Break & Change

I broke and changed

Aang saying “When we hit our lowest point we are open to the greatest change” has me reflect on my conversion.

It’s at the end of season one in Legend of Korra. On November first 2016 I was in the emergency room in Burlington. All Saints’ Day. I wasn’t particularly sane. The scene felt like it was highlighting that everyone there was in a state of illness and death. I had just done DMT at some point earlier in the night and threatened to kill a friend of mine with a sword. Not one of my best moments.

I had been abusing drugs for about two years at that point, my leg muscles had been damaged from excess injections, my emotions were hectic, I was very depressed, disassociated from reality. My parents assumed I would die soon. My therapists gave up hope that I could recover in outpatient care. I think all my friends thought I would die. All I did with my partner at the time was drugs and food. I read cryptic messages into radio static.

All things considered, it was my lowest point. I had given a presentation on the philosophy of Buddhism within the last two months and gone back and forth on the idea of not-self. My psychosis centered at least in part around this idea, ill-conceived and misunderstood. When you’re sick, anything can seem like awakening. I’m not sure if I decided it, or thought of it, or felt like I was cosmically told or what, but from that day on, I have considered myself converted.

In the inpatient psychiatric ward I was transferred to at McLean, I asked for wikipedia pages on the Eightfold Path. I became fixated on a citation: Soma Thera 1988. I repeated the phrase to my team in the hospital, someone looked it up and gave me his translation: On The Removal of Distracting Thoughts. For someone having delusions, I find the first sutta I ever read an apt beginning. I set myself to practice from then on out, along the process of conversion. I quit drugs. I quit stealing. I apologized to the people I’ve hurt. I worked to be a better person.

It’s been hard. Yet without the Dhamma, I would be lost. Venerable Thanissaro once relayed in a talk that in Thailand it’s sometimes said that those who stick with the practice are those who have suffered greatly. I might so humbly count myself among those who have suffered greatly and found the truth through that pain.