A decade ago, having recently begun Buddhist meditation practice, I attended a lecture/Q&A with a Tibetan master at a Buddhist center in Hollywood. The warm vibes and the stunning icons and paintings suggested a sacred, healing space. The speaker — I knew so little at the time, I thought his name was “Sri” — seemed the embodiment of enlightenment. He described how we can foster spiritual growth — and reduce stress in the bargain — simply by sitting still and watching, without attachment or judgment, whatever is happening in the present moment. I’ll never forget his beaming, peaceful presence.
I’ll also never forget the sign on the center’s bathroom door that read, “Meditate, Don’t Medicate.” Afterwards, one of the teachers confirmed my suspicions that this was a reference to the anti-depressants and other psychoactive drugs so widely prescribed in America.
The sign struck me as the faux-spiritual version of the macho pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps ethos that stifles so much emotional expression in our culture. (c.f. Tom Cruise’s moronic public chastising of Brooke Shields for taking meds to relieve her post-partum depression, which prompted this fantastic rejoinder.)
It so happened I was at that very time receiving life-altering benefits from an anti-depressant, as were many of my friends and acquaintances. Did the fact that I was on meds disqualify me from meditation’s wonders, I wondered? Considering all this, I …