugs, I was interested in finding people to talk to who were really awake to how great life is, people who, of their natural selves, were able to open up and enjoy the sunlight, the music, the smell, the taste of life. I wanted to find some kind of partnership, someone to share my delight with.
Along with the visual sense of being able to see odd energy swirlings associated with drug use, I became aware of strong sensations on my skin and under my skin. I noticed that I got different types of headaches from being near people who had been using drugs. When they would get withing about 20 or 30 feet of me, my forehead would ache in a certain way, and I gradually learned to read the nuances of that ache in the way that I was reading the strange patterns I could see in their auras. With some people, the ache would go all the way down my midline torso – my head would ache, my heart would ache, my belly would ache a little. Sometimes it was a sharp ache right in the middle of my forehead, other times it was a dull ache. These sensations were related to the proximity in feet from a person who was stoned. As they came toward me, it got stronger, and as they moved away, it got fainter. If a stoned person was standing to my left, the left side of my body would ache.
I wondered about this and the way it seemed to me was that the psychedelics were using some of the same sensory channels that meditation uses, they were just forcing them open and doing some damage in the process. Psychedelics shred something, they tear up the subtle nerves in the very same places that I was enjoying with meditation. But it heals – when I would talk to people ten days or more after they had taken something, their nerves seemed fine to me.
On the other hand, and this was something I could not ignore - several people close to me died from drug-related issues, and many others were flirting with death, in that they had ripped their life force into shreds in search of whatever it was they were desperately seeking. This was visible to anyone with eyes to see.
This tactile sense got stronger and stronger, so that sometimes I would walk into a room and I could feel that the previous evening people had smoked marijuana there. I could tell by the ache and a strange sensation on my skin. Then maybe I would have a visual impression, that a circle of people had sat in that room the previous evening and gotten stoned. I would do a little investigation, by causually asking, who came by last night, just to cross-check my sensations. This always correlated with what I was sensing intuitively - even though I did not like it, and wished that I did not perceive so deeply, because it was so inconvenient.
This was really inconvenient, because it was the 60's, marijuana was everywhere, people came to class stoned. And no one, except the dealers, thought about how that marijuana, hash, or acid or speed or peyote got here. If it was, say, 1850 or any time prior to that, and you were serving chicken, everyone would know that at some point, a chicken that was running around in your backyard was strangled, then cooked. But we were all of the generation that grew up eating meat and chicken from the market, that came wrapped in cellophane. Immaculate. Just like tofu. It magically appeared there. The marijuana magically appeared in baggies to these people, for $10 or whatever it was. But to me, I could see that people were exploited, tortured, murdered to bring this marijuana to the college students. It stunk of death and degradation. When one of my friends would come to school stoned on hash that had been smuggled into the United States in the dead body of an American soldier, there was some level they were participating in the degradation of the whole thing. They were the market driving the smuggling. They were just too ignorant to know that if you are eating chicken, that somebody at some point in the chain had to kill a chicken.
On my own, I never got headaches, so this realm of sensation was something specifically related to psychedelics and marijuana, and once in a great while, bad people. To avoid the pain, I learned to move fairly quickly with my impressions. I would walk into a room, maybe at a friend's house, feel that ache, then immediately make up an excuse and leave. It was always really inconvenient to turn on a dime like this. I missed all the great parties and often I would walk out of a movie theater or change seats because the people near me were stoned and making my skin crawl.
Another aspect of the visual and tactile impressions is that they occur rapidly. A flicker. I think the impressions come in half a second or even less, then change continually. It's that fast, like a sport, and having one thought can distract you. It is always wild to trust your direct sensing, and not believe the words people are using, just go by what you sense.
This may be why more people don't track this realm of sensing, but animals do. It happens rapidly, unexpectedly, and then it continues to change in surprising ways. Even having an expectation can block the signals. I never know in advance what I am going to see and feel and hear and sense when I walk into a room, meet someone, or tune in when they speak of someone else. It is always slightly startling, the energies shift faster than I can track, and I know I am only seeing a tiny part of the story. So, as you read these words, know that I don't actually think I am very good at sensing energies. I think there are many people who are better than me, they just don't talk about it – they are inspired athletes, businesswomen, investors, inventors, teachers, and bodyworkers. I have been distracted many times from following the path of my true sensing because my ideals got in the way, that I really SHOULD be this way or that way, or else someone was criticizing me and wanting me to be different.
I have the feeling that most of the people in the world who are clairvoyant or energy sensitive don't talk about it. They just use it, and accept their intuition, and they are rich, or happy, or influential, or they try to block it and wind up confused. I don't know what percentage of people are highly intuitive, but I see them in all walks of life – some law enforcement people have good intuition, and kindergarden teachers, horse trainers, veterinarians, comedians, actors, dancers. Once in awhile, people who are "supposed to" have good intuition – psychics, meditation teachers, psychologists – actually do, but don't count on it. The key seems to be to have no preconceptions at all, just be alert to every visual, kinaesthetic, and auditory cue. Seeing is over-rated. If one picture is worth a thousand words, one gut feeling is worth a thousand pictures.
