Tricycle: Do you find yourself having to address the issue of psychedelic use in your teaching?
McDonald-Smith: Yes. The drug issue is right on the front lines. As a meditation teacher, it takes a lot of reflection to present something that’s helpful and relevant in the face of how many choices young people have around drugs. From my experience, no matter what kind of deep opening one might have on a drug, it isn’t going to develop one’s ability to have those experiences naturally. Other people might say that drugs are a doorway, but I don’t see them as developing anything. They don’t develop equanimity, they don’t develop concentration, they don’t develop any of the factors of enlightenment.
Tricycle: What do you see drugs as doing?
McDonald-Smith: Drugs take a considerable toll on the body and the mind. They bring all this energy into the system so that it catapults you into a different state of consciousness at the same time that it taxes your body, mind, and heart. You get a sort of beatific view, but actually you’re further down the mountain.
I’m quite concerned that young people are growing up in a very different world than my generation. They’re taking drugs at a much younger age, and many of the drugs they’re taking are street drugs which, at times, are dangerous and can kill people. Also the context of spiritual values and intimacy that was connected to the drug culture in our generation is lacking.
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