Meditation, Myanmar, and Our Minds’ Mysteries: Getting Lifted to A Place Drugs Can Never Take You

Drugs fling us into the “now”. We see the crisp edges of leaves and appreciate the way they billow in the breeze. We observe the sun glinting off a piece of glass, creating a beautiful rainbow on the sidewalk. Our fast-paced lives can finally slow down. In the haze of drugs, we feel #enlightened and #woke. We feel…alive.

This synthetic shortcut can never match the mind’s natural capabilities. While many glorify drugs as possessing the power to expand the mind, drugs merely give us a fleeting glimpse of the untouched regions of our creative intellects. Even without drugs, the average human being lives in a whirling fog, trapped in the realms of the past and the future. Wake up! Why are you thinking about what just happened? Why are you focused on what may or may not occur? Stop dwelling. Stop worrying. Stop planning. Turn off the incessant flurry of thoughts that ravages your mind. The mind is a tool that you use; do not allow it to control you. What do you see right now? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste?

Sweat rolled down my cheek as I entered the fourth floor of “USA Hall” in the ThaBarWa Center of Thanlyin, Myanmar. Mosquitoes swarmed in hordes through the room, and I had run out of clean water in my bottle. The wild dogs shrieked without end, wailing as if they were being stabbed repeatedly. I grabbed a cushion and plopped down on the floor, helplessly trying to ignore my surroundings as I prepared for my first meditation.


Rita, the Buddhist nun leading, announced that we would be practicing meta-fast breathing meditation. She instructed us to sit with our backs straight, close our eyes, and breathe strongly through our noses. With the noises of the dogs, the nibbles of the mosquitoes, and the taste of sweat on my lips, I could not help but swat and squirm from one position to another. I realized that it was only when I tried to clear my mind that I became hyper-aware of my surroundings.

I snapped back into focus as I heard Rita forcefully breathing right next to me. She advised me to imagine using a lasso to grab my wandering mind and to reel myself back into a meditative state.

Eventually, my surroundings began to disappear. The black I saw behind my eyelids turned to a deep-sea blue, and my senses numbed until all I could hear was the sound of the room’s synchronized breathing.


The temperature of my body rapidly increased, and then subsequently cooled to the point where I shivered and shook. I spontaneously burst into tears, choking as I tried to maintain even breath. The blue behind my eyelids began to swirl with rich tones of red and yellow.


Just when I felt as if my lungs were about to erupt, my body retreated into the utmost calm. I slowly opened my eyes, and Rita and I were the only ones remaining in the room.

She applauded me for allowing my body to go through its “natural changes” and told me that over two hours had passed since we had begun.

My body surged with overwhelming happiness. In a state of utmost calm, I could not focus on anything except the joy of the present moment. I felt the radiance of the streaming natural light, Rita’s spreading smile, and the natural rhythm of my body. I finally felt awake.

As I continued that month under Rita’s mentor-ship, I learned that meditation is not only an isolated practice, but rather, a way of life. I learned to listen to my senses in the present moment and to enable my mind’s hyper-awareness to do “good deeds” and make the most use of the “now”.

Meditation allows me to pry open the seal of the mind’s untapped potential. It unleashed the awareness of my infinite power. It aroused my curiosity for all the forces I interact with in this world. The mind can either act as a hindrance or an instrument in your life. While it may have taken a yank out of my environment to realize this, the way you utilize your mind is not a sum of your atmosphere, but rather, a choice you have to make.


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