At the same time that I was learning about the kinds of headaches and heartaches being around drug-takers produced, the joy I was feeling with my wide-open senses was delicious. I was learning to just be in love with life for no particular reason, and I was functioning really well at work, in doing homework and taking tests, and in the ocean. In practice what it meant was basically, I missed all the socializing, all the parties, and all the concerts of the time. And all the casual sex. In 1968, people wouldn't do anything without getting stoned first. They wouldn't eat, have sex, listen to music, go to a party, go meet friends, without stopping first and smoking a joint. And I couldn't do anything about the way my energy centers ached when I was around marijuana, so I just did my own schedule of getting up early and surfing the dawn patrol, getting my homework done as quickly as I could, working, and having a good time with my girlfriend, who was totally uninterested in drugs.
I did see people who were radiant and seemed to be sharing the magic world I was perceiving. Pregnant women glowed visibly. Young couples in love, walking hand in hand, glowed. Some musicians – the few who were not stoned – were radiant. Surfers coming out of the water were shining with delight. Occasionally I would meet someone who was just healthy and having a great time living life, and their eyes were sparkling with the delight of it all. And a few, but not all, of the meditators I met had some radiance going on.
I had a great deal of respect for psychedelics, by the way – they seemed amazingly absorptive – they pick up on whatever vibrations are around and amplify them – just the way my senses do without any drugs at all. Eventually I learned to discern something about the vibrations of the person who sold the drug and the pathway of smuggling that got the drug there into my friend's bloodstream. Sometimes I got a very creepy sense of how many people had been harmed in delivering the drug from its point of origin to being in the body of someone I was talking to.
So . . . How do these drugs get transported, exactly?
Once I was walking down the street in Laguna Beach, which was a couple of miles from the UC campus, and saw a guy who used to hang around the university, being friendly to everyone. He seemed to know everyone. As he came toward me it appeared he was wrapped up in blackness in a way I had never seen before, and have never seen since. It was as shocking as if you saw someone walking down the street dripping blood and pretending that everything was normal. As he got closer, he said hello in a friendly way.
I exclaimed, just thinking out loud, "Larry, your aura is black . . . what can you possiby have been doing?"
" . . . black, black . . . what could cause that?" I wondered out loud.
Then I found myself saying, ". . . Oooooh, you just made a drug deal. I didn't know you were a dealer."
At this he panicked and said "Shhhhh, Lorin, shut up," and looked around suspiciously.
We were on the sidewalk next to a busy street with many cars going by, with all that car noise. No one could overhear us. I looked around also, and no pedestrians were anywhere near us. I looked at him as if to signal, this is about as anonymous as a conversation could possibly get, man. Then I got back to trying to figure out what I was seeing. It had never occurred to me before that a drug or herb, whatever it was, had to travel from hand to hand to get to the user. And that psychedelics, above all elements, are totally absorptive – they pick up and amplify every particle of human energy they encounter.
I never found out specifically what kind of deals Larry was doing, but a few months later I started noticing articles in the newspapers about entire families being slaughtered in their sailboats off Mexico, with the boats then being used to smuggle tons of marijuana into the boat's home harbor, such as San Diego or Long Beach. Laguna Beach, and UC Irvine, are just 140 miles north of the Mexican border, an easy voyage even in a 30 foot sailboat. The boat would pull into its home dock and be abandoned there. Neighboring boat owners would come by eventually saying, "Hello, anyone aboard?" and find blood splattered around and call the police, who would find traces of marijuana or cocaine. Later it turned out that the families were tortured or murdered in front of each other, to make them reveal the information about when the boat was expected back in harbor and when would be the best time to offload contraband. The names of all the neighboring boats, and what would be a plausible cover story. Then they were hacked to death and thrown overboard, it was later discovered. This went on for years in the late 1960's and early 70's. All the little beach towns, and especially the ones with harbors, had local papers, and they covered these stories.
Imagine taking into your body a substance that is permeated with the vibrations of such an action. Imagine supporting, with your "recreational drug" money, the people who do such things as part of how they do things. This is definitely part of the effect on the nerves of people taking any psychoactive substance.
It seemed to me that being involved even peripherally with something like that, even innocently – accepting a joint made with marijuana smuggled in that way, would pollute your life.
I was always curious about drugs, but the people I was seeing generally looked either just tired, or awful to me, as if they had been abusing their nerves on a deep level. No one looked enlightened. If a beautiful, radiant girl had ever offered me LSD, I would almost certainly have taken it. In reality, there was not much of a match between the advertised effects of LSD, marijuana, and the other stuff people were taking, and they way they were living as reflected in their energy fields. It was a close call – really, it's remarkable that I did not get into experimenting with drugs. Timothy Leary came to our campus again and again, and a thousand people would turn out to hear him. I would go and listen and still have absolutely no interest in drugs. He was brilliant and funny, but had no physical vitality to him, and neither did my schoolmates who were turning on. I met Timothy and talked to him briefly in the late 70's, somewhere. And actually, he reminded me of exhausted, sexually dissipated Catholic priests I have seen, men who gave their lives to being missionaries for something,
Because truth is stranger than fiction, it actually happened that one day in the student commons building, or whatever they call the cafeteria, that I was sitting at a table with a guy I was friendly with, and I said to him, "I really want to try LSD."
