Joy filled my soul as I read that the 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand were thinking of entering a monastery in honor of the former Navy Seal that gave his life in an effort to save them.
They were taught how to meditate while in the cave. They had taken no food with them and scraped at the walls in useless efforts to free themselves over the ten perilous days stuck in such a god-forsaken hole in the earth. They had to subsist on water dripping from stalactites.
Their 25-year-old coach, who was a novice monk for nearly a decade, reportedly taught the boys how to meditate in order to help them keep calm and retain their energy.
The 38-year old Thai diver and rescue worker was the sole fatality during the hazardous ordeal, which involved more than a thousand people and lasted over two weeks. The boys intent to become monks is their way to honor and to create merit for that guileless diver.
In Buddhism, ordaining as a monk is a holy act. Those who ordain acquire a great deal of merit because they devote themselves to studying the teachings of the Buddha. Merit is understood as the value created by performing a wholesome act, such as meditating. If the boys become novice monks, they will donate their merit to the memory of the man who gave his life in an effort to save them.
This effort on the part of the boys to learn to meditate reminded me of my first successful method of placing mind over matter. I was sitting in a dentist chair with mouth open while fear penetrated my very being. I felt as desperate as Dustin Hoffman did in the movie “Marathon Man” as Sir Laurence Olivier with a drill in hand bent over him and asked: “Is it safe?”
I wanted to scream and do anything to avoid the discomfort. And then all of a sudden I stopped thinking of the pain. I relaxed and slowed down my breathing and let my thoughts simply go.
I don’t know how long I remained in the dentist chair. My mind was focused not on the surgical endeavor but on — nothing. Yes, I was able to think of nothing, or what some Buddhists call “emptiness.” Nothing existed in and of itself, including my fear.
That meditation effort stayed with me long after leaving the dentist office. I sustained the feeling of placing mind over matter when I got home and eventually made my way to work.
I went cold turkey right then and there.
I stopped smoking.
It was on April 9th some 25 years ago that I ended what had been a life-long habit which began at age 12 when sneaking cigarettes from my parents. My mother smoked Pall Mall while pop smoked Chesterfield. I stopped after smoking a pack-and-a-half a day.
I was reminded of that effort to calm myself when reading of the boys in the cave. Meditation can work. And I’d like to dedicate whatever merit I may have created to them. They have inspired me with their good intentions.