He looked me in the eye and patiently explained, "No, you don't. You are doing yoga and meditation. You are walking up the mountain. We are taking a helicopter to the top but we can't stay. It's not a good idea to mix the paths."
He was so tender and sincere and the argument, which went on and on, convinced me. I was impressed because he was the #2 most notorious drug dealer on campus. I later found out that the main dealer on campus, Henry, had sat next to me in my first meditation-related class, YOGA AND PSYCHOANALYSIS, in the first few months that I was meditating. He decided to protect me and put the word out to all the other dealers on campus that anyone who ever sold Lorin drugs would be cut off forever. Apparently Henry was very clear about this, and unbeknownst to myself, I was a kind of marked man in the drug culture.
A few years ago I looked Henry up on the internet, and called him to thank him for taking care of me. He instantly remembered me even though it'd been 30 years and said that during that time, he had several friends who died, and the energy of the whole thing had turned very dark, so he was getting out of it, even though he was making a fortune.
Once in a class I was taking, a graduate student named Joyce gave us marijuana joints to smoke. First we filled out a long questionnaire, then we got stoned, then we took the questionnaire again. There were problems to solve, and it was very tedious. Even though we were sitting outside, there was no sense of beauty because the test was so boring. I remember driving home and feeling slightly disconnected. Then for several days my senses did not work with the enhanced subtlety I had been getting used to. It was as if it were a smoggy day in my nervous system. For a couple of days, when I meditated, it felt like standing behind a bus, breathing fumes. So I just never bonded with the whole idea that drugs get you there. I did not like the whole dirty business of buying the stuff, and I was working my way through college, so it would have been hard to schedule time to get stoned. I was usually up before dawn, so that by the time I finished doing yoga and meditating, then an hour of homework, the sun would be rising, and I could get an hour of surfing in before heading over to the university.
The story continues over at My Lineage. Actually, it started there. When this whole drug discussion got to be about ten pages, I thought I'd better put it in its own section.
The Drugs of the Future
One of my impressions of psychedelics is that they let you take your next month of vitality and burn it up in a few hours, and in that blaze of self-destruction you get to see what life is. In my own body, I felt this acutely, in the way that only meditators seem to feel. Because I live in those nerves consciously, as an everyday mode of being, I could feel the damage. The only reason I felt drugs are not worth it is because I was the one who had to repair the damage, which I felt as acutely as you would if someone sanded the skin off your arms and legs.
In my experience with meditation, ecstatic experiences are youthening, and rejuvenating, not depleting. That is, naturally-occurring ecstatic experiences seem to reverse the aging process. They seem to allow the body to repair itself on a very deep level. By contrast, the substances we call "drugs" seem to age you very fast.
But what about if someone designs better drugs than LSD, marijuana and Magic Mushrooms?
Remember that drugs are big business. Huge corporations are involved in acquiring and distributing them. So much of what you hear is the advertising these people put out. Because of this, corporations are at work making better drugs - Viagra for your soul. There is money to be made. In the future, it is possible that better drugs may be developed. I don't know if this will actually happen, but check out this article from Foreign Policy, of all places.
Peter Schwartz is chairman of the Global Business Network, and he presents this scenario:
Thirty-five years from now, the illicit professionals who remain in the business will be custom drug designers catering to the wealthy. Their concoctions will be fine-tuned to one’s own body and neural chemistry. In time, the most destructive side effects will be designed out, perhaps even addiction itself. These custom drug dealers will design the perfect chemical experience for those who can afford it. The combination of cocaine with skiing, sex, or other intense physical activities is common today; likewise for pot and making music. In the future, there will be custom drugs for meals, golf, gardening, and more. Like crystal meth today, some drugs will reach the point of home manufacturing. And they will all be designed to make their use invisible to others—no red eyes, nervous tics, or lethargy...
The boundary between legal performance enhancement (Viagra) and the illegal drugs of pleasure and creativity will blur. The political and social pressure against drug use will remain, but it will increasingly resemble the campaigns against performance-enhancing drugs for athletes. Widespread use will spark debates about fairness and authenticity: Is a drug-using musician better than one who composes and performs naturally? Is it fair for only the wealthy to have the richest sexual or culinary experiences?
Personally, I am sure that many billions of dollars, and millions of people, will pursue this path of custom-designed drugs.
And I still feel that you can tune your own nervous system to experience intense pleasure from just normal everyday life, the sun on your skin, the breeze, the music of life, children laughing, the feeling in your heart when you give freely to someone in need. For people who have an imbalance in the chemistry in their brain, these custom drugs will be miraculous.